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Italian word of the day: 'Acquazzoni'

Clare Speak
Clare Speak - [email protected]
Italian word of the day: 'Acquazzoni'
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond

Don't get caught out by this unexpected word.

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The Italian language has plenty of specific weather words that are worth learning, including acquazzoni: this term specifically describes sudden, short and heavy downpours of exactly the type you may find yourself caught up in at this time of year.

This isn’t a word you’d use for prolonged rainfall; acquazzoni are short-lived, quickly giving way to clearer skies and sunshine.

Ieri c’era un aquazzone di poca durata

Yesterday there was a short downpour

Di solito ci sono molti acquazzoni in primavera

There are usually a lot of showers in spring

These short, frequent bursts are inconvenient if you’re caught out without an umbrella, but for farmers and gardeners in drought-prone areas of Italy they come as a welcome relief.

In Italian media, you’re more likely to encounter the dramatic phrase bomba d’aqua, which literally translates as ‘water bomb’: we don’t have an exact equivalent for this term in English, but this instead is the sort of heavy, sudden downpour that can cause localised flooding - hence it’s more frequent use in headlines - and it’s far less welcome than a refreshing spring shower, or aquazzone.

And you probably know that the Italian name for rain is pioggia, which has seemingly endless variations depending on the type: you could say there’s una pioggia fine when it’s raining lightly, or una pioggerellina when it’s merely drizzling. 

Instead, when the rain is pelting down, you could use the expressive piove a dirotto.

La partita è stata annullata perché sta piovendo a dirotto.

The match has been cancelled because it’s pouring down.

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Of all the many words and expressions for rain, though, acquazzoni or acquazzone is probably the most enjoyable to say. So next time you end up soaked in an unexpected spring shower, at least you’ll be able to tell people about it in Italian:

Mi sono inzuppato in un acquazzone improvviso

I got drenched in a sudden downpour

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