These days, even in Italy, you name your child however you choose. But at one time, in this historically Roman Catholic country, the names of saints were among the most popular ones. As a result, many children had the same name. By far the most popular names were Giuseppe (Joseph), Giovanni (John), Pietro, Piero (Peter), Paolo (Paul), Filiippo (Phillip), Marco (Mark), Matteo (Matthew), Domenico (Dominick), Antonio (Anthony), Leonardo (Leonard), Francesco (Francis), Maria (Mary), Giovanna (Jean, Joan), Paola (Paula), Anna (Anne), Elisabetta (Elisabeth), Simona (Simona), among others.
Note: You will find some little quiz questions throughout the lesson. Although each question refers to the video example preceding it, you might need information from further on in the lesson to answer it properly. So it would be wise read the entire lesson before trying to answer the quiz questions.
We have seen in many Yabla videos that family and friends will use just the first syllable or two of the name, to make it easier and quicker to say, primarily when speaking directly to the person. The person's name is actually Martino. These are not nicknames, they're abbreviations.
Che stai facendo, Marti'?
What are you doing, Marti'?
Caption 50, Chi m'ha visto film - Part 6Play Caption
1) If, instead of abbreviating your friend's name, you wanted to give it an affectionate touch, what could you call Martino and what would you say?
Nicknames are a bit different, and can be longer than the given name, so it's not just an expedient. It's common to use nicknames, partly to distinguish one Giovanni from another, but also to distinguish the size and stature of the person or some other characteristic. For these, suffixes are commonly used.
If a boy or man named Paolo is a hefty guy, we might call him Paolone, using the accrescitivo (augmentative suffix). If he is kind of short or thin, or young, he might be called Paolino using the diminutivo ino/ina.
Invece la perfezione, caro Paolino, non esiste.
But perfection, dear Paolino, doesn't exist.
Caption 45, La Tempesta film - Part 17Play Caption
2) Maybe I don't know this guy very well, so I am not about to use a nickname. What would I say?
There is even a street called via San Paolino in the historical city of Lucca, so nicknaming this way is a pretty old tradition!
Poi arrivi fino a Piazza San Michele, continua con Via San Paolino e finisce in Piazzale Verdi. Quindi è una via unica che ovviamente cambia nome.
Then you get to Piazza San Michele, it continues with Via San Paolino, and it ends in Piazzale Verdi. So it's one street, which obviously changes its name.
Captions 50-52, In giro per l'Italia Lucca - Part 2Play Caption
Sometimes a nickname sticks and becomes the name someone goes by for their entire life. Simonetta is a common nickname for Simona, but it might also be a person's given name. Whoever gave her the name or nickname used the diminutivo (diminutive) suffix etto/etta to name her.
E comunque mi chiamo Simonetta. -Grazie, Simonetta. Sei proprio un'artista.
And anyway, my name is Simonetta. -Thank you, Simonetta. You really are an artist.
Captions 22-23, Il Commissario Manara S2EP3 - Delitto tra le lenzuola - Part 11Play Caption
3) Let's assume Simonetta is the name this woman has gone by her whole life, but I want to emphasize the fact that she is young and slender. We also need to assume I am on familiar terms with her. How could I thank her?
It's interesting to note that in Italian, people generally use the formula mi chiamo __________ (literally, "I call myself __________"), in conversation and introductions, rather than il mio nome è __________ (my name is __________). This gives them room to provide you with their nickname, not necessarily the name on their birth certificate.
In the following example from the story of Puccini's La Bohème, the main character introduces herself by using the nickname other people have given her, but she goes on to explain her real name.
Mi chiamano Mimì, ma il mio nome è Lucia.
They call me Mimi, but my name is Lucia.
Captions 1-2, Anna presenta La Bohème di Puccini - Part 1Play Caption
4) Let's say Mimì is saying that she calls herself Mimì, not that others call her that. What could she say?
5) How could we talk about her name, using a common formula?
