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ITALIAN LANGUAGE

Italian word of the day: ‘Afa’

When it's getting hot and sticky in Italy, here's the word you need.

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

It’s not just another word for a heatwave (ondata di caldo, or canicola).

Afa (pronounced “af-fah”) describes the particular type of oppressive, sultry heat that results from high humidity in Italy.

You’ll hear it used in weather reports to describe those days that feel stifling even though the temperature isn’t particularly high (at least, not by Italian standards).

– L’afa è in arrivo

The humid weather is on its way

It doesn’t translate exactly into English. Dictionaries use words like ‘muggy’, and ‘close’, but that doesn’t fully capture it.

-Senti che afa!

-Just feel how hot and muggy it is!

-C’è un’afa terribile 

-It’s terribly close

For one thing, this onomatopoeic term sounds like the sort of exhalation you might make when you’re feeling far too hot to move.

More than just being a bit stuffy, afa can describe a hot humidity and stillness that feels truly oppressive. It evokes those hot summer nights where the air is soup-like and you just can’t get to sleep.

There’s also the adjective afóso

This is used to describe stifling summer heat, and it’s probably a little too poetic for everyday use.

The Treccani dictionary in fact gives a line from a poem by Giovanni Papini as an example:

– nei meriggi afósi, quando l’aria trema tutta di calore

– At sultry noon, when the air trembles all over with heat

Some people say the arrival of l’afa in early summer is a bittersweet thing – the wave of humidity brings with it memories of first beach trips of past summers, and signals that it’s almost time for this year’s holidays to begin.

After all, it’ll soon be much too hot to do anything else.

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: ‘Delusione’

We hope this word doesn't disappoint.

Italian word of the day: 'Delusione'

Experiencing a delusione (deh-loo-zee-OH-neh) in Italian may not be pleasant, but it doesn’t mean you need escorting to the psychiatrist’s chair.

That’s because while delusione may look and sound like its English cousin ‘delusion’, the word actually means something quite different: disappointment.

Disappointment Disappointed GIF - Disappointment Disappointed Food Review GIFs

The two nouns actually have the same root in the Latin dēlūsiō, meaning a deceiving or deluding, and delūdō, meaning to deceive, dupe, or mock.

But while the English ‘delusion’ has hewn close to the original Latin meaning over the centuries, delusione at some point branched off to its current, quite different, definition.

There’s not much in the way of information about exactly when and how that happened, but it’s clearly a short associative hop from feeling ‘deceived’ or ‘duped’ by things turning out differently to what you’d expected to feeling ‘disappointed’.

Che delusione.
How disappointing.

La festa era, purtroppo, una grande delusione.
The party unfortunately was a big disappointment.

Mike Ehrmantraut Breaking Bad Che Delusione No Che Vergogna GIF - Disappointment Disappointed Oh No GIFs

The adjective for ‘disappointed’ is deluso for a single masculine subject, changing to delusa/delusi/deluse if the subject being described is feminine singular/masculine plural/feminine plural.

Era delusa da come era venuta la torta.
She was disappointed with how the cake turned out.

Devo dire che siamo davvero delusi dal fatto che siamo stati trattati in questo modo.
I have to say that we’re very disappointed to have been treated this way.

A word you’ll often see used in combination with deluso/a/i/e is rimanere (ree-man-EH-reh): rimanere deluso.

You might correctly recognise rimanere as meaning ‘to remain’, and wonder why we’d use that word here – but rimanere also has an alternative meaning along the lines of ‘to become’, ‘to get’, or simply ‘to be’.

For example, you can rimanere incinta (get pregnant), or rimanere ferito (get hurt or wounded, for example in a car accident).

It’s also very often used with emotions, usually those experienced in the moment rather than long-term ones: you can rimanere sorpreso (be surprised), rimanere triste (be sad), rimanere scioccato (be shocked)… and rimanere deluso (be disappointed).

Sono rimasto molto deluso quando mi ha detto di aver abbandonato la scuola.
I was very disappointed when she told me she had dropped out of school.

Siamo rimasti delusi dalle condizioni della stanza d’albergo al nostro arrivo.
We were disappointed by the condition of the hotel room when we arrived.

With that, we wish you a weekend free of delusioni (disappointments)!

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

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