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LANGUAGE AND CULTURE

Italian word of the day: ‘Squillo’

Today's word will help you get in touch with your Italian friends, quite literally.

Italian word of the day squillo
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond

How do you describe the sound your phone makes? Is it a ring, a buzz, a bell, a beep, or something else altogether?

For Italians, it’s uno squillo. It comes from the verb squillare (‘to ring’) and it’s what your phone does when someone calls you.

Lo squillo del telefono mi ha svegliato. 
The sound of the phone ringing woke me up.

By extension, fare uno squillo means ‘to make a call’.

Perché non fai uno squillo a Papà?
Why don’t you give Dad a call?

More specifically, lo squillo is the practice of giving someone a missed call: ringing and hanging up before you get an answer. It’s less common in these days of WhatsApp, FaceTime and unlimited data, but for a while there it was the method of choice for young Italians with limited phone credit to let others know they were on their way, waiting downstairs, or simply thinking of them.

Fammi uno squillo quando arrivi a casa!
Buzz me when you get home!

But here’s where you want to be extremely careful with your articles. While uno or lo squillo (masculine) refers to phones, una or la squillo (feminine) is shorthand for una ragazza squillo, or ‘call girl’ – and that’s really not something you should be offering to give anyone else.

Do you have an Italian word you’d like us to feature? If so, please email us with your suggestion.

For members

ITALIAN WORD OF THE DAY

Italian word of the day: ‘Delusione’

We hope this word doesn't disappoint.

Italian word of the day: 'Delusione'

Experiencing a delusione (deh-loo-zee-OH-neh) in Italian may not be pleasant, but it doesn’t mean you need escorting to the psychiatrist’s chair.

That’s because while delusione may look and sound like its English cousin ‘delusion’, the word actually means something quite different: disappointment.

Disappointment Disappointed GIF - Disappointment Disappointed Food Review GIFs

The two nouns actually have the same root in the Latin dēlūsiō, meaning a deceiving or deluding, and delūdō, meaning to deceive, dupe, or mock.

But while the English ‘delusion’ has hewn close to the original Latin meaning over the centuries, delusione at some point branched off to its current, quite different, definition.

There’s not much in the way of information about exactly when and how that happened, but it’s clearly a short associative hop from feeling ‘deceived’ or ‘duped’ by things turning out differently to what you’d expected to feeling ‘disappointed’.

Che delusione.
How disappointing.

La festa era, purtroppo, una grande delusione.
The party unfortunately was a big disappointment.

Mike Ehrmantraut Breaking Bad Che Delusione No Che Vergogna GIF - Disappointment Disappointed Oh No GIFs

The adjective for ‘disappointed’ is deluso for a single masculine subject, changing to delusa/delusi/deluse if the subject being described is feminine singular/masculine plural/feminine plural.

Era delusa da come era venuta la torta.
She was disappointed with how the cake turned out.

Devo dire che siamo davvero delusi dal fatto che siamo stati trattati in questo modo.
I have to say that we’re very disappointed to have been treated this way.

A word you’ll often see used in combination with deluso/a/i/e is rimanere (ree-man-EH-reh): rimanere deluso.

You might correctly recognise rimanere as meaning ‘to remain’, and wonder why we’d use that word here – but rimanere also has an alternative meaning along the lines of ‘to become’, ‘to get’, or simply ‘to be’.

For example, you can rimanere incinta (get pregnant), or rimanere ferito (get hurt or wounded, for example in a car accident).

It’s also very often used with emotions, usually those experienced in the moment rather than long-term ones: you can rimanere sorpreso (be surprised), rimanere triste (be sad), rimanere scioccato (be shocked)… and rimanere deluso (be disappointed).

Sono rimasto molto deluso quando mi ha detto di aver abbandonato la scuola.
I was very disappointed when she told me she had dropped out of school.

Siamo rimasti delusi dalle condizioni della stanza d’albergo al nostro arrivo.
We were disappointed by the condition of the hotel room when we arrived.

With that, we wish you a weekend free of delusioni (disappointments)!

Do you have an Italian word you’d like us to feature? If so, please email us with your suggestion.

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