In English there are words and phrases that are obviously Italian.
They’re not as common as the usual English words, but used enough in English that you may have heard them and may know what they mean.
English has borrowed words from Italian and many other languages over centuries. Most of these borrowings have been in our language so long that we no longer think of them as foreign.
Others of these borrowed words have come into the language recently enough that they still seem foreign to native speakers.
Usually these words borrowed recently have retained their Italian pronunciation, spelling, and some accent marks. Or they still have elements in their spelling or pronunciation that do not fit into the usual pattern of the native language.
For example, ‘amore’ (love), which in English speakers would naturally tend to pronounce in two syllables like "ah-mohr", has been borrowed recently enough that it still retains its Italian pronunciation with three syllables: ”ah-MOHR-eh”.
The same is true of ‘latte’ (milk), “LAHT-eh”, in which the final syllable is pronounced, as it is in Italian. So these still seem like borrowed foreign words.
So Italian words in English that still seem Italian is the logical second category to consider in this survey of what you know about Italian from your knowledge of English.
You know many of these Italian words in English, but not as naturally well as you know the English words in Italian (discussed in the previous lesson).
However, for these borrowed Italian words you may already know, your knowledge could have several levels:
1) You may have seen an Italian word in English and know how it is spelled.
2) You may know the retained Italian pronunciation of a borrowed word.
3) You may know the meaning of a borrowed Italian word.
READ ITALIAN WORDS IN ENGLISH SENTENCES
Reading Italian Words in English Sentences is the very easiest way to begin to read some Italian.
The following story in English has a few Italian words mixed in. This starts you reading a few Italian words in the easiest way – in a context of familiar English words in English sentences.
In these Easy Italian Lessons are stories in English that have a few Italian words mixed in. These stories were written by someone taking a first trip to France -- and discovering that many Italian words are similar to English words.
In the following story, the WORDS IN CAPITAL LETTERS are either
1. Italian words you may or may not know, or
2. Italian words that are similar to English words, or
3. Italian words that you may have seen used in English.
A STORY IN ENGLISH WITH ITALIAN WORDS
A Slice of Italy in America
Here I am in Italy, after dreaming about it for so many years.
Last night I tried a RISTORANTE here in ROMA.
My waiter Nino spoke English with a heavy Italian accent. He called me SIGNORINA.
The menu was in ITALIANO, of course, but I am used to that from all the authentic Italian restaurants back in America. I felt right at home because the MENÙ had a lot of the same items as our favorite “RISTORANTE ITALIANO” back home in Springfield.
Some items I recognized right away, like IL MINESTRONE (vegetable soup). They also had CIOPPINO (seafood soup). There were the Italian cheeses: MOZZARELLA, GORGONZOLA, and PROVOLONE. The PASTA sauces were MARINARA BOLOGNESE, POMODORO, and PESTO. The wine list included CHIANTI, SOAVE, and VALPOLICELLA.
Nino asked if I wanted any ANTIPASTO (appetizers), like PROSCIUTTO (ham) or i SALAMI. I ordered an INSALATA VERDE (green salad). For my entree I considered the veal PARMIGIANA or CANNELLONI, but finally picked LE LASAGNE.
Nino served dinner and said, “BUON APPETITO!” This is when I realized that I was eating real "ITALIANO" food. It may have been my imagination, but the food with these familiar foreign names seemed to taste better here in Italy. Perhaps I drank too many glasses of IL CHIANTI !
An American guy at the next table started to put on a fake Italian accent – you know the kind where you just pronounce any English word with a vowel added to the end - to sound like a Italian immigrant – "We-a gonna MANGIA"(eat), "it’s-a BELLA PIZZA!" My waiter Nino seemed to take it all in good fun.
For dessert, I couldn't decide between a GELATO or SORBETTO, with a choice of CIOCCOLATO or VANIGLIA. So I had some TORTA (cake). Then an ESPRESSO coffee, and an after-dinner drink: SAMBUCA.
