In a recent episode of Un medico in famiglia, Guido (the doctor who is staying at the Martini residence) is having a conversation with Maria (a family member who is studying medicine and is also attracted to Guido). Her grandfather is trying to listen in on the conversation. Guido uses the word innanzitutto. It's a long word, and can be a bit daunting, but if we take it apart, we'll see that it is no big deal. Let's look for the words within the word.
Be', innanzitutto bisogna vedere se è veramente un'amicizia, perché...
Well, first of all, we have to see if it's really a friendship, because....Play Caption
Innanzitutto, scriviamo il luogo e la data in alto a destra.
First of all, we write the place and the date in the upper right hand corner.
Captions 12-13, Corso di italiano con Daniela Lettera informale - Part 1Play Caption
Maestra, tantissime cose. Innanzitutto, Firenze con gli Uffizi, ma non solo.
Teacher, many things. First of all, Florence with the Uffizi, but not only.
Captions 72-73, L'Italia a tavola Interrogazione sulla ToscanaPlay Caption
Perhaps the first word that jumps out is tutto. Many of us know that means "everything" or "all."
What might not jump out as a word is innanzi. It means "in front of" or "before." It's not all that common, but it is used in literature and formal speech quite a bit. It's another way to say davanti (in front of) and has a variant, dinnanzi.
"Alla parola "comizio", d'ora innanzi, prego di sostituire la parola "raduno di propaganda".
"For the word "assembly," from now on, please substitute the word "propaganda meeting."Play Caption
It's also another way to say in avanti (henceforth), as in the previous example (from the 1930s).
One way to say you are surviving is:
Si tira avanti or si tira innanzi (one is pulling forward, or pushing forth).
A more common word we can detect as part of innanzitutto is anzi. We use this word a lot when we contradict ourselves, change our minds, or reiterate something with emphasis. See our lesson about anzi.
Interestingly, anzi comes from the Latin word (also an Italian word) ante meaning "before." We find this in words like anteprima (preview) or antenati (forefathers). It basically means "before." As we can see in the lesson mentioned above, anzi means a lot of things now, but originally, its meaning was "before," or, in Italian, prima. Many of us know that prima can mean either "before" or "first."
So, innanzitutto just means, "first of all," or if you want to get a bit fancier, "first and foremost." It's really no big deal. And the good news is that if it's too hard to pronounce, you have some alternatives, some of them similar but not exact synonyms.
Prima di tutto (first of all)
Per cominciare (to start with)
Soprattutto (above all)
There may be more! Let us know if you discover new ones. Meanwhile, if you can manage it, innanzitutto is something to say when beginning a speech and acknowledging the sponsor.
Innanzitutto, vorrei ringraziare... (first and foremost, I would like to thank...)