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LANGUAGE AND CULTURE

Italian word of the day: ‘Manovra’

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

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

This is a word you may have seen in the headlines in Italy recently.

As you might guess, manovra can be translated simply as ‘manoeuvre’, a word we’ve borrowed ito English from French to describe a tricky or artful movement.

It has several uses in Italian, the most obvious being the same as in English:

C’era ampi spazi di manovra

There was ample space to manoeuvre

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

lui 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 then it all gets a little bit murky when you realise that manovra as a verb also translates as ‘manipulate’, ‘steer’ or ‘influence’; and as a noun, ‘measure’ ‘ruse’, ‘tactic’ or ‘ploy’.

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

Especially as it can be used to talk about la nuova manovra fiscal, or new fiscale measures. Meanwhile, a manovra finanziaria describes a financial plan, or the budget – which has dominated headlines lately.

And while it’s close enough to the meaning in English, it doesn’t always translate exactly:

Il presidente ha manovrato il Congresso per far passare il programma.

Literally: The president manoeuvred congress in order to pass the bill.

It’s all in the context. This word can have many shades of meaning, but by using it and noticing it you should, in time, gain an understanding of what exactly the speaker or writer means in different contexts.

This is always a useful word to know, whether for describing your latest hair-raising Italian driving incident or following political conversations between Italian friends.

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

For members

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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