Pesky Words

Miriam Hurley Translation from Italian to English

Email info@miriamhurley.com  for translation from Italian to English

Ideas for common, hard-to-translate words and phrases – Italian to English

A substantial portion of most translation is fairly clear-cut. “Zimbabwe” is pretty much always “Zimbabwe” and “cinque” is usually “five.” Then, there’s the rest of the text that takes extra thought, creativity and research. If I write “gastronomy,” will English-speaking readers imagine “gastrointestinal disorders” rather than fine food? What is the English title of the movie starring Winona Ryder rendered in Italian as Young, Cute, and Unemployed? [Reality Bites]. When they say gadget in Italian, is it still “gadget” in English?

Some well-loved phrases pop up in every other Italian document and have no clean, catch-all English translation. Take, for instance, vero e proprio (literal: “true and really”; non-literal: see table below). Each context calls for a fresh translation. These are some recurring sticking points that make Italian-to-English translators worldwide screw up their faces and pull out an eyebrow hair or two. Unhappy with my cache of possible solutions to some of these common problems, I turned to my colleagues on the IT-EN list, generous, seasoned professionals. Together, we came up with suggestions to these sticking points.

The driving force behind translator decisions is always context, from that of the society at large to that of the sentence. Many of the words and phrases below, especially those not nouns and adjectives, are often absorbed into reworked sentences or paragraphs that could not be represented here. The main intent of the table is to inspire new context-appropriate solutions.

To expand your mind or save you some hand-wringing, the current table can be found below. If you have solutions or Peskies to suggest add them at: Translating Italian Peskies.

