Italian Loanwords in English
Loanwords are words adopted by the speakers of one language from a different language. To indicate the use of English words in common Italian language we say “inglesismo”, to mean Englishism or Anglicism.
The heavy penetration of “English words” in the Italian language, especially in the workplace, gives no sign of stopping. A recent study on the use of English words used by Italian companies found that the use of Anglo-Saxon’s terms has increased almost 800% over the past 8 years.
But I have wondered, what about the opposite?
After a brief search, I noticed that there are indeed a lot of Italian words used in English. Given that the Italian language is not as widespread as English, we need to take a step back in time to better understand the intrusion of these terms in English/American vocabulary.
At the end of the sixteenth century among the Queen Elizabeth Tudor’s subjects some compatriots were blamed those not for only study and made a display of their Italian knowledge, but because posing as imitators of the Italian model in behavior and fashion, literature and painting, business and in the art of the sword…… mindset that thereafter characterized the Anglo-Saxon way of looking at Italy and towards Italian things: admiration and contempt, acceptance and rejection, prejudice and amazement at the same time. We find a wide track of all this through the history of Anglo-Italian relations, which is made up of businesses, books, and travel.
At that time, we already find some Italian words used in English and that, over the centuries, have become common in their language, enriching their vocabulary and expressive possibilities. BANK, BANKRUPT, CASH, and RISK were terms that ultimately came from the Italian words “banca”, “banco”, “bancarotta”, “cassa” and “rischio”. Nowadays, the weight of this new dictionary may not be able to redress the balance which lately, on the other side, has a large number of Anglicism in Italian. However, I realize that we are not only “debtors” because in any contact between different languages (as well as between human beings) the “giving” is always accompanied by the “having”, and vice versa.
The first Italian lexical borrowings in the English language belong to the economic and financial entourage, as the term DUCAT, with reference to the first golden “ducato” created by the Doge of Venice in 1284, as well as the term MANAGER derived from “maneggio” which in Italian means to train the horses.
The situation changes radically – for quantity and quality of Italianisms – when in the second half of the sixteenth century the Italian Renaissance reached England. Through the study of the Italian language gentlemen and British courtiers intended to approach a superior civilization and achieve the perfect ideal of the Renaissance man, so that the influence of language was closely related to the literary and cultural heritage, and it is easy to illustrate the presence of English Italianisms in areas where Italy is a Renaissance model of excellence:
• arts and architecture, GESSO, STUCCO, CUPOLA, DUOMO, BELVEDERE and PIAZZA;
• poetry, song and music, CANTO, MADRIGAL, SONETTO, STANZA, DUO and VIOLIN;
• military and fortifications, IMBOSCATA and TO IMBOSK, ARSENAL and RIPARE;
• mathematics and geometry, ALGEBRA, SQUADRANT and SQUADRATURE;
• trade and finance, BAZAAR, TO SALD (from “saldare”), TARIFF and TO INVEST.
Between the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries some contingencies bring the English’s world to turn its back to Italy: Charles I (1625-1649) married a French princess, as the interlude Puritan Commonwealth (1649-1660) could not bring Englishmen to look at Italy with favor, abut as an abhorred focus centre of a Catholic cradle and immoral Machiavellianism…. so, during the seventeenth century the Italian loanwords only involve some specific areas – such as botany and natural sciences, mathematics, geometry, and fortifications.
• PISTOLETTO, STILETTO, CAPITANO;
• AMOROSO, BECCO, CANAGLIA, CAPRICCIO, ESTRO, FURIOSO, GENIO, INCOGNITO, RUFFIANO, VOLPONE; CATSO! (from cazzo), CRIMINE;
• BERGAMOT, GRANITO, GROTTO, LIBECCIO, SCIROCCO, VOLCANO;
• GUGLIO, OVOLO, PILASTREL, ANTICAMERA, BALCONY, CAMPANILE, PALAZZO, PORTICO, STANZA, VILLA; BUSTO, CHIAROSCURO, INTAGLIO, MEZZOTINT, MINIATURE, MORBIDEZZA, PIETA’, PROFILE, PUTTO, SCHIZZO;
• BURRATINE (from “burattino”), ENTRATA, LITERATI and LETTERATO, PUNCHINELLO, ROMANZA, ROMANZO; ALLEGRO, BARITONE, CANTO, CAPRICCIO, LARGO, PIANO, PRESTO, RECITATIVE, RITORNELLO, SONATA, TRILL, VIOLINIST, VIVACE;
• CAMBIO, TO DISCOUNT (da “scontare”), ENTRATE, MONTE DI PIETA’, PREMIO (to mean insurance premium, from “premio di assicurazione”), LIRA, PAOLO, SCUDO;
• GRECO, LIATICO, BRENDICE (from “brindisi”), BROCCOLI, FRITTADO (from frittata), MORTADELLA, PASTA, POLENTA, VERMICELLI;
• BULLETIN, CONSULTO, GIUNTA, INTRIGO, MANIFESTO, PAPESS, QUIETISM and QUIETIST, RISGO(E) (from “risigo” or “risico”), SBIRRO, SCALDABANCO (to mean a ‘fiery preacher’), SPIRITATO ( to mean ‘driven by excessive religious zeal’).
