Pesky Words

  • By Miriam Hurley
  • November 7, 2013
  • 9 Comment

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, write it in the comments.

Italian Pesky

Possible solutions in English

 a fronte di

 

 

compared to

 

while

 

although

 

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

 

 bleeding-edge

allestimento

 

 

installation

 

exhibition design

 

staging

 

set up

 

display

 

preparation

 

arrangement

 

 

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]

 

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 …

 

 

approfondire

 

 

give insight

 

investigate

 

broaden

 

deepen

 

delve into

 

discuss in-depth

 

discuss further

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

 

 

articolazione

 

 

structure

 

layout

 

complexity [wine]

 

configuration

 

joint [anatomy]

 

 

artigiano (artigianale)

 

 

small-business

 

craftsman

 

homemade

 

made here

 

amateur

 

traditional

 

small-scale

 

local

 

small and medium-sized enterprises

 

hand-crafted

 

artisanal

 

mom and pop stores

 

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.

 

 

capillare

 

 

wide-reaching

 

thorough

 

widely dispersed

 

dense

caratteristico

 

 

charming

 

enchanting

 

delightful

 

trademark

 

hallmark

 

signature

 

distinctive

 

picturesque

 

eye-catching

 

attractive

caratterizzare

 

 

to define [the character of]

 

to feature

 

to mark

 

to shape

 

to denote

 

 

coccolare

 

 

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

 

 

 complicità

alliance

 

symbiosis

 

connection

 

comradeship

 

affinity

 

empathy

 

rephrase with private, secret, shared

 

intimacy

 

 

cortocircuito

flash of insight

 

leap (synaptic, quantum…)

 

instant link

 

 

contaminazione

influence

 

fusion

 

cross-fertilization

 

overlap

così

 

 

therefore

 

thus

 

thereby

 

so

 

consequently

 

in this way

 

 

cultura

 

 

philosophy

 

ethos

 

education

 

culture

 

tradition

 

credo

 

heritage

 

 

curato nei dettagli

 

 

carefully/accurately//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

 

 

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

 

explore

 

articulate

 

evolve

 

 

diversi

 

 

miscellaneous

 

sundry

 

various

 

different

 

varying

 

several

 

a variety of

 

assorted

 

numerous

 

a number of

 

 

divulgativo

 

 

informative

 

popular

 

educational

 

for general public

 

informational

divulgatore/trice

 

 

educator

 

communicator

 

popularizer

 

disseminator

 

 

 

 

 

 

DNA

 

 

blood

 

genes

 

heritage

 

nature

 

essence

 

heart and soul

 

 

 

 

elaborare

 

 

To process

 

To develop

 

To formulate

 

To work out

 

To form

 

To get over

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

recherché

 

upmarket

 

 

emozionale

 

 

striking

 

inspiring

 

high-impact

 

motivational

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

 

 

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]

 

because of

 

by dint of

 

 

ideale

 

 

conceptual

 

abstract

 

idea

 

 

impegno

 

 

commitment

 

hard work

 

dedication

 

effort

 

 

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

 

 

caller

 

contact (person)

 

counterpart

 

conversation partner

 

representative

 

interviewer

 

ombudsman

 

stakeholder

 

colleague

 

companion

 

voice

 

 

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]

 

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

 

 

ironia/ironico

 

 

humor

 

wit

 

tongue-in-cheek

 

cleverness

 

sassy

 

whimsy

 

camp

 

humorous

 

post-modern

 

 

lavorazione

 

 

processing

 

working

 

machining

 

tooling

 

workmanship

 

 

logica

 

 

rationale

 

mindset

 

outlook

 

approach

 

strategy

 

 

massimo

 

 

top

 

ultimate

 

utmost

 

highest level

 

optimum

 

optimal

 

best

 

 

materico

 

 

tangible

 

substantial

 

tactile

 

textured

 

 

mettere in scena

 

 

stage

 

highlight

 

enact

 

perform

 

spotlight

 

 

mettersi in gioco

 

 

challenge (oneself)

 

get involved

 

 

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 center

 

 

passione

 

 

love

 

devotion

 

dedication

 

enthusiasm

 

heart

 

fascination

 

 

parallelepipedo

 

 

rectangle/rectangular

 

box

 

prism

 

cube

 

 

percorso

 

 

route

 

path

 

trajectory

 

exhibition narrative

 

course

 

pathway

 

process

 

program

 

career

 

progression

 

way

 

journey

 

 

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

 

 

pratica

 

 

case

 

practice

 

 

premessa

 

 

situation

 

introduction

 

preliminary point

 

foundation

 

 

presidio

 

 

device

 

station

 

control

 

monitoring

 

service

 

presence

 

garrison

 

defense

 

protection

 

post

progettare

 

 

to plan

 

to design

 

to devise

 

to engineer

 

 

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

 

 

protagonista

 

 

key player

 

…is featured

 

leading figure

 

star

 

main character

 

hero

 

at center stage

 

 

pulviscolare

 

 

atomized

 

cloudy

 

powdery

 

pulverized

 

 

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

 

 

rarefatto

 

 

sparse

 

rarefied

 

thin

 

spare

 

ephemeral

 

 

 

 

 

 

razionale

 

 

carefully-planned

 

suitable

 

sensible

 

practical

 

appropriate

 

streamlined

 

 

realizzare

 

 

complete

 

implement

 

put in effect

 

create

 

make

 

build

 

create, build, bring to fruition

 

 

realtà

 

 

