A forestiero (FOR-EST-ee-EH-roh) isn’t, as you might reasonably guess, a lumberjack or a wood-dwelling hermit.
It’s Italian for a foreigner, outsider, stranger, out-of-towner, sojourner, or guest.
The word comes from the Occitan (a language spoken in the Occitanie region of southern France) word forestier, which itself comes from the Latin foris, meaning outside (the Italian word for outside, fuori (FWOR-ree) also comes from foris).
Forestiero is a slightly poetic or old-timey way to refer to an outsider – for example, it’s often used as the translation for ‘stranger’ in westerns that have been dubbed into Italian:
È meglio che tu vada avanti, forestiero.
You’d better move on, stranger.
And is how strangers are often referred to in the Italian translation of the bible:
Ero forestiero e mi avete ospitato – Matteo 25, 43
I was a stranger and you welcomed me – Matthew 25:43
It’s a regular noun, so its o ending changes to the usual a/i/e depending on whether the subject is masculine or feminine, singular or plural.
Non importa per quanto tempo sia stata qui, rimarrà sempre una forestiera.
It doesn’t matter how long she’s been here, she’ll always be an outsider.
Sa come accogliere i forestieri nel migliore dei modi.
She knows how to welcome outsiders in the best possible way.
There’s several Italian words related to forestiero: according to the Treccani dictionary, a foresteria (FOR-EST-eh-REE-ah) is a space in a convent reserved for guests, and can also be used to describe accommodation made available by companies and organisations for guests or staff members visiting from elsewhere.
A forestierismo (FOR-EST-ee-ehr-EEZ-moh) is a word or phrase taken from one language and adopted into another as an ‘outsider word’ (such as laissez-faire or rendezvous in English).
And then (though you’d be very unlikely to actually come across it these days) there’s forestieraccio (FOR-EST-ee-eh-RATCH-oh) – a pejorative variation of forestiero.
Ma cosa sta facendo questo forestieraccio?
What on earth is this idiot outsider doing?
The word foriestiero/foresteria by itself isn’t an insult though – and is a poetic alternative to have on hand if you’re sick of identifying yourself as a straniero/a (foreigner).
Do you have a favourite Italian word you’d like us to feature? If so, please email us with your suggestion.