Many of these Italianisms are now archaic or obsolete, but on that period they had their influence; if it is true that during the seventeenth century the British looked at France and not Italy as a cultural model, it is equally true that in this century the French language acted as a mediator to spread in English other Italian loanwords, like TO ATTACK, BAGATELLE, BARRACK, CARTOON, CHARLATAN, GAZETTE, MUSKETOON, RISK, SPINET, VALISE and VEDETTE.
This tendency vanishes in the eighteenth century, when British were by now aware to have acquired a certain cultural independence from foreign models. In regard of Italian world, this independence gradually develops thru various attitudes: an initial total denial, as if the British were ashamed of having taken Italy as model. Then the attention increases because they tried – as English travelers on the Grand Tour made – to find the vestiges of a glorious past thru the actual ruins. Finally, a renewed interest for the work in Italian music and picturesque landscapes of Italian artists comes.
• ADAGIO, ALLEGRETTO, ANDANTE, ARIA, BALLATA, CASTRATO, CONCERTO GROSSO, CONTRAPUNTIST, CRESCENDO, DUET, FAGOTTO, FALSETTO, FANTASIA, FORTE, FORTE-PIANO, FORTISSIMO, LIBRETTO, MEZZO-SOPRANO, OPERETTA, PIANISSIMO, PRIMA DONNA, SERENATA, SINFONIA, SOLFEGGIO, SOPRANO, STACCATO, TENORE, TERZETTO, TOCCATA, TUTTI, VIOLA, VIOLONCELLO, ZAMPOGNA and ZUFOLO;
• TERRENO, TONDINO, STACCATURE (from “stuccatura”), ALFRESCO, BAMBINO, CINQUECENTO, CONTORNO, GUAZZO, TO IMPASTE, IMPASTO, PASTICCIO, PORTFOLIO, RITRATTO, SMALTO and TORSO;
• BRIO, CICISBEO, CONVERSAZIONE, CON AMORE, IMBROGLIO, LAZZARONE, SOTTO VOCE and VILLEGGIATURA;
• BRECCIA, LAVA, SOLFATARA, TERRA SIENNA (from “terra di Siena”), TUFA (from “tufo”), and VULCANIC;
• FINOCHIO (from “finocchio”), MARASCHINO, MINESTRA, SEMOLINA, and STAFATA (from “stufato”).
And what about the nineteenth century? Ugo Foscolo, who took refuge in London, about Italian in England he wrote, “A lot of them study it, a few learn it, everybody presume to know it”. The interest in Italian literature is an elitist thing, for Romantic poets and Victorians….. more effective is the interests of some British who are passionate about Italian opera, or to orient themselves at least a little while traveling and living in Italy, a lifestyle that represent itself again after the collapse of the Napoleonic empire. The fact is that in the nineteenth century the Italianisms welcomed by the English language are really a lot and more than in the past:
• ACCELERANDO, AGITATO, A CAPPELLA, ANDANTINO, BASSET-HORN, BATTUTA, BEL CANTO, CADENZA, CANTATRICE, CAVATINA, CEMBALO, CONCERTINO, CORNETTO, CORNO, DIVA, DUETTINO, FLAUTIST, FLAUTATO, FUGATO, FURIOSO, LAMENTOSO, LEGATO, MARCATO, MARTELLATO, MOSSO, MUSICO, OBOE D’AMORE, OBOE DA CACCIA, OCARINA, ORGANETTO, PIANIST, PIZZICATO, RALLENTANDO, ROMANZA, SCHERZO, SESTET, SFORZANDO, SFORZATO, SMORZANDO, SMORZATO, VIBRATO, VIOLA DA BRACCIO, VILLOTTA;
• ABBOZZO, AMORINO, BAROCCO, CORTILE, GRADINO, GRAFFITO, INTARSIA, INTONACO, LUNETTA, MANDORLA, REPLICA, SCENARIO, SCUOLA, SEICENTISMO, SEICENTIST, SFUMATO, STUDIO, TEMPERA, TEMPIETTO, TENEBROSO, TERRIBILITA’, TONDO, TRECENTO;
• AGRODOLCE, CANNELLONI, GNOCCHI, GRISSINO, LASAGNE, MARASCA, RAVIOLI, RICOTTA, RISOTTO, SALAMI, SEMOLA, SEMOLETTA, SPAGHETTI, STRACCHINO, TAGLIATELLE, ZABAGLIONE, ZUCCA; ALEATICO, CHIANTI, GRAPPA, GRIGNOLINO, MALVASIA, ROSOLIO, VERNACCIA;
• BECCACCIA, BOCCA (referring to volcano), BORA, FATA MORGANA, FIUMARA, LAPILLO, MACIGNO, MAREMMA, OVER-MOUNTS, RIVA, TERRA ROSSA, VOLCANELLO;
• JETTATURA, MAESTRIA, MATTOID, REFASHIONMENT (from “rifacimento”), SIMPATICO, VENDETTA;
• BERSAGLIERE, CARABINIERE, CARBONARI, IMBROGLIO, IRRENDENTIST, MAFIA and MAFIOSO, MUNICIPIO, QUIRINAL, RISORGIMENTO, SANFEDIST, SINDACO, TRIPLICE; ABBATE, CAPPA, MANTELLETTA, TRIDUO, ZUCCHETTO;
• STORNELLO, TERZINA, FESTA, CONFETTI, DOLCE FAR NIENTE, CREDENZA, FIASCO, PADELLA, COMMENDATORE, CONTESSA, DONZELLA, RAGAZZO.
