Italian word of the day: ‘Burrasca’

Italian word of the day: 'Burrasca'
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond
If there's a storm brewing, here's the Italian word you'll need.

Today's word has become unexpectedly topical again with the wave of bad weather causing floods, hail and mudslides across Italy: una burrasca is 'a storm'. 

It's not just a few drops of rain we're talking about: it implies the kind of thing that has you battening down the hatches.

Il servizio meteo nazionale riporta una burrasca a circa 120 chilometri dalla costa est.
The national weather service is reporting a storm around 120 kilometres off the east coast.

While the term is used interchangeably with tempesta and bufera to describe any kind of storm, sticklers would say it should only apply to strong winds – specifically, those that measure between 62-74 kilometres an hour, or 'gale force'. As Wikipedia describes it:

Il termine 'burrasca' si riferisce al vento in grado di strappare facilmente ramoscelli dagli alberi e rendere difficoltoso camminare controvento.
The term 'gale' refers to wind strong enough to easily tear small branches from trees and make walking into it difficult.

For any classicists among you, the clue is in the name: burrasca comes from the Greek 'Boreas', the ancient god of the bitter north wind.

One of the reasons the word comes up so often in Italian news reports is that it's used especially to describe strong winds at sea which, as you can imagine, are a particular problem in Italy.

A mare in burrusca is a 'stormy sea', which is the Italian title of this well-known painting by Gustave Courbet.

If you hear un avviso di burrasca ('a gale warning'), it's time to get off the water and move away from the beach. 

READ ALSO: How to stay safe while travelling in Italy

A headline from the Corriere della Sera: 'Stormy seas turn deluxe cruise into a nightmare: the storm on the first-class deck'.

That said, as one Italian proverb has it:

l buon pilota si conosce alle burrasche.
A good pilot proves themselves in a storm.

… in other words, skill or courage comes through adversity.

As that saying suggests, weather-talk aside, you can also use burrasca figuratively to describe 'turbulence' or 'trouble', especially the type that looms ominously on the horizon.

C'è aria di burrasca in ufficio.
There's trouble brewing in the office.

C’è stata burrasca ieri alla Camera, per la discussione della legge.
There was turbulence in parliament yesterday as the law was discussed.

This article was originally published in 2019.

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