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Macchine, Macchine, and Macchine

Here’s a general definition of the English word “machine”: “an apparatus consisting of interrelated parts with separate functions, used in the performance of some kind of work.”


As we look at the different things that are called macchine (the cognate of “machine” but with a double “c”) in Italian, it may be helpful to remember the above definition.


Apart from being a cognate of “machine” in most instances, one of the most important meanings of macchina, in Italian, is “car.” It isn’t very intuitive to translate, but it fits the description above. Other words meaning “car” are automobile, just like in English, autovettura, or just auto. These words are used more formally, and when buying and selling cars. But in everyday conversation, macchina is the noun of choice.


Con il cric si alza la macchina

With the jack you raise the car

e si cerca di togliere la gomma bucata.

and you try to remove the punctured tire.

Caption 24, Francesca - alla guida

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Here are some of the most common macchine (machines) you’ll see around. Macchina da pane or macchina per il pane (bread machine)
Macchina per la pasta (pasta machine)


La macchina che vedete in funzione,

The machine you see working,

in realtà è difficile vederlo da qui, ma sta realizzando dei tortellini.

it's actually difficult to see it from here, but it's producing tortellini.

Caption 33, Anna e Marika - La pasta fresca

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In the pastificio (pasta-making shop) Marika and Anna visit, the machine is undoubtedly electric, but there are mechanical machines as well, powered by a human! You turn the crank. Mechanical pasta machines to use at home are sold all over Italy.


Macchina da scrivere (typewriter). A machine for writing. It can be electric or manual. We don’t see many of these around anymore, but a computer keyboard performs a similar function.


Macchina fotografica (camera). This is a machine that takes still photos. These days unamacchina fotografica often takes videos, too.


Macchina da ripresa (movie camera). This is also called una cinepresa in Italian. The English term video camera has become part of Italian vocabulary. This item is also called a “camcorder” in English and a telecamera (short for the English “television camera”) in Italian.


Macchina da cucire (sewing machine). Here, too, we have electric sewing machines and pedal sewing machines, which are still used today by some sarti (tailors/dressmakers) or sarte (seamstresses/dressmakers) in Italy.


There are undoubtedly many other macchine that carry out specific tasks, and more are being invented faster than we can learn their names.


If you watch the video of the quiz show L’Eredità, new this week, the present lesson may help you understand the play on words used in some joking around between the host and the contestants. It starts like this:


Abbiamo noleggiato la macchina ieri sera.

We rented a car yesterday evening.

-Esatto, una bella macchina.

-Right, a nice car.

Caption 46, L'Eredità -Quiz TV - La sfida dei sei. Puntata 1

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