Italian word of the day: ‘Guazzabuglio’

There's no need to get in a muddle with this word.

Italian word of the day: 'Guazzabuglio'
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond

It’s easy enough to find yourself in un guazzabuglio in Italy.

Click here to hear it pronounced.

The word means ‘mess’, ‘muddle’ or ‘jumble’, and it can apply to real messes or figurative ones.

Sarà difficile ritrovare i documenti nel guazzabuglio del nostro ufficio.
It will be hard to find the documents amongst all the mess in our office.

Non si capisce più niente di questo guazzabuglio.
No one can make sense of this muddle anymore.

It’s not as commonly used as more general words for a shambles, such as pasticcio or pastrocchio

What it really suggests is the mess you get when you jumble a bunch of different things together. That’s why the closest English equivalent might be ‘hodgepodge’ (like that word, guazzabuglio is a touch old-fashioned). 

Questo sugo è preparato con un guazzabuglio d’ingredienti.
This sauce is made from a hodgepodge of ingredients.

That also explains why one of the most famous instances of the word, by author Alessandro Manzoni in his novel I promessi sposi (The Betrothed), is usually translated as follows:

Così fatto è questo guazzabuglio del cuore umano.
Such is the inconsistency of the human heart.

Though once you’ve got the gist of guazzabuglio, you’ll see that what Manzoni’s really saying isn’t that the heart keeps changing so much as that it’s a ragbag of different feelings co-existing at once. The heart is a hodgepodge, if you will.

See our complete Word of the Day archive here.

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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.