Italian word of the day: ‘Tifoso’

Italian word of the day: ‘Tifoso’
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond
We think you’ll be a fan of this Italian word.

If you’re following the Italian news at the moment, you’ll know this word is everywhere.

It might be easy to tell from the context of news reports that the word tifoso means “fan” or “supporter”. But do you know how to use the word correctly?

The verb tifare means to support, cheer for, or to root for, and it’s pretty much exclusively used when talking about sports..

– Sono qui a tifare per l’Italia

– I’m here to support Italy

So a supporter, then is un/a tifoso/a. The plural tifosi is used to describe a group of supporters (all-male or mixed gender – an all-female group would be tifose). 

These are probably going to be fans of football teams. But you may also hear people talking about tifosi in relation to other sports, too.

According to the Collins dictionary. in English the word tifoso is more often associated with motor racing fans. While in Italy, we’ve also heard it used in conversations about the Giro d’Italia.

Whatever the sport, the word implies that these particular fans will be particularly dedicated – perhaps truly fanatical.

You can also say fare il tifo, which also simply means ‘to support’ or ‘to cheer for’.

– Facciamo il tifo per voi in questa maratona

– We’ll cheer for you in this marathon

An online search may give you the impression that the word tifo, derived from the ancient Greek typhos, means typhus, or typhoid fever. This often leads people to believe that the word tifoso means “feverish”, perhaps suggesting that fans have come down with “football fever”.

But several Italian dictionaries note that it’s more likely to be connected to the other meaning of the ancient Greek typhos: smoke. As Treccani explains, enthusiastic spectators at the ancient Olympics used to celebrate the victories of their heroes by gathering around a bonfire.

You could also describe these supporters as appassionati, but you wouldn’t call them fans – even though the Italian language has adopted this English word.

‘Fan’ is more commonly used in Italian when talking about admirers of musicians or other famous people. So while you could be un fan di Madonna, you would be un tifoso di calcio (a football fan).

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


Member comments

Become a Member to leave a comment.Or login here.