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Italian word of the day: ‘Ferie’

Here's a word you'll see on shop doors all over Italy this summer.

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

Most likely you will have bumped into this word already this summer, and if not you certainly will this weekend: the Ferragosto holiday on August 15th is when most of Italy is “chiuso per ferie” – ‘closed for holidays’. 

READ ALSO: Everything you need to know about Ferragosto, Italy’s national summer holiday

Photo: Signoinlop via Flickr

Ferie – the plural form of feria, which you’ll almost never hear – means “holidays”, but not necessarily the kind you set off on.

While the word vacanza usually refers to a holiday in the sense of a break or trip, ferie are often the holidays you claim from work – like ‘leave’ or ‘time off’.

Ho quindici giorni di ferie pagate.
I have two weeks’ paid leave.

Ha preso una settimana di ferie.
She took a week off.

The distinction becomes clearer when you go back to the Latin roots: while vacanza comes from vacantia – ’emptiness’ or ‘leisure’ – ferie comes from feriae, an ancient word for a ‘festival’ or ‘holy day’. 

It’s plural because it referred to holidays that were marked every year – like the Feriae Augusti, the festivals of the Emperor Augustus, the summer celebrations introduced in 18 BC that are the origins of modern Ferragosto

But these days you’ll see ferie and vacanze used practically interchangeably for holidays of all kinds. 

Dove vai in ferie quest’anno?
Where are you going on holiday this year?

In settembre finiscono le vacanze estive e inizia il lavoro.
In September the summer holidays are over and it’s back to work. 

And if that’s too depressing to contemplate, comfort yourself with the fact that the right to paid holidays is written into the Italian Constitution – for many employees, at least 28 days a year.

Buone ferie!

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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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.