a fronte di
compared to
while
although
notwithstanding
in light of
in the face of
faced with
confronting
related to
for
against
over
with
in exchange for
accorgimento
details
stratagem
devices
special solutions were devised to
special care was taken in
careful attention
special elements
special techniques
special consideration
design feature
technique
tricks of the trade
style touches
technological touches
[positive adjective e.g. “elegant” with insight/touch/feature etc.]
approach
contrivances
strategies
considerations
tactics
shrewd application of
contrivance
ploy
ruse
special expedient
all’avanguardia
leading-edge
cutting-edge
state-of-the-art
hi-tech
up-to-the-minute
groundbreaking
at the forefront
advanced
market-leading
all’insegna di
marked by
characterized by
of
featuring
full of
that are all about
in an atmosphere of
ambito
sphere
realm
context
within
domain
area
scope
in terms of
with a view to
will also include
for that purpose/on that occasion
as part of
as far as the … is concerned/with regard to
through/by
in the case of
in the ___ place
within the scope/according to
in their sphere of activity
purview
within the framework of
for the purposes of
extent
range
compass
field
as part of
in the context of
in
environment
circle
ambit
confines
region
area
orbit
province
anche
not only… but also
[ignore]
…..including
[explicitly state the options that “anche” implies if known. e.g. “Pizza anche a mezzogiorno!” “Pizza for lunch and dinner”]
that include
that also include
in part
as well as
at times
often
not least
anche perché
partly due to
due in part to
in part because
one reason…
also because [colloquial sounding]
not least because
due as much as anything to …
arricchire
enhance
adds a further dimension
additional highlight/feature/benefit/strong point
lift [wine]
round off
complete
complement
integrate
lend resonance/vibrancy
expand
added attraction
round out
enliven
punctuate
enrich [in some contexts]
articolazione
structure
layout
complexity [wine]
configuration
joint [anatomy]
artigiano (artigianale)
small-business
craftsman
amateur
traditional
small-scale
local
small and medium-sized enterprises
hand-crafted
artisanal (where new usage would be appropriate)
mom and pop stores [can be used in a tongue-in-cheek way]
cottage industry
basta pensare a
such as
for example
as can be seen in
such as we find in
a classic/prime example being
consider
e.g.
caratteristico
charming
enchanting
delightful
trademark
hallmark
signature
distinctive
picturesque
eye-catching
attractive
coccolare
captivate
cosset
delight (sby with sth)
indulge (sby with sth)
pamper
pet
soothe
spoil/spoil rotten
tempt
treat (sby to sth)
luxuriate
enjoy
indulge in
coinvolgente
engaging
enthralling
engrossing
fascinating
absorbing
touching
appealing
involving
intriguing
exciting
seductive
alluring
tempting
inclusive
impressive
così
therefore
thus
thereby
so
consequently
in this way
cultura
philosophy
ethos
education
culture
tradition
credo
heritage
curato nei dettagli
carefully/accurately/meticulously/finely styled/designed/crafted
with great care
down to the last detail
meticulously
da __ a ___
from x to y
z and a
from x and y to z and a
including or “such as” + a whole range/vast collection/series
run the gamut
declinato available
di cui
according to
as per
as referred to
in accordance with
under
declinare analyze
express
break down
branch out
translate into
modify
interpret
develop
include
diversi
miscellaneous
sundry
various
different
varying
several
a variety of
assorted
numerous
a number of
elegante, raffinato, etc
refined
urbane
cultivated
cultured
educated
polite
accomplished/ posh
sophisticated
genteel
tasteful
delicate
elegant
polished
suave
chic
natty/cultivated person
refined person
stylish
graceful
smart
chic
classy
sleek
dainty
snazzy
fashionable
posh
swish
upmarket
emozionare
excite
thrill
stirs the heart
charms
endears you
draws you in
captivates
wins you over
stir feelings of __
[style] that appeals and excites
enthrall
essenziale
sleek
simple
basic
essential
unadorned
straight-forward
plain
austere
spare
clean
minimalist
humble
natural
no-frills
modest
lean
streamlined
indispensable
practical
must-have [in some contexts, i.e. fashion]
eventuale
if necessary (at end of sentence)
as needed
rephrase with “which may”
possible
any
fermo restando (che)
without prejudice to
without changing
without affecting
whilst maintaining
subject to…
it being understood (that)
grazie a
due to
with
thanks to
by virtue of
with the help of
[rephrase to make the object of “grazie a” the subject e.g. grazie alla professionalità dei… becomes “their professionalism…”]
because of [depending on context, where appropriate]
in particolare
specifically
particularly
notably
especially
for example
in fact
[leave out]
infatti
because
[split sentences and drop]
indeed
iniziativa
program
project
scheme
venture
step
measure
action
initiative
insomma
in other words
in a nutshell
…. indeed!
[ignore]
in practice
in effect
basically
interlocutore
contact
representative
interviewer
ombudsman
stockholder
colleague
companion
interpretare
reinterpret
interpret
express
give a new twist
take a new approach
take a different view
rethink
reinvent
envision
render
redefine
turn into
revolutionize
intervento
[leave out]
e.g.
interventi di mantenimento
maintenance
measures
steps
actions
aid
assistance
attendance
presence
comment
remark
cut-off
drop off
help
intercession
agency
intervention
interjection
interference
operation
paper
participation
part
involvement
project
report
request to speak
speech
address
talk
to operate
work
paper
contribution
contributed paper
massimo
top
ultimate
utmost
highest level
optimum
optimal
best
mostarda
mostarda [with explanation]
pickled candied fruit in a spicy syrup [di Cremona]
fruit/sweet pickles [di Cremona]
non a caso
significantly
of course
it’s no accident that
not coincidentally
tellingly
predictably
not surprisingly
rather appropriately
it was rather appropriate that
it is no mere coincidence
novità
our latest developments
new [products]
new additions
innovation
the latest
recent addition
recently introduced
new this [season]
operativo
active
working
executive
enforceable
operative
operatore
specialist
trade member
operator
staff
those who operate (work)
workers
experts
ancillary staff
trader
firm
user
professional
osservatorio
watch
observatory
observation post
window onto
watchdog
watchgroup
monitoring centre
prevedere
take into account
envisage
make provision for
[turn around sentence with] planned
considered
decided
anticipate
call for
contemplate
cover
entail
foresee
include
involve
is expected to include/involve
make available
mean
require
take into account
provide for
proposta/offerta
concept
availability
available
supply
opportunities
bid
offer
submission of tender
tender
offering
donation
contribution
proposal
proposition
public issue
quotation
bargain
overture
product
services
suggestions
punto di riferimento
provides a blueprint
framework
template
guidelines
benchmark
lodestar
outstanding landmark
fiducial points
path
a stable and reliable platform
frame of reference
last word
touchstone
source of advice/information
consultant
contact
resource
standard setter
top name
ne plus ultra
embodiment
reference
landmark
cornerstone
baseline
razionale
carefully-planned
suitable
sensible
practical
appropriate
streamlined
realizzare
complete
implement
put in effect
create
make
build
realize
realtà
e.g.
Acme Supplies has become a force to be reckoned with …
has firmly established itself…
business
situation
realm
riqualificazione
redevelopment
improvement
renovation
upgrading
retraining
restructuring
conversion
renewal
scandire
scansione mark
underline
highlight
rhythms
scenes
accents
sinergia
in concert
duet
in chorus
cross-pollination
accord
alliance
bonding
coalition
combination
combined efforts
compatibility
concord
teamwork
working together
team spirit
working in unison
strumenti culturali
sophistication
cultural wherewithal
cultural baggage
cultural background
cultural influences
orientation
education
tecnica technique
procedure
method
tecnico specialist
engineer
expert
skilled worker
authority
professional
technician
territorio area
space
local
place
on-site
territory
terrain
domain
land
landscape
tra l’altro
inter alia
run the gamut
range
encompass
actually
in fact
moreover
besides
etc.
unire
incorporate [rewording the sentence and leaving it out]
combine
run the gamut
mix
encompass
join
range
include
mix
link
blend
merge
bring together
couple
marry
mingle
fuse
meld
gel (jell)
bond
incorporate
mate
team up with
coalesce
amalgamate
unite
valorizzare
to increase the value of
to increase the prestige of
enhance the status of
increase the standing of
enhance the image of
to value
(waste) to recover
set value on
enhance
harness
adding or maximizing value
realize
promote
to develop
to leverage
to utilize
to champion
vantare
benefit from
offer + [bragging adj.]
[can] take pride in
[can] claim
enjoy
vero e proprio
actual
full-blown
full(y)-fledged
true
proper
literally
true-bred
real
absolute
authentic
authenticated
bona fide
certain
certified
complete
complete and utter
dinkum
genuine
guaranteed
in every/the true/the generally accepted sense of the word
kosher
natural
official
prize
proper
pukka
real
recognised
right
total
undeniable
utter
valid
veritable
positive
out-and-out
through-and-through

7 Comments on “Pesky Words

  1. Pingback: Becoming a Translator: My Story | Miriam Hurley

  2. Ciao Miriam, thank you for this most useful list of pesky words. I remember you very well, and am glad you are still involved in things Italian. Be in touch! Alessandra Visconti

  3. Pingback: Translating virtually | Miriam Hurley

  4. LOL, many of these terms still annoy even after 20 years, especially “valorizzare/valorizzazione” where it is often apparent the writer has no idea what it is supposed to mean, it just sounds good.

    Anyway thanks for taking the time to publish, I might send you a few more suggestions if things quieten down 🙂

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