How to Learn Some Italian Using Words You Already Know - Lesson 2

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In the first lesson of How to Learn Some Italian Using Words You Already know we focused on all the English words Italians use on a daily basis, thus making our lives that much easier when trying to communicate. There are over 70 words, in fact, that are either English, the same in Italian and English, or so similar that you understand anyway, and I keep finding words to add to that list!

To read Lesson 1, click here.

For Lesson 2 we are going to focus on taking the English words you can turn into Italian, simply by adding a vowel on the end. (If you hadn’t noticed from lesson 1, these lessons aren’t exactly serious… they aren’t aimed at the studious, full-time Italian-language student, but rather can be enjoyed by anyone, whether you speak any Italian or not. :)

If you have spent any time around the Italian culture (or just watching The Godfather) you will have noticed that Italian words all end in vowels, and that it’s very easy to imitate them by adding a vowel on to any word. This is often found highly entertaining by other cultures (ahem, American), even if it (obviously) ends with made-up words. '“Yes, ciao, I will take-o the pizza and the pasta to take-away-o!”

If you don’t want to sound like you are speaking Ameritalian or someone who has lived their whole life imitating Italian stereotypes, read this post about the Italian alphabet and pronunciation of key letters. Some words in the list that follows are spelled the same as in English but with a vowel on the end, but the pronunciation might be slightly different. Likewise, some are spelled differently but are pronounced the same, aside from that last vowel, of course. If I don’t indicate how it should be pronounced, that means the accent and pronunciation stay essentially the same as in English.

One more note to remember as we progress: Italian words are split into two categories, feminine and masculine, usually ending in a or o, respectively. The ending of adjectives can fluctuate, depending on if the word or person they are describing is masculine or feminine. For example, “buono” is an adjective that means “good,” and you could say “oliO buonO” or “pizzA buonA.”

One more example to make sure we’re clear, let’s take #1 from the list below. I am an American, (and a woman) so I would say, “sono un’Americana.” I can’t (or shouldn’t) say “sono un Americano” because the adjective “Americano” no longer matches what it is describing, me the woman. So if you see the o/a below or realize a word is an adjective, remember it depends on if the noun the adjective is describing is masculine or feminine!

Ok, ready to add to your Italian vocabulary?

English Words to Which You Can Add Vowels to Make Italian Words

  1. American, Italian, Indian, and others / Americano/a, Italiano/a, Indiano/a - This holds true for several nationalities, but not all. For example, Australian is Australiano/a, but British is Inglese and French is Francese, Ah well, helpful for some!

  2. Person / Persona (per-SOHN-a)

  3. Tube / Tubo

  4. Cube / Cubo (COO-Boh)

  5. Sphere / Sfera (SFAIR-ah)

  6. Case / Caso (CAH-zo) - in any caso…

  7. Event / Evento - Hey let’s go to that evento!

  8. Concert / Concerto (cone-CHAIR-toh)

  9. Art / Arte

  10. Ballet / Balletto - Ah, finally you can pronounce that “t” sound like you’ve always been tempted to!

  11. Dance / Danza (DAH-nza)

  12. Music / Musica (MOO-zee-cah)

  13. Tambourine / Tamburino

  14. Battery / Batteria (Baht-TAIR-ee-ah) - this also can refer to drums.

  15. Angelic / Angelico/a (ahn-JEL-ee-co)

  16. Content / Contento/a - I am so contenta to see you!

  17. Conversion / Conversione (cohn-VAIR-zee-ohn-ay)

  18. Impression / Impressione (eem-PRESS-ee-ohn-ay)

  19. Candle / Candela (cahn-DEL-ah)

  20. Diamond / Diamante (dee-ah-MAHN-tay)

  21. Mark / Marchio note that there is also “marca” but that means a brand or make, such as Gucci or Ferrari, rather than a mark on something.

  22. Television / Televisione (tel-eh-viz-ee-OHN-ay)

  23. Kiosk / Chiosco (kee-OH-sco) - or newspaper stand.

  24. Zone / Zona

  25. Current / Corrente (cohr-EHN-tay) - this can be used for all forms of “current” in English, current in water, current events, etc.

  26. Equilibrium / Equilibrio (ee-quil-EE-bree-oh)

  27. Diet / Dieta (dee-EH-ta)

  28. Vitamin / Vitamina (vee-tah-MEE-na) - Let’s go soak up some vitamina d!

  29. Ingredient / Ingrediente (een-GREY-dee-en-tay)

  30. Rice / Riso ( REE-zo)

  31. Cone / Cono

  32. Carrot / Carota (cah-ROH-ta)

  33. Melon / Melone (Meh-LOHN-ay)

  34. Marmalade / Marmellata (mar-may-LAH-ta) - you might not eat marmalade very often, but “marmellata” refers to all jams, jellies, and marmalades.

  35. Olive / Oliva (oh-LEE-va)

  36. Liquor/Liqueur / Liquore - although liquor refers to stronger spirits (vodka, taquila, etc.) and liqueur to sweeter spirits (Kahlua, Bailey’s, etc.) both of these are encompassed in the Italian “liquore.”

  37. Cream / Crema - this can refer to any kind of cream, such as a face cream or a cream you would eat. Crema is also how you would say “pudding” in Italian.

