Italian word of the day: ‘Guazzabuglio’

Italian word of the day: 'Guazzabuglio'
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond
There's no need to get in a muddle with this word.

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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