Italian word of the day: ‘Cianfrusaglie’

This word is far from worthless.

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

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 (Chan-froo-ZA-yleh).

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 sue cianfrusaglie entro venerdì.
I want to get rid of his junk by Friday.

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While you’ll occasionally see it in the singular form, cianfrusaglia (Chan-froo-ZA-yla), 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 (roh-BATCH-ah).

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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As you prepare to go to your in-laws’ homes for Easter lunch, just be careful who you accuse of owning any cianfrusaglie.

Do you have a favourite Italian word you’d like us to feature? If so, please email us with your suggestion.

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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.