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LANGUAGE AND CULTURE

Italian word of the day: ‘Allucinante’

This word is mind-bending.

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

A packed metro car at rush hour, a traffic jam that won’t budge, an hour-long wait for the bus: if you’re ever in any of these situations with an Italian, you might well hear the word allucinante.

Allucinante literally translates as hallucinatory, but really means crazy, shocking, or mind-blowing. The idea is that the thing being described is so unbelievable it can’t be real but must be the product of delirium. 

Il metro è allucinante a quest’ora.
The metro is nightmarish at this time of day.

La vacanza è andata bene ma il viaggio di rientro è stato allucinante.
The holiday went well but the journey back was horrendous.

Allucinante Sorprendente Non Ci Credo Bocca Aperta Emma Watson GIF - Crazy Unbelievable Mouth Open GIFs

While allucinante is often used to describe something that’s shockingly bad, it can mean exactly the opposite.

Young Italians in particular often use allucinante to mean awesome or ‘crazy’ in the sense of something being extraordinarily great.

Dovete ascoltare il suo nuovo album, ci sono i ritmi allucinanti.
You guys have to listen to her new album, it has mind-blowing beats.

Dovevi esserci, è stata un’esperienza allucinante.
You should have been there, it was an awesome experience.

Note that although it’s an adjective, the ending of allucinante doesn’t change depending on whether the noun it’s describing is masculine or feminine.

That’s because Italian adjectives that end in an ‘e’ when describing masculine nouns don’t need to change for feminine nouns – though allucinante does need to change to the plural allucinanti when describing more than one thing.

The word impressionante is similar to allucinante in having multiple and somewhat contradictory meanings.

It can be used in the way we would use ‘impressive’ or ‘amazing’ in English.

Devo ammetterlo, sei un cuoco impressionante.
I must admit, you’re an impressive cook.

Impressionante Drake Batendopalma GIF - Impressive Drake Clapping GIFs

But unlike impressive, impressionante can be used to describe something that’s shocking or unsettling, inspiring awe or fear as opposed to admiration.

Il numero dei nuovi casi Covid è davvero impressionante.
The number of new Covid cases is really shocking.

One word whose meaning is unequivocal is tremendo – a false friend that sounds like (and has the same root as) ‘tremendous’. Watch out for this one: it always means terrible, never great.

Do you have an 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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