And of course, in the mix of nicknames are what we call i nomi vezzeggiativi — affectionate names for people. These affectionate names can also involve words that aren't strictly names (such as tesoruccia), but we'll get to these in another lesson.
In Un medico in famiglia, we have the little girl, Annuccia. Her real or given name will undoubtedly be Anna. Sometimes lengthening a name gives it prominence, makes it more audible, or warms it up. In Annuccia's case, her family uses the vezzeggiativo or affectionate suffix uccio/uccia to form her nickname. Since everyone calls her Annuccia, there's a fine line between calling a name a nickname or just someone's name. It's only going to matter on her carta d'identità (ID card) or other official documents.
E questa è Annuccia, la mia sorellina più piccola.
And this is Annuccia, my littlest little sisterPlay Caption
In the popular Yabla series, Provaci Ancora Prof!, Camilla's young daughter, Livietta, was surely named Livia, but Livietta stuck. Who knows if they will keep calling her that when she grows up.
Pronto? -Mamma? Senti, non è che potresti andare a prendere Livietta alla lezione di danza?
Hello. -Mom? Listen, you couldn't go to pick up Livietta from her dance lesson, could you?Play Caption
The name Giuseppe, a favorite, is interesting because, depending on the region, the nickname will be different. In Tuscany, the nickname for Giuseppe is Beppe.
Beppe! Guardami. Me.
Beppe [nickname for Giuseppe]! Look at me. Me.Play Caption
We can take that nickname one step further and say Beppino, especially if the Beppe in question is not too tall.
Beppino is typical in Tuscany, but further south, Peppe or Peppino would be used. In this case the diminutive probably has nothing to do with the size of the guy. In the following example, Peppino's nickname is used, but is then abbreviated by his friend, who's calling him.
Peppino? Peppi'! Ao [Ehi]! Me [forza], muoviti. Scendi, Peppi'. Ti devo dire una cosa importante. Scendi.
Peppino? Peppi'! Hey! Come on, get moving. Come down, Peppi'. I have to tell you something important. Come down.
Captions 40-43, Chi m'ha visto film - Part 7Play Caption
Here is yet another nickname for Giuseppe, this time using an affectionate suffix on top of a nickname. In contrast to the above-mentioned Annuncia, the only name we have heard for the little girl in Medico in Famiglia, Peppuccio is probably a temporary (affectionate) nickname.
Ma'! -Peppuccio! Ho saputo che vai in Brasile, ma che ci vai a fare, la rivoluzione?
Mom! -Peppuccio [nickname of endearment for Giuseppe]! I heard that you're going to Brazil, but what are you going to do there, start a revolution?Play Caption
Especially in the south, the nickname for Giuseppe can take a more roundabout route. We take Giuseppe and make it a diminutive: Giuseppino. Then we just use the end of it and call someone Pino.
Pino Daniele, the famous singer-songwriter has always gone by the name Pino.
Tu dimmi quando quando
You tell me when, when
Caption 9, Pino Daniele QuandoPlay Caption
We do the same for the feminine version, so a woman named Pina was almost surely christened as Giuseppina.
Fun fact: Although the feminine version of Giuseppe does technically exist, and it would be Giuseppa, most of the time the feminine version is already a diminutive: Giuseppina.
Come si chiama questa nonna? -E allora... Come si chiama? -Giuseppina. Nonna Giuseppina. -Detta Pina. Detta Pina. -Sì.
What's this grandmother's name? -And so... What's her name? -Giuseppina. Grandma Giuseppina. -Nicknamed Pina. Nicknamed Pina. -Yes.
Captions 34-37, L'Eredità -Quiz TV La sfida dei sei. Puntata 3 - Part 15Play Caption
Another version of this, including the abbreviated one:
Pinu', be'? Ti sei ricordato? No. Pinuccio, stammi a sentire.
Pinu', well? Do you remember? No. Pinuccio, listen to me.
Captions 30-32, Sei mai stata sulla luna? film - Part 16Play Caption
We started out with Giuseppe, which can become Beppe, Beppino, Peppe, Peppino, or Pino.