As I left, I tried out the few Italian words I do know from movies and TV – filling the air with “BRAVO!” and “GRAZIE” (thanks) and “CIAO” (goodbye).
That was my first taste of LA DOLCE VITA (the sweet life).
On to IL CINEMA, and after that, back to my hotel without my AMORE.
I’m so excited about being here in Italy. I just wish I knew more Italian words.
CIAO! -- Candace
ITALIAN WORDS YOU KNOW HOW TO SAY
You probably know some obviously Italian words used in English, like ‘amore’ and ‘latte’ and ‘grazie’.
As used in English, they retain their Italian pronunciations, more or less.
Words like these can serve as a good introduction to speaking Italian, because they are somewhat familiar words you already may know how to pronounce in the Italian way.
Many of these adopted Italian words may sound less familiar to you than most other English words. One reason is that, unlike English, most Italian words end in a vowel that is pronounced.
The more recently adopted Italian words usually retain their Italian pronunciation in English.
As a result, these words seem to violate the usual rules of English pronunciation, and can be difficult to pronounce.
This can lead to confusion, with some English speakers using the adopted Italian pronunciation for these words, and some modifying the pronunciation as it would be in English.
So some foreign words adopted into English have kept their foreign pronunciations.
Others have been in English long enough to lose their foreign flair. You may have thought some of these words, like ‘cinema’, were always English rather than Italian imports.
In some cases, the pronunciation of the foreign word has been Americanized to be pronounced the way it would if it were an English word.
For example, in Italy ‘cinema’ is pronounced with a “ch-”: “CHEE-neh-mah” -- not with a beginning “s-” sound as it is in English. You may already know the pronunciation of some of these Italian words that have been adopted into English.
Or you may be unsure of the authentic Italian pronunciation of some. You can use the pronunciation guide with each word to check yours.
The pronunciations listed here are the Italian ones you would hear in Italy rather than the Americanized pronunciations.
And these words and phrases may also be pronounced somewhat differently in English.
The Italian article il or la or lo or l’ that usually precedes each noun (e.g. il bar) is included here with some of these English words in Italian spelled exactly like English to make it clear that these are indeed Italian words as well as English words.
ITALIAN WORDS FOR EATING
Some have become so frequently used in English they need little explanation.
ENGLISH -- ITALIAN -- [SAY]
restaurant -- il RISTORANTE -- [ree-stoh-RAHN-teh]
tagliatelle noodles (flat) -- le TAGLIATELLE -- [tah-lyah-TEHL-leh]
tiramisu cake -- il TIRAMISU -- [tee-rah-mee-SOO]
torta (cake) -- la TORTA -- [TOHR-tah]
tortellini pasta -- i TORTELLINI -- [tohr-tehl-LEE-nee]
tutti-frutti (candy) -- TUTTI FRUTTI (all fruits) -- [TOOT-tee FROOT-tee]
vino (wine) -- il VINO -- [VEE-noh]
vermicelli -- VERMICELLI -- [vehr-mee-CHEH-lee]
vongole clams -- le VONGOLE -- [VOHN-goh-leh]
ziti (pasta) -- ZITI -- [ZEE-tee]
zucchini -- i ZUCCHINI -- [TSOO-kee-nee in Italian]
MORE WORDS USED IN ENGLISH THAT STILL SOUND ITALIAN
Here are just a few more of the obviously Italian expressions that are part of the English language. Each has been adopted recently enough to retain its basic Italian spelling, meaning, and pronunciation.
Glance through the following list to find which adopted words and phrases you already know. That way you will be reminded of what you already know about Italian just because you know English, which is the main point of these lessons. Do not consider this as a list of terms that are new to you and must be memorized -- that is not the way these lessons work best. Check off the ones you already know. Some of the most common ones are listed here, and there are many more.
You may know more words from Italian films or Hollywood movies about the Mafia, or from friends of Italian descent.