Passing from the nineteenth century to the century just ended, it is first evident that the dynamics of Anglo-Italian relations are conditioned by the increasing opportunities and ways of contacts: trade and international relations, leisure travel and migration, means transport, and mass media make easier any linguistic, literary and cultural exchange. Although the Italian spoken by immigrants and the one taught in schools in English-speaking countries have set up, in the course of the twentieth century, an opportunity for contact interlingua for hundreds of thousands of speakers, it is reasonable to conclude that a genuine Italian influence on British and American English has exerted primarily by other means and other ways, as the following list of Italianisms shows:
• music, songs and dance: CODA, LAMENTO, SINFONIA CONCERTANTE, SINFONIETTA, SOPRANINO, SPINTO, STAGIONE (often as STAGIONE LIRICA), STILE ANTICO, STILE CONCITATO;
• art and architecture: BOTTEGA, BOZZETTO, FUTURISM, GIOCONDA, MODELLO, PALIOTTO, PENTIMENTO, RICORDO, SEICENTO, SETTECENTO, STUDIOLO, VEDUTA, VEDUTISTA, VERISMO; PIANO NOBILE, SALONE, SALOTTO, SOTTOPORTICO, TRAVATED (from “travata”), TRULLO;
• natural sciences and geophysics: MAESTRALE, PONENTE (or PONENTE WIND), SALITA, SPINONE;
• scientific and technical terms: CHROMOCENTRE, EQUICONTINUOUS, FANGO and FANGOTHERAPY, FAVISM, GIORGI (or GIORGI SYSTEM), HOLOGENESIS, ISOTACTIC, OLIGOPOD, ORTICANT, RICCI (or RICCI TENSOR), ROSASITE, SECCHI (or SECCHI’S DISC), UREOTELIC, YOTTA (from prefix y- before the number “otto”, to mean ‘10/24’);
• technical-industrial terminology: FERRO-CEMENT, IMPASTO, PUNTA, TERITAL, TERRAZZO;
• religion: AGGIORNAMENTO, PAPABILE, QUARESIMAL, ROMANITA’;
• economics and Politics: BABY PENSIONS (from “pensioni baby”), BLACK JOB, BLACKSHIRT, BOSSISMO, DESISTENZA, DUCE, EUROTAX or TAX FOR EUROPE (from “Eurotassa”), FASCI, FASCISM, GIOVANI IMPRENDITORI, GOVERNISSIMO, GOVERNTMENT OF NATIONAL UNIT, GREENSHIRTS, HISTORIC COMPROMISE (from “compromesso storico”), LOTTIZZAZIONE, MANI PULITE/SPORCHE, or meanings like CLEAN/DIRTY HANDS, NORD-NAZIONE, PADANIA and PADANIANS, PADRONI, PARTITOCRAZIA, POTERI FORTI, RED BRIGADES (from “Brigate Rosse”), SACRO EGOISMO, SALOTTO BUONO, SCALA MOBILE, SQUADRA, SQUADRIST, TANGENTI, TANGENTOPOLI, BRIBE CITY, BRIBESVILLE e KICKBACK CITY, TRASFORMISMO, WHITE SEMESTER, UOMO DELLA PROVVIDENZA;
• society: AGRITURISMO, ANIMALISTA, ANTI-MAFIA, BIENNALE, CAPO (or MAFIOSO), CAPO DEI CAPI, BOSS OF BOSSES, CADAVERI ECCELLENTI, CLOSED HOUSES (from “case chiuse”), COSA NOSTRA or OUR THING, CRAVATTARI, DOLCE VITA, DON, FERRAGOSTO, GOOMBAH (to mean a ‘mafioso’), MAFIAIST e MAFIAISM, MAFIA-BUSTING, MAFIA-FIGHTERS, MAFIA-LINKED, MAFIA-RIDDEN and MAFIA-STYLE, MAXI TRIAL (from “maxi processo”), MEN OF HONOUR), OMERTA’, PAPARAZZO, PASSEGGIATA, PASTICCERIA, PENSIONE, PIZZERIA, PRINCIPE, REPENTED (to mean informer), RISTORANTE, SACRA CORONA UNITA, SCUGNIZZO, SETTIMANALI ROSA, SOVRINTENDENZA, TIFOSI, TOMBAROLO, VENTETTIST;
