Italian word of the day: ‘Imbottito’

Italian word of the day: 'Imbottito'
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond
This cosy word describes how you'll see Italians dressed from now until spring - regardless of the actual temperature.

At this time of year there’s a definite chill in the air across Italy, even in the southernmost parts of the country.

And no doubt you’ve noticed that, for weeks now, most people here have been decidedly warmly dressed – even when the sun’s out.

Clothes are as seasonal as dinner menus in Italy. Puffer jackets and beanie hats are everywhere from October onwards – even on those sunny days that make you wonder if it really is autumn after all.

While we’d just put on a slightly thicker coat in countries like the UK, the striking seasonal differences here in Italy mean that the arrival of autumn heralds a complete cambio dell'armadio (wardrobe change).

Once the clocks change it's time to wrap up warm, and that's what today's word is all about.

If someone is imbottito, they're wrapped up particularly well against the cold.

It might not be the most obvious adjective to use, as it comes from the verb imbottire, similar to riempire, it means to “stuff”, “pad”, or “fill” something – like a cushion, or a sandwich.

It comes from the word for barrel: una botte – imagine a fat, wooden barrel filled to bursting.

So how can this possibly be the right word to describe someone being very warmly dressed? In English, we'd hardly say someone was “stuffed with” or “packed full of” clothes.

But that's exactly how it can be used in Italian.

– Mi sono imbottito di abiti prima di uscire

– I wrapped up well before going out

There is after all a reason for the snug seasonal outfits: the dreaded colpo d'aria, or “chill” which, as nonna will remind you, you could easily catch if you go outside, or sit inside next to a window, without being adequately imbottito.

So if someone tells you:

– Imbottirsi per bene

They're not telling you to “stuff yourself”, but to “wrap yourself up well”.

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


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