Italian word of the day: 'Truffa'

Elaine Allaby
Elaine Allaby - [email protected] • 8 Feb, 2023 Updated Wed 8 Feb 2023 15:04 CEST
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This little word is less innocent than it sounds.


Whether it's conmen who pose as utility workers to gain access to your home, or the estate agent who instructs you to pay your rental deposit into his wife's bank account because "it's what the landlord wants", sooner or later in Italy you're going to find yourself the target of a truffa: that is, a scam.

As pleasing as it sounds to the ear and as trippingly as it rolls off the tongue, a truffa ('TRRROOFF-ah' - hear it pronounced here) in fact represents a menace, something to be cannily sidestepped.

It comes from the Old French word trufle, meaning a false or idle tale, an item of little value, or a mockery or deception.


Trufle (and its diminutives trufe and truffe) is also believed to have meant 'truffle' - which is ironic given the sky-high prices a prime specimen can command at auction today.

In English, this word evolved into 'trifle' -  something of little importance (as well as a delicious dessert).

While in Italian, it became truffa, and means hustle, grift, or con.

È stata tutta una gigantesca truffa.
It was all a giant scam.

Conosco tutte le truffe da manuale.
I know all the grifts in the book.

Truffa is easily transformed into a verb in truffare. Like the English equivalents 'to cheat', 'to scam' or 'to swindle', it's a transitive verb, needing a sentence object to receive the action: you can truffare someone or (if you're unlucky) be truffato by someone else.

Quel imbroglione mi ha truffato migliaia di euro.
That crook swindled me out of thousands of euros.

Questa volta hai truffato il tipo sbagliato.
This time you conned the wrong guy.

Finally, a fraudster is a truffatore, or if a woman, a truffatrice.

Un buon truffatore può imbrogliare chiunque.
A good crook can con anyone.

Lei è una delle più grandi truffatrici di tutti i tempi.
She's one of the greatest con artists of all time.

Woman Talking GIF - Woman Talking Viperissima GIFs
Want to avoid falling victim to a truffa? Familiarise yourself with these common Italian tourist scams, keep your wits about you, and if you're in a situation that seems sketchy, try bringing in an Italian friend to intervene on your behalf - chances are they've heard all the tricks in the book.

Is there an Italian word of expression you'd like us to feature? If so, please email us with your suggestion.



Elaine Allaby 2023/02/08 15:04

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