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Italian word of the day: ‘Truffa’

This little word is less innocent than it sounds.

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

Whether it’s the conmen who pose as gas utility workers to gain access to your home, the bogus games companies who somehow manage to add themselves to your monthly phone bill without your knowledge or consent, or the real 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.

That’s right: as pleasing as it sounds to the ear and as trippingly as it rolls off the tongue, a truffa (‘TRRROOFF-ah’) in fact represents a menace, something to be cannily sidestepped and avoided.

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 ‘little tuber’ and ‘truffle’ – which is ironic, given the price a prime specimen can command at auction these days.

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

In Italian, it became truffa: a hustle, a grift, a 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.

Sono stata truffata da quell’uomo, mi sento una sciocca.
I was tricked by that man, I feel like a fool.

Finally, a fraudster is a truffatore (‘trroof-a-TORR-eh’) – or if a woman, a truffatrice (trroof-a-TRREE-chay).

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

Non farti ingannare da quei truffatori, Sara.
Don’t let yourself get taken in by those conmen, Sara.

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

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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.

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For members


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.

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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.

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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.