Italian word of the day: ‘Totoministri’

Open any Italian newspaper today and you're likely to spot this word among the headlines. But what does it mean?

Italian word of the day: 'Totoministri'
Photo: DepositPhotos

It doesn't have anything to do with Italian comic treasure Totò – more's the pity – but it often has elements of farce.

You'll hear the toto~ prefix whipped out whenever speculation is rife: it comes from gambling, specifically the football pools.

Named Totalizzatore calcistico ('Football Totalizator') or Totocalcio for short, it's a sort of sweep that allows players to bet on the results of several upcoming matches in exchange for a small fixed fee.

Totocalcio signs outside a newsagent's shop in Italy. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Journalists adopted the term as a catch-all phrase for making more or less informed guesses about an uncertain outcome, especially in politics and especially when you're talking about multiple outcomes at once.

That's why toto~ crops up in newspaper-speak in neologisms such as totonomine ('nomination sweep'), totopoltrone ('parliamentary seat sweep') or totocolle (literally 'hill sweep', using another piece of journalistic shorthand for the official residence of the president, which is located on Rome's Quirinal Hill – thus the term means 'president sweep').

This week, though, there's already a lot of speculation about the totoministri: or 'minister sweep' – who'll make the cabinet in Italy's new government, which may not be formed for weeks yet.

“Government crisis, from the possible premier to the minister sweep: who's in and who's out”. Headline on Sky TG24 news from February 1st, 2021.

You're unlikely to hear the term used in conversation, but it will definitely come in handy for making sense of Italian headlines between now and then.

Making sense of Italy's infamously tumultuous politics, on the other hand… we're working on it.

You can find all The Local's latest political news reports here.

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

An earlier version of this article was originally published in 2019.

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Italian word of the day: ‘Quanto meno’

At least give this Italian word a try.

Italian word of the day: 'Quanto meno'

Here’s a useful adverb to have on hand when practicing your conversational Italian: quanto meno.

It can be used in a couple of different ways, but most commonly means ‘at least’.

We’re calling this a word rather than an expression because although ‘quanto meno’ is slightly more common in contemporary Italian, it can equally be written as ‘quantomeno’.

In many contexts, quanto meno and almeno are effectively synonyms. The only difference is that almeno simply means ‘at least’, while quanto meno sometimes implies a more emphatic ‘at the very least’ or ‘as a minimum’.

Mi potevi almeno accompagnare alla stazione.
You could have at least accompanied me to the station.

Se avessi saputo prima avrei potuto quanto meno darvi una mano.
If I had known earlier I would have at least been able to give you a hand.

Il traffico sulla strada per Como è stato tremendo.
Quanto meno avete avuto bel tempo.

The traffic on the way to Como was terrible.
– At least you had good weather.

At Least You Tried Trash GIF - At Least You Tried Trash Bart Simpson GIFs

In other situations, however, quanto meno takes on a different meaning, becoming ‘to say the least’:

I suoi piani sono quanto meno avventurosi.
Her plans are adventurous to say the least.

I risultati sono preoccupanti, quanto meno.
The results are disturbing, to say the least.

There’s a third word that’s another synonym for ‘at least’: perlomeno. You’ll sometimes see it separated out into three words: per lo meno. Again, it can often be used more or less interchangeably with almeno.

Vorrei prendere perlomeno una settimana di vacanza quest’estate.
I want to take at least one week off this summer.

Perlomeno and quanto meno can also both mean something like ‘at any rate’.

Non verrebbe mai a trovarmi a casa, perlomeno.
She would never come to visit me at home, in any event.

Sei molto più in forma di me, quanto meno.
You’re in much better shape than me, at any rate.

None of these are to be confused with the quite different tanto meno, which means ‘much less’:

Non ho mai incontrato Laura, tanto meno sua sorella.
I’ve never met Laura, much less her sister.

Può a mala pena dirlo, tanto meno farlo.
He can barely say it, much less do it.

Got all that? Now see if you can fit quanto menoperlomeno and almeno into at least one conversation this week.

See our complete Word of the Day archive here. Do you have a favourite Italian word you’d like us to feature? If so, please email us with your suggestion.