Italian word of the day: ‘Spaventoso’

Italian word of the day: 'Spaventoso'
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash
Allow us to introduce you to a frightfully useful term.

Today’s word is nothing to be afraid of, despite its meaning: spaventoso, ‘frightening’, ‘alarming’ or ‘terrifying’.

Giulio soffre di incubi spaventosi.
Giulio suffers from terrifying nightmares.

L’Artico sta scomparendo a una velocità spaventosa.
The Arctic is disappearing at an alarming rate.

It comes from the verb spaventare, ‘to frighten’ or ‘to scare’. 

La sola idea di sposarsi la spaventa.
Just the idea of getting married scares her.

The adjective can apply to something truly frightening, like a nightmare or global warming, or to something that’s not so much scary as really, really bad.

It’s much like we use the words ‘dreadful’ or ‘terrible’ in English (think about it: they originally meant ‘causing dread or terror’ – in other words, ‘frightening’).

Si è macchiata di un delitto spaventoso.
She was guilty of a dreadful crime.

Un spaventoso incidente d’auto è avvenuto questa sera.
There was a terrible car accident this evening.

But the same way you can say something is ‘terribly good’ or ‘frightfully nice’ in (British) English when you really just mean ‘very’, you can use spaventoso to emphasise the scale or intensity of something – regardless if it’s bad or good.

In this case, it becomes more like ‘incredible’, ‘astonishing’ or ‘tremendous’.

Al gioco ha una fortuna spaventosa.
She has tremendous luck at gambling.

Quel ragazzo è di una stupidità spaventosa.
That boy is incredibly stupid.

È ricca in modo spaventoso.
She’s astonishingly rich.

See? It’s not so scary after all. 

Do you have a favourite Italian word you’d like us to feature? If so, please email us with your suggestion.


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