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LANGUAGE AND CULTURE

Italian word of the day: ‘Azzurro’

Why is blue Italy's favourite colour?

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

The national flag may be red, white and green, but for today at least, Italy has turned a different shade: azzurro, or ‘blue’, the colour of the triumphant Italian football team’s jerseys.

Click below to hear azzurro pronounced:

READ ALSO: ‘You need to eat more pasta’: The most Italian reactions to Italy’s Euro 2020 win

In fact, ‘blue’ doesn’t really do the word justice. It refers to a specific shade of deep, bright blue – ‘azure’, if you want to get specific. 

Both the Italian word and its English equivalent come from Sanskrit via Persian via Arabic, which gave European languages their word for a particular type of blue stone mined in what is now northern Afghanistan: lāzaward, which we know as ‘lapis lazuli’. 

You can see the same root in the Spanish word azul and the French azur

All of them refer to a particular type of blue: as the Italian dictionary defines it, rather poetically, “the colour of a clear sky (in between sky blue, which is lighter, and blue or deep blue, which is darker)”.

That all sounds better in Italian, which has an impressive number of words for one colour: from celeste (‘sky blue’ or ‘powder blue’) to ciano (‘cyan’ or ‘cornflower blue’) to turchino (‘deep blue’) to plain old blu (‘blue’).

Rather than trying to describe exactly which shade azzurro corresponds to, we’ll just show you a picture of the kit worn by Italy’s Azzurri – ‘the Blues’, as the national football team is known.

Here they are winning a certain trophy last night.

Photo by Catherine Ivill / POOL / AFP

In fact it’s not just footballers: almost every sportsperson who represents Italy wears blue. The custom dates back to the pre-World War Two days when Italy was still a monarchy ruled by the royal House of Savoy, whose traditional colour was azzurro Savoia, ‘Savoy blue‘.

Indeed, those of aristocratic descent are said to have sangue azzurro in their veins – just like we call people ‘blue-blooded’ in English.

These noble origins probably explain why blue is also the colour of the fairytale character Prince Charming, who Italians call il Principe Azzurro

‘Prince Blue’ is typically the hero who rides in on a white horse to save the day. Though as fans of gli Azzurri will be well aware after those penalties, not every hero wears blue.

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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