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Italian word of the day: 'Cianfrusaglie'

Elaine Allaby
Elaine Allaby - [email protected]
Italian word of the day: 'Cianfrusaglie'
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond

This word is far from worthless.


Spring is upon us and with it the inevitable spring clean. If you're planning on doing one of those, you'll want to familiarise yourself with today's word: cianfrusaglie (pronunciation available here).

It means knickknacks, odds and ends, bric-a-brac, clutter: valueless junk, essentially.

No one's really sure what the etymology of the word is, but there's a general agreement that it sounds like its definition in the vocalisation, cluttering up the mouth and tripping up the tongue.

Dobbiamo iniziare le pulizie di primavera, la nostra cantina è piena di cianfrusaglie.
We need to start doing some spring cleaning, our basement's full of clutter.

Voglio sbarazzarmi delle suecianfrusaglie entro venerdì.
I want to get rid of his junk by Friday.

While you'll occasionally see it in the singular form, cianfrusaglia, cianfrusaglie is much more common - after all, clutter tends to come in a collective.

It's a feminine plural noun, so remember to use the correct articles (ledelle, etc) in front of the word.

Cianfrusaglie isn't necessarily just rubbish that someone's allowed to build up in their home - it can also be cheap and tacky tat people buy at a store (of course, you wouldn't describe anything that had taken your own fancy as cianfrusaglie).

Curiosare fra le cianfrusaglie nei mercatini è una specie di hobby per lei.
Rummaging around for cheap tat in the second hand markets is a sort of hobby for her.

An alternative word which means something very similar to cianfrusaglie is robaccia.

The etymology of this word is clear - roba is 'stuff' and 'accia' is a suffix appended onto Italian nouns to give them a negative meaning, so una robaccia is a worthless thing.

Non immaginavo che avesse comprato così tanta robaccia.
I had no idea she had bought this much junk.


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