• roles, behaviors, individual and social attitudes: BIMBO, FURORE, JETTATORE, MAMMISMO, NOIA, NUMERO UNO, VITA NUOVA, VITELLONI;
• food and beverage: ABBACCHIO, AGNOLOTTI, AL DENTE, ANTIPASTO, ARAGULA (from “RUCOLA”), BEL PAESE, BRUSCHETTA, CACIUCCO, CALABRESE, CALAMARI, CALZONE, CANNOLI, CAPRETTO, CARBONE DOLCE, CARPACCIO, CASSATA, CIABATTA, CORNETTO, COSTATA ALLA FIORENTINA, CROSTINI, FETTUCCINE, FRITTATA, FRITTO DI MARE o FRITTO MISTO, FRITTURA, FUSILLI, GUANCIALE, LINGUINE, MACEDONIA DI FRUTTA, MANICOTTI, MARINARA, MASCARPONE o MASCHERPONE, MOZZARELLA, MOZZARELLA IN CARROZZA, OSSO BUCO, PANCETTA, PANETTONE, PANFORTE, PARMIGIANO, PECORINO, PENNE, PESTO, PEPPERONI (or PEPERONI), PINZIMONIO, PIZZA, PORCHETTA, PROSCIUTTO (or PROSCIUTTO HAM), PROVOLONE, RADICCHIO, RIGATONI, ROMANO (or ROMANO CHEESE), SALTIMBOCCA, SANGUINACCIO, SCALLOPINI (or SCALOPPINE), SCAMPI, SCUNGILLE (from Neapolitan “scunciglio”), SPAGHETTI ALL’AMATRICIANA and ALLA CARBONARA, SPAGHETTINI, SPUMONI (from “spumone”), STELLINE, STRACCIATELLA, TALEGGIO, TIRAMISU, TORTELLINI, VITELLO TONNATO, ZABAGLIONE, ZEPPOLE, ZITONI, ZUCCHINI, ZUPPA, ZUPPA INGLESE, and the saying MMEDITERRANEAN DIET; AMARETTO, BERBERA, BAROLO, CAPPUCCINO, DOLCETTO D’ALBA, ESPRESSO, FRASCATI, LAMBRUSCO, LUNGO e MACCHIATO (referring to the coffee), MOSCATO, NEGRONI, MARTINI, PROSECCO, PUNT E MES, RICCADONNA, SAMBUCA, SASSELLA, SOAVE, SPUMANTE, STREGA, VERDICCHIO, VIN SANTO, VINO DA TAVOLA, and the saying DENOMINATION OF PROTECTED ORIGIN;
• various words ARRIVEDERCI, AUTOSTRADA, AZZURRI, BALLERINA (or BALLERINA SHOE), CANTINA, CIAO, FATTORIA, FRECCE TRICOLORI, GALLERIA (to mean a place with many shops, “galleria di negozi”), GROSSO MODO, LIBERO (from soccer technique), MANCIA, MEZZOGIORNO, MILLE MIGLIA, PICCOLO, PINOCCHIO, RIONE, SALUMERIA, SCOPA, SCUDETTO, SCUOLA MEDIA, SCUSI, (LA) SERENISSIMA, SPAGHETTI WESTERN, SPREZZATURA, STRAMBOTTO, SUFFIXOID, TELEFONINO, VESPA, CINEMA.
This is a partial list of known or supposed Italian loanwords in English, but if you wanna know more take a look here:
But, if we take as reference the ancestor of the Italian language, the LATIN, and old widespread language, then the loanwords increase dramatically, especially in medicine, religion and art (as the sayings: posteriori, a priori, ad infinitum, carpe diem, casus belli, de facto, de jure, et cetera, ex parte, habitat, in camera, in medias res, ipse dixit, lingua franca, memento, non plus ultra, pax, persona (non) grata, per capita, post partum, pro forma, sine die, sine qua non, sui generis, summa cum laude, tabula rasa.) Read this page to know more: http://www.liceovittorioemanuele.it/download/accardo/accardo.htm