6) If we wanted to use an affectionate form for Giuseppina, detta Pina, what could we call her?
Un soprannome in Italian is often a common noun turned into a name (which we'll discuss in another lesson). The nicknames we have been discussing here can be considered to be in the category of diminutives, augmentatives, or, as we mentioned, affectionate versions of names. But we can also use the formula as in the previous example. For example, we can say Giuseppe, detto Peppino (Giuseppe, called Peppino).
Here are some common Italian names with their common nicknames. The list is partial as there are countless others.
Luigi (Louis) commonly becomes Gigi.
Filippo (Phlllip) can become Pippo.
Lorenzo (Lawrence) becomes Renzo or Enzo.
Mi chiamo Enzo, ho bisogno di lavorare.
My name is Enzo. I need a job.Play Caption
Vincenzo (Vincent) might also become Enzo.
Leonardo (Leonard) might become Leo or Dino.
Francesco (Francis) could become Franco or Ciccio.
Alessandro (Alexander) becomes Sandro.
Domenico (Dominick) can become Mimmo.
Giovanni can become Gianni.
7) How do we get from Leonardo to Dino?
Sometimes babies are named because they are born on a saint's day, or another special feast day.
Annunziata might become Nunzia.
Natale might become Natalino.
Pasquale might become Pasqualino.
Here are some answers to the quiz questions above. There may be additional answers. If you have doubts, write to us!
1) Che stai facendo, Martinuccio?
2) Invece la perfezione, caro Paolo, non esiste.
3) Grazie, Simonettina. Sei proprio un'artista.
4) Mi chiamo Mimì, ma il mio vero nome è Lucia.
5) Si chiama Lucia, detta Mimì.
7) First we apply the diminutive suffix: Leonardino, then we take the last part and turn it into Dino.
In a previous lesson, we talked about the popular pronominal verb cavarsela (to get by), and the verb it comes from, cavare (to extract, to get something out of something). Consider the noun il cavatappi. It's a corkscrew for extracting the cork from a bottle.
We also have scavare (to excavate, to dig, to dig up). The s- prefix often gives an opposite meaning to a word. In this case, we are extracting the soil or rock by digging.
Il primo passo consiste nel scavare una cavità nella pietra, nella roccia
The first step consists of digging a cavity in the stone, in the rock
Caption 6, Meraviglie EP. 2 - Part 13Play Caption
Naturally, there are other words related to cavare that can be easily understood:
una cavità (a cavity)
la cava (the mine, the quarry)
You might be asking yourself: What about the English word "cave?" There are a few choices.
Allora, questa casa, questo ambiente, in realtà è per il settanta percento costituito da una grotta.
So, actually, seventy percent of this house, this space, consists of a cave.
Captions 8-9, Meraviglie EP. 1 - Part 12Play Caption
la caverna (the cave, the cavern)
la grotta (the cave, the grotto)
la spelonca (the cave)
Has any of you ever gone spelunking?
But we also have ricavare as a common verb. Sometimes this ri- prefix means "again," just as "re-" in English can mean that, as in rifare (to re-do).
Sometimes this prefix does double duty and may or may not mean "to do something again," if we consider verbs like tornare - ritornare (to return), suonare - risuonare (to sound, to resound), chiedere - richiedere (to ask - to request). There are subtleties.
Ricavare can mean a couple of things. It might be helpful to think of "carving out," as in making a cave. Often ricavare is used when you are carving out material to make something new, especially if we think of the second meaning of ricavare: "to obtain." The following example gives us an image of what ricavare can mean in a concrete sense. Surely a lot of rocky material was extracted (cavato, scavato) to build the amphitheater.
Fra gli edifici per lo spettacolo, l'anfiteatro ricavato nelle pendici est della Collina di San Pietro occupava un'area a sud della città.
Among the buildings for events, the amphitheater built into the eastern slopes of the Hill of Saint Peter, occupied an area south of the city.
