Italian expression of the day: ‘Prendere piede’

Italian expression of the day: 'Prendere piede'
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond
This phrase might just catch on.

Michelangelo, Picasso, The Beatles: they’re some of history’s most famous icons, but they all started out as relative unknowns.

And before they reached the heights of fame and critical acclaim there was a brief period where people were saying to their friends, “Hey you should listen to this record by this band called… I wanna say The Beetles? They’re not bad!”

beatles hello GIF by Valentino Khan

In other words, there was a moment in history when they were just catching on, taking off, becoming popular. In Italian you might say they were starting to prendere piede.

La loro musica ha appena iniziato a prendere piede.
Their music has just started to catch on.

È strano che le sue idee non abbiano mai preso piede negli stati uniti.
It’s odd that his ideas never took off in the US.

There’s no dictionary explanation for exactly where this phrase originated, but it’s perhaps most similar to the English expression “to gain a foothold”, and we can surmise it might have the same premise.

It can also mean to ‘take hold’ or ‘take root’:

I principi della libertà e della giustizia non hanno mai preso piede lì.
The principals of freedom and justice have never taken root there.

The phrase is not to be confused with the similar-sounding prendere in contropiede: to wrong-foot someone, or catch them off guard.

Out Of Nowhere GIF - Out Of Nowhere Did Not See That Coming Didnt See It GIFs

Mi prende sempre in contropiede quando sto per segnare un gol.
He always wrongfoots me right as I’m about to score a goal.

Scusami, mi hai preso in contropiede!
Sorry, you caught me by surprise!

Try it out using prendere piede in a conversation today… who knows, maybe you’ll popularise it.

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


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