Borrowed Italian words with different meanings in English

Many Italian words have made their way into the English language, though in English they can sometimes have a dramatically different meaning to their Italian counterpart – using them in Italy as we do in English may bring you unexpected results. Next time you’re on your Umbria villa holidays, try taking the below advice and you’ll be talking like a local in no time!

Street in Italy Italian words used differently in English Umbria villa holidays

Al fresco

In English, we use the Italian expression ‘al fresco’ to refer to outdoors, especially when referring to dining. However, in Italian, while it still means outdoors, the phrase has negative connotations of being out in the cold, as ‘fresco’ translates into English as cool. The phrase ‘all’aperto’ will work much better in conversation with an Italian.


If you order a panini in an Italian café, you may be slightly surprised when you get served with two sandwiches! In Italian, panini is simply the plural for panino (sandwich), rather than the word for a toasted sandwich, which is ‘panino tostato’ in Italian.


A common misconception is that the word latte is Italian for a coffee with milk, however, if you ordered one in an Italian coffee shop, you’d be in for a shock. Latte in fact just means milk in Italian – for a milky coffee, you’ll need to order a caffe latte or a cappuccino.


This is a particularly risky one to get wrong in Italy – instead of referring to a spiked-heel shoe, stiletto actually refers to a small dagger in Italian. If you want to talk about the shoes, use the phrase ‘tacchi a spillo’.


While in English, prosciutto refers to the specific Italian, raw and cured kind of ham, in Italian, prosciutto in fact refers to any variety of ham. The closest word to what we know as prosciutto in Italian is ‘prosciutto crudo’, meaning raw or uncooked ham.


In Italian, pepperoni doesn’t refer to spicy salami at all – it is simply means ‘peppers’ in Italian. If you’d like some slices of pepperoni on your pizza instead, try asking for ‘salame piccante’.

Image: The Telegraph