Captions 41-43, Itinerari Della Bellezza Abruzzo - Part 2Play Caption
One meaning of ricavare is "to obtain," as in making a profit: The past participle is often used as a noun: il ricavato.
L'avrei costretto a dividere il ricavato con me.
I would have forced him to share the proceeds with me.
It's easy to envision a situation in which you have to work from home. But you might have to carve out a space in your small apartment. Ricavare is a great verb for this, and it can be used figuratively, too, as you can see in the final example.
Devo ricavare uno spazio in questo apartamento per lavorare tranquillo (I need to carve out some space in this apartment to work in peace).
Ho ricavato una stanza in più, trasformando questo locale di sgombro (I built an additional room by transforming this storeroom).
Mia sorella è riuscita a ricavare un po' di tempo la sera per fare yoga (my sister managed to carve out some time in the evening to do yoga).
Carving out and obtaining something "new."
Which came first, the chicken or the egg? The verb or the noun? Does it matter? No, it doesn't really matter in speaking Italian, but knowing the verb a noun comes from, or the noun a verb comes from can sometimes help us figure out a word we don't know. Or, it can help us remember a new word. In the case of the words discussed in this lesson, we start with a noun.
Il poggio the noun is likely less well-known than the verbs that stem from it. A little research on the etymology tells us that poggio comes from the Latin noun "podium" — a raised platform. Hey! We know the word "podium" in English! Poggio is synonymous with colle or collina (hill), but often refers to a rather small, rounded hill — perhaps a podium-shaped hill, like a bluff...
Sorge isolata su di un poggio la chiesa di Santa Maria a Mevale,
Emerging on a bluff is the remote church of Santa Maria in Mevale
costruita nell'undicesimo secolo in stile romanico,
built in the eleventh century in the Romanesque style,
in cui spicca un portale rinascimentale e il portico a cinque arcate.
in which a Renaissance portal and a five-arch portico stand out.
Captions 1-3, Itinerari Della Bellezza - UmbriaPlay Caption
An expression Tuscans like to use is: poggio e buca fan pari (hill and hole come out even).
Fan is short for fanno (they make).
poggio=salita (hill = climb)
buca=discesa (hole = descent)
salita + discesa = pianura (uphill + downhill = flatland)
There are places that take their name from the noun poggio. They are usually on a hill.
A very famous town (with a famous villa) near Florence is called Poggio a Caiano and one of our Yabla videos takes place in a town called Poggiofiorito (flowering hills):
Scusami, ma c'ho avuto il trasloco da Poggiofiorito e ho fatto male i calcoli.
I'm sorry, but I've moved to Poggiofiorito and didn't gauge it well.
Caption 27, Un medico in famiglia - S1 EP1 - Casa nuovaPlay Caption
You can go a long time in Italy without hearing the noun poggio, but the verbs that come from this noun are much more common. Sometimes verbs are made from nouns by simply adding a verb ending such as -are, -ire, or -ere.
Poggiare certainly exists as a verb. It means "to place."
Marika uses this verb when describing how she stays safe as she looks out from her balcony.
Per affacciarmi al balcone, io poggio le mani sulla ringhiera.
To look out from the balcony, I place my hands on the railing.
Caption 13, Marika spiega - Il balconePlay Caption
But appoggiare also exists. In this case the prefix a has been added, with the conventional doubling of the first consonant in the original noun. Appoggiare is a more complex verb and has several literal and figurative meanings. Appoggiare is more about support, about leaning, propping. Think of a ladder you prop against a wall. In the following example, Manara uses it reflexively.
E le impronte sul furgone come le spieghi?
And the fingerprints on the truck, how can you explain them?
Mi ci sono appoggiato così, per caso.
I leaned on it, just like that, by chance.
Is that a crime?
Captions 57-59, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP7 - Sogni di VetroPlay Caption
And here, Anna, who is talking about her new baby, uses the verb appoggiare three times in the same sentence!
