For members


Italian expression of the day: ‘Una curiosità’

We were just wondering if you knew what this phrase might be used for?

Italian expression of the day: 'Una curiosità'
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond

Language learners who like to ask questions (politely) will find the phrase una curiosità useful.

As you might guess, it literally translates as “a curiosity,” and can be used to describe something curious.

– Questo libro antico è una vera curiosità

– This antique book is a real curiosity

But it also turns out to be the perfect phrase to use when asking questions politely – but not too formally.

For example, I noticed a new restaurant had opened in our town and I wondered aloud if it would be open over the weekend as it was a holiday here in Italy.

My Italian husband, who loves nothing more than stopping strangers in the street for a chat, immediately asked a nearby person (who may or may not have had anything to do with the restaurant) the following question:

– Una curiosità, il ristorante sarà aperto domani sera?

Out of curiosity, will the restaurant be open tomorrow night?

This phrase has since proven invaluable in all kinds of situations; while shopping, at work, or even when completing paperwork at the town hall – the ultimate test of patience and politeness.

– Una curiosità, avete questo vestito in nero anche?

– Out of curiosity, do you also have this dress in black?

– Un’altra domanda, se mi permette una curiosità

– One more question, if you’ll humour me.

– Una curiosità, sarebbe possibile chiudere la finestra?

– Just wondering, would it be possible to close the window?

– Una curiosità, ho bisogno di completare questa parte del documento?

– Could you tell me, do I need to complete this part of the form?

We English speakers probably wouldn’t use the phrase “just out of curiosity” quite so often.

Personally, I’d only ever really say it in English if I wanted to make it very clear that I wasn’t questioning the truth of a statement, or if I was simply being nosy.

But as you can see, in Italian it’s a simple way to make your requests more polite in pretty much any situation.

I also like this variation, which means “tell me something”, “let me ask you a question”, or “humour me”.

– Toglimi una curiosità, Davide. Dove hai trovato il libro?

– Tell me something, Davide. Where did you find the book?

So while living in Italy may leave you with a head full of questions, at least you’ll be able to ask them politely.

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

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.
For members


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.