For members


Italian word of the day: ‘Beccare’

The range of uses for this verb could fill a list as long as your... beak?

Italian word of the day beccare
Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond

Used literally, beccare just describes one thing: the action of a bird pecking at something (becco = beak).

Le galline beccavano le briciole sulla terra.
The hens pecked at the crumbs on the ground.

This literal definition is just the tip of the iceberg however, because when used metaphorically, beccare is a chameleon of a verb that can change to mean a whole plethora of things.

These include to catch, run into, meet up with, get bitten (by a bug), bicker, boo, ‘bag’ yourself something good, or get landed with something bad. Phew.

Got all that? No?

Don’t worry, we’ll look at them in turn.

One of the most common metaphorical uses of beccare is to catch or get caught, by anyone from the police to your mum:

Se la polizia ci becca di nuovo saremo nei guai.
If the police catch us again we’re in trouble.

Ho beccato il mio fidanzato con un’altra.
I caught my boyfriend with another girl.

Si è fatta beccare con le mani nel sacco.
She got caught red-handed.

Sorry Season 2 GIF by The Lonely Island

In the same vein, you can use to word to talk about getting bitten (‘caught’) by an insect or mosquito:

Una zanzara mi ha beccato la gamba.
A mosquito bit my leg.

Or running into (‘catching’) someone unexpectedly.

Ho beccato Elisa in centro, abbiamo fatto una bella chiacchierata.
I ran into Elisa in town, we had a nice chat.

Mi fa piacere che ci siamo beccati.
I’m glad we ran into one another.

Korean Drama Hello GIF by The Swoon

When used in the reflexive form (beccarsi), the verb can mean either to land yourself something desirable, or get stuck with something undesirable (it’s understood from context which of the situations you’re in):

Brava, ti sei beccata la fila più veloce.
Good job, you picked the fastest queue.

Vi siete beccati un viaggio gratis!
You got yourselves a free trip!

Mi sono beccato il coronavirus durante un viaggio in Inghilterra.
I got the coronavirus on a trip to England.

Grazie a te ci siamo beccati tutti una punizione.
Thanks to you we all got ourselves a detention.

The reflexive form can also be used informally to mean to bicker or squabble:

Giacomo e Francesca si beccano in continuazione, non ne posso più delle loro liti.
Giacomo and Francesca argue constantly, I’m sick of their fights.

Tired Sick Of It GIF by TLC

Or to mean to meet up or catch up with someone: 

Ci becchiamo stasera per fare due chiacchiere?
Shall we meet up this evening for a chat?

Ci becchiamo dopo!
Catch you later! (lit., ‘we’ll catch each other later’).

Finally, to beccare a person can mean to show disapproval of someone or even boo them, usually in the context of a musical or theatrical performance:

Quando gli attori hanno finito lo spettacolo, il pubblico li ha beccati senza pieta.
When the actors had finished the show, the audience booed them without mercy.

With all that newfound knowledge, the world’s your oyster: see if you can go out and beccare a friend, a criminal, or a winning lottery card (but not a cold or a booing).

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

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.
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.

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.