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Italian word of the day: ‘Affluenza’

This word has particular relevance to yesterday's events... can you guess what it might turn out to mean?

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

Yes, in English it’s a risible legal defence 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.

And based on what we know so far about the yesterday’s general election, this is something that appears to be in sharp 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.

That’s not its only use, however: 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.

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.

Affluence Great Deal Of Money GIF - Affluence Great Deal Of Money Wealth GIFs

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people or things (e.g., “Venice receives an affluence of visitors from all over the world”) – it just sounds a little outdated to modern ears.

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.

And 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.

pw scrooge GIF

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

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For members


Italian expression of the day: ‘Settimana bianca’

Here’s a phrase you'll need for a truly Italian winter holiday.

Italian expression of the day: ‘Settimana bianca’

As far as winter traditions go, there’s only one thing more quintessentially Italian than a family feud over which is the best Christmas dessert between pandoro and panettone. That one thing is the ‘settimana bianca’ (pronunciation available here).

You might have already heard the expression on a couple of occasions, but if not, you’re very likely to hear it soon from Italian friends, relatives or colleagues as we enter the holiday season

There is a set of unwritten rules governing a respectable settimana bianca, but first, what does the expression actually mean?

The literal translation into English would be ‘white week’, and the phrase is used by native speakers to describe a period of around seven days (but sometimes more) spent in any mountain destination, whether that’s in Italy or abroad. 

As you might have guessed, ‘bianca’ refers to the colour of the location’s landscape, which would be white due to the presence of snow. 

Dove pensi di fare la settimana bianca quest’anno?

Boh, non ci ho ancora pensato bene. Forse Cortina.

Ma che sei pazzo? Con quei prezzi…

Where are you thinking of going for your ski holiday this year?

Hmm, I haven’t really thought about it yet. Maybe Cortina?

Are you out of your mind? With those prices…

That said, you might wonder what’s so special about a winter break up in the mountains.

Regardless of whether it’s a family vacation or a trip with friends, the settimana bianca has a precise set of features that all Italians seem to be aware of from a very young age, almost as though information on how to execute it came embedded in their own genetic setup.

Firstly, the settimana bianca is a very important social event and the smooth unfolding of the holiday is seen as vitally important.

As such, the organisers spend the preceding weeks and months working on an infallible day-by-day plan, which is generally scrapped the moment they reach their destination. 

Italian holidaymakers then spend most of their days engaging in a variety of winter sports, from skiing to ice skating, with tall tales of athletic prowess generally followed by tragic tumbles and other various health and safety mishaps.

Qual era il bilancio dell’ultima settimana bianca?

Due feriti, un malato.

Ah, non male dai. Pensavo peggio.

What was the toll of your last ski holiday?

Two injured, one sick.

Oh, not so bad then. I expected worse.

Finally, no settimana bianca is truly complete without at least one of the members of the group severely underestimating the rigid winter temperatures and ultimately falling ill, thus being begrudgingly looked after by a carousel of friends or relatives for the rest of the vacation. 

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