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.
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.
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.
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