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Italian Word of The Day Supported by: Fluente logo For Members

Italian word of the day: 'Affluenza'

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

Can you guess what this word might turn out to mean?

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In (American) English it's a risible legal defense used by rich criminals to avoid a prison sentence. 

But in Italian, affluenza is something else entirely. It means attendance or turnout; most commonly, voter turnout.

Affluenza alle urne

Turnout at the polls

And, after a record low turnout at this weekend's European and local elections, as well as at the last general election in 2022, this is something that's in steady decline in Italy.

Sembra che l'affluenza sia in forte calo.
There seems to be a sharp decline in turnout.

Speriamo che l'affluenza sarà più elevata questa volta.
We hope that the turnout will be higher this time.

(Hear the pronunciation here.)

Affluenza also refers to a flow, as in a literal flow of water:

L'affluenza di acqua è più bassa che mai quest'anno.
The flow of water is lower than ever this year.

Or a figurative flow or influx, such as economic or migratory movements:

Negli ultimi anni l'economia ha beneficiato di un'affluenza di lavoratori dall'estero.
In the last few years the economy has benefitted from an influx of workers from abroad.

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Based on these uses of the word, you can hazard a good guess as to where our 'affluence' originates: it's from the Latin affluentia, meaning an abundant flow, a copiousness, or an extravagance.

We do in fact retain the alternative definition of 'affluence' in English to mean an influx of people or things (e.g., "Venice receives an affluence of visitors from all over the world") - it just sounds a little outdated to modern ears.

And if you want to say 'affluence' in Italian?

You could use any of benessere, agiatezza, richezza, or opulenza.

Nonostante la loro agiatezza, spendono pochissimo, risparmiando tutto il loro patrimonio per la pensione.
Despite their affluence they spend very little money, saving all their wealth for their retirement.

Don't fall into the trap of thinking affluente means 'affluent' either - there, you'd be talking about a tributary of a river. Instead, you'll want agiatobenestante, or ricco.

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