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Italian expression of the day: ‘Ora legale’

What is Italy's 'legal time', and when does it start?

Italian expression of the day: 'Ora legale'
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond

If you’re in Italy this weekend, you’ll find yourself running on ‘legal time’.

L’ora legale (‘legal time’), or what we’d call daylight savings time, is what Italy – along with the rest of Europe – switches to in summer.

The phrase is used to differentiate from l’ora solare: ‘solar time’, also known as standard or winter time.

While l’ora solare isn’t true solar time, calculated by the movement of the sun in the sky, it’s closer to it than l’ora legale, when we’re deliberately out of sync by an hour in order to give ourselves an extra hour of daylight in the evening.

Typically l’ora legale lasts for seven months between late March and late October, while l’ora solare is in place throughout the winter.

The clocks go forward (avanti) in spring, while in autumn they go backwards (indietro).

This year the switch falls on Sunday, March 28th, with clocks going forward at 2am and costing us an hour in bed.

Fra poco si passa all’ora legale: dovremo portare le lancette un’ora avanti.
Soon we’ll go back to summer time: we have to put our clocks forward an hour.

Note that ora is the word for both ‘time’ and ‘hour’ in Italian: you can usually tell the difference by whether it’s used with the definite article (l’ora, ‘the time’) or the indefinite (un’ora, ‘an hour’).

Potentially l’ora legale could be on its way out: the EU has said that each member state is free to get rid of the clock changes and stick to either winter or summer time all year long.

Italy hasn’t yet decided which ora it will pick, or indeed whether it will keep them both.

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

Italian word of the day: ‘Morboso’

Don't get overly attached to this Italian word.

Italian word of the day: ‘Morboso’

Most Italian adjectives have more than one single possible meaning and some of them can be used in completely different contexts and situations. 

Morboso (pronunciation available here) happens to fall under that category. 

As you might have already guessed, today’s adjective comes from the word ‘morbo’, which is generally used to indicate any type of contagious disease that is highly infectious and potentially lethal (cholera, plague, etc.).

So, in its primary meaning, morboso describes anything related to or caused by a contagious disease. As such, it’s generally rendered into English as ‘contagious’ or ‘infectious’.

Questi sono chiaramente i sintomi di una malattia morbosa.

These are clearly the symptoms of an infectious disease. 

But morboso is barely ever used in this way outside of the medical field and, even in that case, some native speakers might perceive the word as being too formal or somewhat archaic.

The adjective is far more popular in ordinary conversations when given its secondary and, if you will, less literal meaning. 

Italians also use morboso to refer to any emotion, feeling or behaviour that is considered excessive, especially in a way that might be seen as unhealthy or even pathological.

For instance: 

Marco ha sviluppato una ossessione morbosa nei confronti di lei.

Marco has developed an unhealthy obsession with her.

In this case, the Italian adjective might be translated into English as ‘unhealthy’, ‘unreasonable’, ‘disproportionate’ or, at times, even ‘morbid’.

But while the English ‘morbid’ only refers to an unnatural, excessive interest in disturbing or unpleasant things, especially death, the Italian ‘morboso’ has a much wider scope as it potentially refers to any over-the-top feeling or behaviour, even a positive one.

Ha un affetto morboso per la madre.

He has an unreasonable affection for his mother.

Finally – and this is perhaps the most common use of the adjective nowadays – morboso is also used to indicate people, and especially romantic partners, who are unbearably clingy.

So a ‘persona morbosa’ is a person who, for whatever reason, tends to be overly attached to someone else, depending on them emotionally or in some other way.

When intended in the above sense, the adjective may also be used jokingly:

Vedi che sei morboso?

Ma come morboso? Cosa stai dicendo?

Can you not see you’re being clingy?

Clingy how? What on earth are you talking about?

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

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