The Italian spice in our speech

According to 'Warriner's English Grammar,' Italian words appear most frequently in English in the arts ('violin,' 'piano,' 'concerto') and in food ('macaroni,' 'pizza,' 'spaghetti'). What other Italian words do you recognize as part of our English language?

1. The English word for "festival" or "amusement show" comes from the Italian carnelevare, or "removal of meat." That's because the first major merrymaking of the year is just before Lent, when eating meat was prohibited.

2. This word for "little child" originally comes from the Italian representation of the infant Jesus. Its root is bambo, meaning "simple and childish."

3. The word for a brief statement adopted as a rule of conduct comes from a terse beginning. From the Italian and Latin, muttum, to grunt.

4. The Italian word for shade comes from Latin umbra. That's where this folding cloth frame gets its name, although nowadays it's used more for rain than sun.

5. Making fine Venetian glass is a delicate process, for it must be done flawlessly. If there's even the slightest imperfection, the glassblower must turn the work into a common bottle or flask. Today, we call any dismal failure by this bottle's name.

6. This pasta in the form of little pillows of dough with savory filling comes from the Italian word for "little turnip" or "beet."

7. The Italian word for a study is better known in English as a workshop or a place where motion pictures are made.

8. This drama set to music is Italian in origin, and the root of its name is the same as opus, meaning great effort or work.


(1) carnival; (2) bambino; (3) motto; (4) umbrella; (5) fiasco; (6) ravioli; (7) studio; (8) opera.

SOURCES: The World Book Dictionary; Webster's Dictionary; Dictionary of Word Origins, by Jordan Almond.

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