Un altro regalo molto utile che ho avuto dal papà è questo.
Another very useful gift that I had from dad [the baby's dad], is this.
È il cuscino da allattamento,
It's a nursing cushion.
ed è utile perché lo utilizzi sia quando allatti,
And it's useful because you use it both when you nurse,
te lo appoggi qui e non fai fatica con le braccia mentre allatti,
you rest it here, and your arms don't get tired while you nurse,
che per appoggiare il bambino,
and for laying the baby on,
che si appoggia qui come un principino e sta molto comodo.
who leans back here like a little prince and is very comfortable.
Captions 42-47, Anna presenta - La gravidanzaPlay Caption
Rather than using the more general mettere (to put) appoggiare is used to mean "to put down" or "to set down." We could also say "lay something down," implying a certain gentleness.
May I come in?
Sì, ecco, ecco.
Yes, here we go, here we go.
Uè, Ada... grazie. Appoggialo pure là, va. -Luca!
Hey Ada... thanks. Go ahead and set it down over there, go ahead. -Luca!
Captions 4-6, Il Commissario Manara - S2EP3 - Delitto tra le lenzuolaPlay Caption
If you play music, you might have heard of the term "appoggiatura": a note of embellishment preceding another note and taking a portion of its time. Now you know where it comes from!
And now we come back to a noun that comes from the verb that comes from the noun. Just like in English, "support" is both a noun and a verb.
In the following example, it's used in a physical way.
Mezzo passo avanti, sbilanci l'avversario
A half a step forward, get the opponent off balance,
e via la gamba d'appoggio.
and away with the supporting leg.
Captions 24-25, L'oro di Scampia - filmPlay Caption
But it can also be figurative.
Proprio perché uomini di sinistra,
Precisely because men of the left,
noi stiamo facendo una battaglia in Parlamento,
we're waging battle in Parliament,
abbiamo anche avuto l'appoggio del ministro Brambilla.
we've even had the support of minister Brambilla.
Captions 48-49, Animalisti Italiani - Walter CaporalePlay Caption
We've gone from the Latin noun "podium" to the ups and downs of Tuscan hills, to propping up a baby, setting down a tray, to playing music, to judo, and to politics. Whew!
Marika explains all about the verb mettere (to put) in this video lesson.
As you will see, there are dozens of different ways to use mettere. But what can sometimes be tricky is that in English we don’t generally use “put” without some sort of preposition or adverb. We always think of “put in,” “put on,” or “put up,” but in Italian, at least in casual speech, we might hear:
Metti un po’ di sale.
Put [in] a bit of salt.
In a recent episode of Stai lontana da me, there is a discussion between two guys in a couple. One is criticizing the cooking methods of the other:
No, allora cuciniamo per terra come nel Medioevo. -Ma che c'entra? Metti meno olio, no, scusami. -Sì, nella Preistoria.
No, so let's cook on the floor like in the Middle Ages. -But what does that have to do with it? Put in less oil, right? Excuse me. -Yes, in prehistoric times.
Captions 88-90, Stai lontana da me - Rai Cinema - Part 11Play Caption
The grammatically correct way to say this would be by attaching an indirect pronoun at the end of the verb to mean “in it”:
Mettici meno olio, no?
Put in less oil, can’t you?
If we look carefully, however, we see that earlier in the discussion, they actually do say things the right way:
Chi cucina? Ah, sì, con tutto l'olio che ci metti me l'incrosti da matti, guarda, ogni volta.
Who cooks? Ah, yes, with all that oil that you put in, you cake them up like crazy, look, every time.
Captions 86-87, Stai lontana da me - Rai Cinema - Part 11Play Caption
In the previous example ci stands for “into them,” where it represents the baking pans. For more on metterci, see this lesson. The lesson also talks about using mettere to say how long something takes—how much time you “put into something” (Marika will talk about this in part 2 of her lesson on mettere).
