Italians on Italians
Beyond Toscano

Borrowing words from our European neighbors

Borrowing words from our European neighbors

One of the things that fascinates linguists around the world is the way some words creep across languages.

The English language borrows many words from others, especially French, German and Italian. France gave words like aperitif, avant-garde, cliché, fiancé, voyeur, while German is the origin of words including abseil, bagel, doppelganger, glitch, hamster, poodle and zeitgeist.

Italian has many words and expressions that have been picked up across Europe and beyond, even ignoring the influence of Latin. Musical terms like crescendo, soprano, allegro and piano, all began in Italy, as did performance terms like concert, bravo, diva and of course, opera.

Food of course has a plethora of words now used worldwide. Pasta, pizza, espresso, tiramisu and risotto are all Italian, as is ‘al dente’ – the method of determining when pasta is ready to eat.

Other popular expressions of Italian origin include dolce vita (the sweet life), paparazzi, lotto, Casanova, gondola and even the humble umbrella. Language changes quickly, even more so now the internet spreads stories at the speed of light. So listen out for new Italian words and expressions making a cameo in the conversations you hear and discover a brave new vista.