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English words that don't exist in Italian

Following the huge success -ahem- of the article about Italian words that don't exist in English, but they should, here's a list of English words that I wish existed in Italian. As for my list, we do have similar concepts, but the Italian translation of these words is not to be used in the same situation, or doesn’t mean exactly the same thing. To express the same idea you need to use a periphrasis (=a lot more words) or straight-up use the English word, with predictable reaction from your audience. Kudos to translators that deal with this on a daily basis.

English words that don't exist in Italian

When you move abroad and constantly speak a different language, you could end up speaking a mix of words in your mother tongue with grammar from a different country, and sentence construction or prepositions are just optional. Let me tell you, it’s not nice to hear as it sounds a little bit as if I were to say ‘at morning I do the bed’. However, the next phase of the lingual appropriation, is to straight up use foreign words in your sentences. Not just the accidental ‘you know’, or ‘like’, or ‘whatever’.


  • Acknowledge 
To maintain the ‘knowledge’ part of this word I would say that, in Italian, we use a word more similar to ‘recognise’. Our ‘acknowledging’ sounds something like ‘to admit’. It’s one of my favourite English words and I can’t even explain it in Italian. Great.


  • Very 
This is a funny one. ‘Very beautiful’ is a quantitative matter in Italian. ‘Much beautiful’ is what we would use. Unless it’s ‘truly beautiful’. Also, saying ‘very first time’ doesn't make sense. If it’s the first time, it can’t be more or less so. I find there is something theologically funny in how 'very' and 'truly' are synonyms for us.


  • Spooky 
In Italian, something it’s either ‘scary’, 'frightening', or ‘disturbing’. For Italians there is no such thing as 'scary but for kids'. Maybe that's why we don't get Halloween!


  • Freak 
Maybe there are no freaky people in Italy, and no one gets freaked out. We have ‘eccentric’ people, and ‘maniacs’ that 'go crazy', that’s true. Yet, 'freaky' seems such a perfect neon green wiggly word, it's a pity we don't have an equivalent! Also, in Italian there is a word for ‘freak-show people’ but it is nothing you would want to say or hear.


  • Reckon 
Of course ‘to estimate’ is a known concept in Italian as well. But when we 'reckon something', we usually ‘believe so’. The fact that you wouldn’t use the word ‘believe’ and instead opted for ‘reckon’ indicates they don’t mean exactly the same thing. Clearly, beliefs are held in high regard in Italy.


  • Single-handedly 
Another of my favourite words in English. It takes dedication to do something single-handedly, it's just fair that it takes dedication to say it. It acknowledges the effort. In Italian you might do something ‘by yourself’, which is exactly the same as ‘on your own’, ‘alone’, and ‘lonely’, as if there is something wrong with you if you are not accompanied.


  • Regardless 
The interesting thing about this word, is that in Italian we would express it as 'in the same way', or we would use 'anyway'. This is a clear example of an Italian word that translates two different English words. So don't ask me to find the difference between: 'I will do it regardless', and 'I will do it anyway'!


  • Jaywalking 
This may be an Aussie word, it means to cross the street outside the pedestrian crossing. Which is exactly the way we’d say it in Italian. We do it, yet we don’t have a word for it.


  • Dodgy 
‘Questionable’ and ‘suspicious’ are the first words that come to mind. Maybe ‘shady’ would be a little bit more similar, especially when talking about ‘shady men in dark alleys’. When it comes to 'dodgy business' we might use 'mischievous'. But is it really the same?

I am sure the list could go on, feel free to add more words in the comments and to expand on any of the words mentioned in this article.



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