Here’s another thing to remember with mettere. In an episode of Commissario Manara, there's a dicey situation, and Luca lifts Lara up to help her. She exclaims:
Aiutami. Ah, ah, ah... mettimi giù!
Help me. Ah, ah, ah... put me down!
Captions 40-41, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP2 - Vendemmia tardiva - Part 10Play Caption
In the example above, a single word is formed from the verb and object pronoun together. In this case Lara is using the informal imperative and she’s using herself as the direct object.
In the following example, however, mettimi looks identical, but means something different. This time mi at the end of mettimi is an indirect object and means in this case, “for me.” The direct object is questo (this).
No, mettimi questo sulla scrivania per favore, io vado con la Rubino.
No, put this on the desk for me please. I'm going with Rubino.Play Caption
And just to add a little something more to the pot, we have the word smettere. An “s” attached to a verb often shifts its meaning to the opposite.
Mi metto al lavoro alle dieci e smetto alle tre di pomeriggio.
I start working at ten and I quit at three in the afternoon.
So a way to ask someone to stop doing something is smettila (stop it)!
In fact, in a recent episode of La Tempesta, Paolo’s neighbor is telling him off.
Terzo, la devi smettere di parcheggiare la Porsche davanti al pettine delle bici.
Third, you have to stop it with parking the Porsche in front of the bike rack.
Captions 72-73, La Tempesta - film - Part 1Play Caption
This week Marika talks about parole alterate (modified words). Modifying existing words by adding suffixes or prefixes is a very Italian way of creating new words.
Marika describes the different categories of altered nouns and what suffixes and prefixes go with them, and she gives you some tips on how they work. Instead of using a modifier in the form of an adjective, the noun itself gets changed. Here are some examples.
Pane (bread) in the form of a roll, with the addition of -ino, turns into un panino (a little bread). Panino has also become the word for sandwich, commonly made with a roll.
Un piatto (a plate), when full to the brim with pasta, with the addition of the suffix -one, turns into un bel piattone di pasta (a nice big plate of pasta).
Una giornata normale (a normal day) turns into una giornataccia (a bad day), by using the pejorative suffix: -accio/-accia:
Ieri ho avuto davvero una giornataccia.
Yesterday I had a really terrible day.
Caption 45, Marika spiega - Le parole alteratePlay Caption
There are also altered nouns or adjectives called vezzeggiativi, from vezzo (caress), which are used as terms of endearment. The most common suffixes are: -uccio and -otto. Adding this suffix bestows something special, tender, and possibly intimate to a word. A teddy-bear, for example, is called un orsacchiotto, from orso (bear). A term of endearment for a person you care about might be tesoruccio, from tesoro (treasure).
In this week's segment of the popular Commissioner Manara series, Lara is back from the hospital after risking her life to save a dog from a burning building. Luca is so concerned that he lets his guard down.
When Lara comes into the office, Luca looks at her and sees that she's pale. But he doesn't just use pallida (pale) to describe her, he adds a suffix of endearment. It's quite subtle, but it's clear he cares.
Però sei un po' palliduccia, ah.
However, you're a bit on the pale side, huh.Play Caption
Speaking of suffixes and prefixes, let's have a quick look at a word used in another of this week's new videos. Massimo Montanari is talking about the art of cooking. He takes the verb padellare (to fry up something after it's already been cooked), from the noun padella (frying pan), then uses the prefix s to turn it into spadellare. It's a colloquial way of saying someone is managing the pots and pans on the stove.
La cucina, intesa non semplicemente come l'atto di spadellare, ma come... il percorso complessivo che trasforma una ri' [sic]... una risorsa naturale.
Cooking, understood not simply as an act of working at the stove, but as... an overall process that transforms a re'... a natural resource.
Captions 36-37, L'arte della cucina - La Prima Identitá - Part 5Play Caption
Learn more about suffixes and prefixes in these Yabla videos:
Keep an eye out for the suffixes and prefixes in Yabla videos. Once you know the root word, you can expand your vocabulary in many cases, without having to learn new words, but by merely altering them!