Italian word of the day: ‘Onomastico’

Today's word is for the Italian anniversary you didn't even know you had.

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

Congratulations: in Italy, you might get an extra excuse to party each year.

Along with your birthday, the other day you get to celebrate is your onomastico, or ‘name day’. 

Click below to hear it pronounced:

The word comes from the Greek ónoma, ‘name’, and it’s technically an adjective that roughly means ‘related to a name or naming’. 

Italians use it to refer to your giorno onomastico, ‘name day’, which most people cut down to simply l’onomastico

According to the country’s Catholic traditions, your name day is the feast day of whichever saint you’re named after (because naturally you’re named after a saint). 

The calendar of saints is pretty packed, so multiple saints might have their anniversary on the same day – or you might share your name with several different saints, in which case your parents would just have to settle on their favourite and stick to it. (Today’s, in case you’re interested, is Saint Catherine of Sweden.)

And especially in families where first names are passed down through the generations, you could find yourself celebrating your onomastico alongside several of your relatives.

Oggi è il mio onomastico.
Today’s my name day.

Buon onomastico! Auguri per l’onomastico!
Happy name day! Best wishes on your name day!

Not that everybody celebrates at all: many Italians couldn’t even tell you when their name day is, and even those who know don’t necessarily mark it.

It’s traditionally a bigger deal in the south of Italy, and especially Naples, where the name-day girl or boy (or their parents) is expected to offer sweet treats to friends and family who come to pay their respects. 

But what if you don’t happen share a name with a Catholic saint? In that case you’re said to have un nome adespoto, ‘a masterless name’, but you still get a day for it: you can choose to celebrate your onomastico on November 1st, All Saints’ Day, which serves as a kind of catch-all for everyone who doesn’t have a name day of their own.

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.

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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.