Italian expression of the day: ‘Buon lavoro’

As Italy gets back to work after the holidays, here’s a nice phrase which you can use with everyone from Italian colleagues to restaurant staff.

Italian expression of the day: 'Buon lavoro'
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond

If an Italian says “buon lavoro!” to you, they’re not praising you for a job well done. While this phrase literally translates as “good work”, it doesn’t refer to a task completed, but to work yet to be carried out.

Buon lavoro is a parting greeting used to wish someone a good day or afternoon at work. But it means far more than a simple “Have a good day at the office”. There’s no exact English equivalent, and you’ll need to be careful how you use it.

It’s quite similar to ‘buona giornata‘, another parting greeting which means “have a nice day”. 

But on top of that, buon lavoro acknowledges the hard work and effort to come, and the fact that this means the day may not be particularly ‘good’ or enjoyable, while expressing the hope that it all goes as well as possible.

All of that in just two words.

You could say it to shop or restaurant staff, or to anyone who has to work on a hot summer’s day. Waiters may say it to you if they assume you’re on your way back to the office after lunch. You’d say it to Italian colleagues who have an insane workload, or to a friend studying for an exam. Your Italian boss or colleague might say it, whether ruefully or with a hint of irony, after dumping a pile of work on your desk.

While there are lots of similar greetings in Italian – buona serata, buona domenica, buon pranzo – wishing someone a good evening, Sunday or lunch is pretty straightforward and doesn’t have any hidden layers of meaning or etiquette to get your head around. You’d usually expect those things to be enjoyable, after all.

Buon lavoro is a bit different. It’s not just a parting salute, it’s recognition, appreciation and solidarity. But it might not always be well received, depending on the person you’re talking to.

Do be careful not to say it to people who do certain types of work: firefighters, ER nurses and other emergency services workers are among those who don’t wish each other ‘buon lavoro’ – as it would obviously be preferable if nothing happened that would require their attention.

Buono studio is similar, though this is of course used only when the effort being made involves studying.

So how do you say “good work”, then, when you want to praise someone’s accomplishments?

There is of course bravo, and you could add ben fatto: literally “well done”, but here used as an adjective used to describe something done with skill. 

– Bravo! E un lavoro ben fatto 

– Well done! It’s a job well done 

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

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Italian word of the day: ‘Delusione’

We hope this word doesn't disappoint.

Italian word of the day: 'Delusione'

Experiencing a delusione (deh-loo-zee-OH-neh) in Italian may not be pleasant, but it doesn’t mean you need escorting to the psychiatrist’s chair.

That’s because while delusione may look and sound like its English cousin ‘delusion’, the word actually means something quite different: disappointment.

Disappointment Disappointed GIF - Disappointment Disappointed Food Review GIFs

The two nouns actually have the same root in the Latin dēlūsiō, meaning a deceiving or deluding, and delūdō, meaning to deceive, dupe, or mock.

But while the English ‘delusion’ has hewn close to the original Latin meaning over the centuries, delusione at some point branched off to its current, quite different, definition.

There’s not much in the way of information about exactly when and how that happened, but it’s clearly a short associative hop from feeling ‘deceived’ or ‘duped’ by things turning out differently to what you’d expected to feeling ‘disappointed’.

Che delusione.
How disappointing.

La festa era, purtroppo, una grande delusione.
The party unfortunately was a big disappointment.

Mike Ehrmantraut Breaking Bad Che Delusione No Che Vergogna GIF - Disappointment Disappointed Oh No GIFs

The adjective for ‘disappointed’ is deluso for a single masculine subject, changing to delusa/delusi/deluse if the subject being described is feminine singular/masculine plural/feminine plural.

Era delusa da come era venuta la torta.
She was disappointed with how the cake turned out.

Devo dire che siamo davvero delusi dal fatto che siamo stati trattati in questo modo.
I have to say that we’re very disappointed to have been treated this way.

A word you’ll often see used in combination with deluso/a/i/e is rimanere (ree-man-EH-reh): rimanere deluso.

You might correctly recognise rimanere as meaning ‘to remain’, and wonder why we’d use that word here – but rimanere also has an alternative meaning along the lines of ‘to become’, ‘to get’, or simply ‘to be’.

For example, you can rimanere incinta (get pregnant), or rimanere ferito (get hurt or wounded, for example in a car accident).

It’s also very often used with emotions, usually those experienced in the moment rather than long-term ones: you can rimanere sorpreso (be surprised), rimanere triste (be sad), rimanere scioccato (be shocked)… and rimanere deluso (be disappointed).

Sono rimasto molto deluso quando mi ha detto di aver abbandonato la scuola.
I was very disappointed when she told me she had dropped out of school.

Siamo rimasti delusi dalle condizioni della stanza d’albergo al nostro arrivo.
We were disappointed by the condition of the hotel room when we arrived.

With that, we wish you a weekend free of delusioni (disappointments)!

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