Acme Supplies has become a force to be reckoned with …

has firmly established itself…

 

business

 

situation

 

realm

 

 

riprendere

 

 

echo

 

take back up

 

reconsider

 

follow (on)

 

resume

 

 

riqualificazione

 

 

redevelopment

 

improvement

 

renovation

 

upgrading

 

retraining

 

restructuring

 

conversion

 

renewal

 

 

riscatto/riscattarsi

 

 

redemption

 

release

 

delivery

 

ransom

 

improving one’s condition

 

 

salvifico

 

 

redemptive/redeeming

 

liberating

 

transformative

 

crucial

 

ennobling

 

of salvation

 

 

scandire/scansione

 

 

mark

 

underline

 

highlight

 

rhythms

 

scenes

 

accents

 

pace

 

serve as mileposts

 

punctuate

 

 

scheda

 

 

card

 

description

 

entry

 

item

 

tab

 

board

 

sheet

 

ballot

 

profile

 

file

 

 

segno

 

 

mark

 

sign

 

symbol

 

signifier

 

feature

 

indication

 

 

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

 

 

sguardo

 

 

gaze

 

viewpoint

 

perspective

 

observer’s standpoint

 

vision

 

look

 

glance

 

glimpse

 

 

 squarcio

 

 

window onto

 

[rephrase with] crack open

 

small opening

 

peek into

 

rent

 

 

strumenti culturali

 

 

sophistication

 

cultural wherewithal

 

cultural baggage

 

cultural background

 

cultural influences

 

orientation

 

education

 

 

suggestivo

 

 

evocative

 

appealing

 

high impact

 

picturesque

 

inspiring

 

alluring

 

amazing

 

impressive

 

 

tecnica

 

 

technique

 

procedure

 

method

 

 

tecnico

 

 

specialist

 

engineer

 

expert

 

skilled worker

 

authority

 

professional

 

technician

 

 

tema

 

 

issue

 

matter

 

topic

 

theme

 

 

teoretico

 

 

abstract

 

theory-based

 

 

territorio

 

 

area

 

space

 

local

 

place

 

on-site

 

territory

 

terrain

 

domain

 

land

 

landscape

 

community

 

realm

testimoniare

 

 

bear witness

 

bespeak

 

testify

 

show

 

vouch for

 

evince

tra ____ e ____

 

 

between __ and ___

 

poised between

 

from ___ to ___

 

___ and ___

 

 

tra l’altro

 

 

inter alia

 

run the gamut

 

range

 

encompass

 

actually

 

in fact

 

moreover

 

besides

 

etc.

 

 

unire

 

 

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 capitalize on

 

to make the most of

 

to exploit

 

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

 

nothing short of

 

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

 

 

vocazione

 

 

calling

 

purpose

 

profession

 

vocation

 

dedication

 

commitment

vulgata

 

 

playbook/script

 

popular wisdom

 

conventional wisdom (subscribe to)

 

cliché

9 thoughts on “Pesky Words”

  1. great list & great skill collaboration- i’d add to artigianale “homemade” and “made here” when found in context of foodstuffs made my shops or restaurants which are a key part of their identity quality or marketing such as gelato artigianale

    1. Thanks, Francesca. Those are good ones. Though I know homemade is common for gelato, it always bothered me because it’s not technically true. It was made in the shop not home!

  2. Hi Miriam, thanks so much for this list. Very useful.

    A couple of comments:
    Under “realizzare” you, quite rightly, give “realise”. Would it be worth adding something like: in the sense of “make real”, i.e., create, build, bring to fruition?

    Otherwise someone might think that it means “to become aware of”. Which it does not, in Italian, despite that terrible trend for adding the English meaning to Italian words that share a common root with the English (and ignoring the fact that the meanings have diverged since).

    Under “riscatto”, you have “blackmail”. But is that not: ricatto? (I always get them muddled up: because, as a result of a “ricatto” (blackmail), you pay a “riscatto” (ransom)!

    Under “riscatto” is it worth adding “riscattarsi”, which is not just redeeming oneself for some failing, but is also improving one’s condition, lifting oneself out of poverty, etc

    Another suggestion for “vero e proprio”: nothing short of?

    One to add to the list: “responsabile (noun)”: manager, etc?

    Another, since I was a victim and I cringe to this day, is a plural:

    “colli” could be “parcels, hillsides, or necks.

    Thanks again!

    1. Great tips and corrections! Thanks! With “realize” I always think of one victim of this false friend, a company who named itself “Werealize.com” and of course not in that sense. Always check with a native before you buy a domain name! I’ve mainly removed parenthetical comments about it depending on the context, as that is always true and the list is meant for translators who, of course, choose based on that. But “realizzare” is so rarely “to realize” and when it is, it’s not a challenge, so I’ve removed it. I really like “nothing short of” as I get stuck using “full-fledged” too much and need to mix it up!

  3. Hi, thanks for this exhaustive list, it’s brilliant. I’d like to suggest understated for essenziale, and I have come across the term gentrification for riqualificazione (concerning neighbourhoods which used to be on the rough side and are now up and coming).

  4. Hi Miriam,
    just wanted to add that another (totally different) meaning for the term “valorizzare” is “to add a value (usually a number) to a blank space/box to be filled” like in a preset form or in a software or simply in a table. It is something I learned translating financial statements, where there are tables (prospetti) that are filled with figures – usually in the right side column(s) – that represent the “value” of the line item that is described in the left-hand side of the same table. Does this make sense? 😉
    Thank you for this very useful “glossary”! :-)))

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