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Italian word of the day: 'Manovra'

Clare Speak
Clare Speak - [email protected]
Italian word of the day: 'Manovra'
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond"

You'll need to work this word into your vocabulary if you want to follow the Italian news.


Today's word is one which you've probably seen in the headlines in Italian news recently.

As you might guess, manovra (hear it pronounced here) can be translated simply as ‘manoeuvre’; a word we’ve borrowed into English from French to describe a tricky or artful movement.

The word has a couple of senses in Italian, the most obvious being the same as in English:


C’era ampi spazi di manovra

There was plenty of space to manoeuvre

The verb in the infinitive in manovrare, and you can follow the standard grammar rules when using it.

manovra la barca abilmente

He manouvres the boat skilfully

But often you’ll need to add the verb fare (to do). 

fare manovra

to manoeuvre (a car)

fare manovra di parcheggio

To park - literally ‘to do a parking manouvre’

Una volta ho fatto la manovra di Heimlich a mia sorella

I once did the Heimlich manouvre on my sister

So far, so easy to talk about tricky movements.

But it gets murkier when you realise that manovra as a verb can also mean to ‘manipulate’, ‘steer’ or ‘influence’; and as a noun, it can mean ‘measure’ ‘ruse’, ‘tactic’ or ‘ploy’.

No wonder, then, that it’s used so often in a political context.

But it's most often used to discuss one sort of political maneouvering in particular: that needed in order for the government to pass a budget law.

Una manovra finanziaria describes a financial plan, and la manovra often simply refers to the national budget law, or legge di bilancio, - which dominates news headlines at this time of year.

It can also be used in political news to describe other types of political maneouvering:

Of course, passing the budget requires no end of political maneouvering, which is why you're likely to hear the word used so often at this time - with both of these meanings and more.

Il presidente ha manovrato la camera per far passare il programma.

Literally: The president steered the lower house in order to pass the bill.

By using it and noticing it you should, in time, gain an understanding of what exactly the speaker or writer means by manovra in different contexts.

Beyond the headlines, this is also a useful everyday word to know, whether for describing your latest hair-raising Italian driving incident or following political conversations at the bar.

As you can see, finding ways to use this word in a sentence doesn’t have to be una manovra difficile.

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



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