Italian word of the day: ‘Brillo’

Italian word of the day: ‘Brillo’
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond
It’s got nothing to do with washing up pads.

If you’ve ever partaken of an Italian aperitivo and indulged in something off the soft drinks menu, you might after a few sips of a glass of wine or spritz have started feeling ever so slightly brillo or brilla – tipsy, or buzzed (it can also be used to describe the effects of substances other than alcohol).

Despite being spelt exactly the same way, it’s not to be confused with some of the present tense conjugations of the verb brillare, which means to shine, twinkle, glimmer, or occasionally, to set off or explode:

Gli artificieri hanno fatto brillare l’ordigno bellico.
The bomb disposal team exploded the wartime bomb.

Remember that brillo is an adjective, so its ending needs to change to a/i/e depending on whether the thing it’s describing is masculine/feminine/plural, etc., while brillare as a verb simply needs to agree with the subject (I/he/she/you/we/they) performing the action, with masculine/feminine forms being completely irrelevant.

Brillo come una palla da discoteca in questo vestito.
I’m sparkling like a disco ball in this dress.

Era un po’ brillo ieri sera.
He was a little buzzed yesterday evening.

Guarda come brilla il mare sotto la luna.
Look how the sea’s shining beneath the moon.

Già dopo un mezzo bicchiere di vino sei brilla, Sara!
After half a glass of wine you’re already tipsy, Sara!

Are the two words etymologically linked? It’s unclear, but it’s nice to think of your tipsy friend as being just a bit… shiny.

Shiny Moana GIF - Shiny Moana Tamatoa GIFs

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


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