Italian word of the day: ‘Incendio’

Do you have a burning need to know how to use this word correctly?

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

One word you likely learned early on in your Italian language journey is fuoco – fire. It’s easy to remember, and used in many of the same contexts as the English equivalent.

But you may have noticed another word, particularly when reading about the wildfires wreaking havoc across Italy at the moment: incendio.

You can likely work out the meaning of this word. After all, it reminds us of the English word incendiary, which has the same Latin root.

Both words effectively mean the same thing: ‘fire’. But confusion arises from the fact that they can’t always be used interchangeably.

So what exactly is the difference between fuoco and incendio?

Simply put, fuoco tends to be used to refer to the element; while incendio is used when something is on fire.

Le eruzioni vulcaniche e gli incendi continueranno

The volcanic eruptions and fires continue

A wildfire or forest fire is called an incendio forestale or incendio nel bosco. 

L’incendio forestale continua ad imperversare.

The forest fire continues to rage on.

Fuoco is used more widely to talk about fire in general. For example, fireworks are fuochi d’artificio (literally: ‘artificial fires’) and firefighters are vigili del fuoco (literally: ‘fire guards’) – a Roman-era term reintroduced under Mussolini’s rule, as the dictator is said to have preferred it to pompieri, as they were previously called (and still are in some parts of the country).

One common usage is when talking about the heat used while cooking: fuoco basso/alto (low/high heat).

Bisogna friggere le cipolle a fuoco basso 

You need to fry the onions on a low heat

And Italian has plenty of fire-related idioms, which you may or may not be able to guess the meanings of.

For example: fare fuoco e fiamme literally means ‘to make fire and flames’: it’s used to talk about someone really losing their temper, where in English we might ‘go ballistic’ or ‘raise hell’.

Slightly less dramatically, a hectic day might also be described as una giornata di fuoco, or ‘a day of fire’.

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: ‘Inciucio’

Here's a word you'll need to deal with ahead of Italy's elections.

Italian word of the day: 'Inciucio'

With two days to go until Sunday’s general election, there’s talk of a potential ’inciucio’ everywhere from the pages of newspapers to the heated conversations at sports bars up and down the country.

So what is an ‘inciucio’ and why does the word seem to be on everyone’s lips whenever Italy faces elections?

Briefly, ‘inciucio’ is political jargon that describes any type of dubious agreement or, if you will, compromise reached by two or more political parties generally holding opposite views and ideals.

There’s no direct translation into English, though a native speaker would probably refer to it as something of a dodgy backroom deal.

Non c’è una maggioranza chiara. 

Eh, figurati. Faranno il solito inciucio.

There isn’t a clear-cut majority.

Oh, that’s not new. They’ll go for the usual deal.

Such an agreement is usually necessary when forming a large coalition government, with terms largely assumed to be based on the “you scratch my back, I scratch yours” principle. 

READ ALSO: Salvini vs Meloni: Can Italy’s far-right rivals put differences aside?

With that definition in mind, it’s hard not to see why ‘inciucio’ is such a commonly-used word in Italy, a country whose political class has historically been partial to improbable alliances with their previously hated rivals. 

Cosa pensi delle prossime elezioni?

Preferisco non pensare. Ne ho avuto abbastanza di questi inciuci. 

What do you think of the next elections?

I’d rather not think. I’ve had enough of these political deals.

Purtroppo, con questa legge elettorale, l’inciucio tra partiti è l’unica via per avere un governo…

Fammi un piacere. Gli inciuci esistevano anche 60 anni fa, molto prima di questa legge elettorale.

Sadly, with the current electoral system, a compromise between different parties is the only way to form a new government.

Do me a favour. These types of agreements existed 60 years ago, well before the present electoral system.

While the noble art of the inciucio goes back a long way in the history of republican Italy, the term itself was only coined in 1995 by Massimo D’Alema, then secretary of the left-wing Democratic Party (PD). 

The expression only rose to popularity a couple of years later, when the founder of the term thought it fit to put the word to good use and reached a ‘non-aggression pact’ with the then-leaders of Italy’s right-wing coalition – the agreement went down in history as the patto della crostata or ‘pie pact’ – but we’ll keep that story for another time.

Ever since then, the term ‘inciucio’ has been regularly used by political commentators as well as the wider public to discuss the various power plays of the country’s major political forces.

For instance, the most classic of inciuci was at the foundation of Giuseppe Conte’s first cabinet back in 2018, when Matteo Salvini’s League and Luigi Di Maio’s Five-Star Movement unexpectedly found sufficient common ground to form a coalition government.

So, will we see another inciucio this time around?

Given the unpredictable nature of Italian politics, you’ll forgive us for not ruling out the possibility of another inciucio just yet.