  38. Spinach / Spinaci (spee-NAH-chee)

  39. Protein / Proteine (pro-tay-EEN-ay)

  40. Pork / Porco it’s also often referred to as “maiale”

  41. Pen / Penna - if this word looks familiar, that’s because yes, penne pasta literally means “pens” in Italian! Remember to lay those n’s on nice and thick, because if you take away one “n” you end up with a completely different word that you definitely don’t want to be ordering for dinner! (If I got you curious, it’s anatomy, not a swear word or worse, but you can go translate it because I prefer to keep this blog G rated. :)

  42. Train / Treno (TRAY-no)

  43. Airplane / Aeroplano (air-oh-PLAHN-o)

  44. Airport / Aeroporto (air-oh-PORT-o)

  45. Bank / Banca (BAHN-ca)

  46. Post / Posta - this can refer to the post in your mailbox as well as the actual post office.

  47. Postal / Postale (post-AHL-ay)

  48. Pharmacy / Farmacia (far-ma-chee-ah)

  49. University / Università (oon-ee-vers-ee-TAH)

  50. Camp / Campo (CAHM-po) also means field, realm, sphere, domain, any of those kinds of camp.

  51. Metal / Metallo (Meh-TAHL-lo)

  52. Metallic / Metallico/a

  53. Atomic / Atomica (Ah-TOH-mee-ca)

  54. Comic / Comico/a also known as a comedian or used as an adjective to describe something funny

  55. Animal / Animale (ahn-ee-MAHL-ay)

  56. Elephant / Elefante

  57. Lion / Leone (lay-OHN-ay)

  58. Dolphin / Delfino (del-FEEN-o)

  59. Serpent / Serpente

  60. Rat / Ratto

  61. Vote / Voto

  62. System / Sistema (sees-TAIM-a)

  63. Problem / Problema

  64. Terrible / Terribile (tair-REE-bee-lay)

  65. Crucial / Cruciale (croo-CHYA-lay)

  66. Special / Speciale (speh-CHYA-lay)

  67. Incredible / Incredibile (in-cred-EE-bee-lay)

  68. Important / Importante (eem-por-TAHN-tay)

  69. Fine / Fino - thin, the dimension, not “fine, be that way.”

  70. False / Falso - true or falso?

  71. Liberty / Libertà

  72. Destiny / Destino (des-TEEN-o)

  73. Ocean / Oceano (och-YA-no)

  74. Divine / Divino/a (Dee-VEE-no) - not to be confused with “divano” which means “couch.”

  75. Noble / Nobile (NO-bee-lay)

  76. Dollar / Dollaro - (DOL-lar-o)

  77. Button / Bottone (boo-TOH-nay)

  78. Distant / Distante (dee-STAN-tay)

  79. Second / Secondo

  80. Moment / Momento

  81. Medicine / Medicina (meh-dee-CHEE-na)

  82. Pulse / Polso (POHL-so)

  83. Palm / Palma

  84. Penicillin / Penicillina (pen-ee-chee-LEE-na)

  85. Vein / Vena

  86. Nude / Nudo/a - Don’t come in, I’m nuda! In English we more commonly say naked rather than nude, but in Italian you get one option. Try not to laugh too much the first time you actually get to use it.

  87. Cigarette / Sigaretta

  88. Rose / Rosa - means rose as well as pink.

  89. Vase / Vaso (VAH-zo) - I got you a vaso to put your rosa in.

  90. Medium / Medio (meh-dyo)

  91. Category / Categoria

  92. Comment / Commento (cohm-MEN-toh)

  93. Phrase / Frase (FRAH-zay)

  94. Alphabet / Alfabeto

  95. Letter / Lettera - as in English, this can mean both a letter in a word and a letter you write someone.

  96. Note / Nota - like a note you write someone along with musical notes, etc.

  97. Icon / Icona (ee-COHN-a)

There is yet another taste for you, that Italian can be easy to learn! And fun(ny). There are many, many more words like this, which is why it can be almost effortless to expand your vocabulary of nouns and adjectives. And this doesn’t even touch upon all the letter combinations you’ll start to pick on, those that are in English but not Italian, then figuring out the Italian equivalent, which enables you to translate words on your own without using a translator or asking a friend. Huh? Let me explain quickly.

Take for example, words in English that end in “tion.”

Frustration. Eradication.

If I tell you that “frustration” becomes “frustrazione” and “eradication” becomes “eradicazione,” you can see that the root of the word stays the same, and the “tion” suffix becomes “zione" in Italian. Easy, right? I bet you can figure out the next three.

  • Extraction = Estrazione

  • Indication = Indicazione

  • Indecision = Indecisione

Did you catch the exceptions? Where one root word didn’t stay the same, and one word didn’t end in “tion”? The “ex” in “extraction” became “es” in “estrazione,” and “indecision” ends in “sion.” This, in turn, could open the next letter combinations you could translate by yourself. There is no “x” in the Italian alphabet, therefore the combination of “ex” usually becomes “es,” and words that end in “sion” often become “sione” in Italian.

  • Expulsion = Espulsione

  • Extrusion = Estrusione

  • Extrinsic = Estrinsico

  • Invasion = Invasione

I’m getting ahead of myself, and going beyond the just the light-hearted lesson I had planned-o today-o, but I’ll leave you with on last word to translate on your own. Conversation…go!

Until next time, alla prossima!