What do a carpenter, a detective, and a bank robber screeching to a halt in their getaway car all have in common?
In English, not much – but in Italian, they could all be said to inchiodare (eenk-ee-ohd-AHR-eh) in the course of their professional activities.
In its simplest form, inchiodare simply means ‘to nail’ (chiodo, ‘kee-OH-do’, is a nail) – a picture to a wall, or a leg to a table.
Ha trovato questo cartello inchiodato alla sua porta.
She found this notice nailed to her door.
Inchioderò la mensola al muro più tardi.
I’ll nail the shelf to the wall later.
But like ‘to nail’, inchiodare has more than one definition.
You can use it to describe someone or something being ‘pinned’ in place, without actually having been literally nailed there.
Mi ha inchiodato al muro.
He pinned me to the wall.
La mia gamba è inchiodata al terreno.
My leg is pinned to the ground.
You can be metaphorically inchiodato to a place in the sense of being stuck there, tied down, or trapped.
Dovrei essere in vacanza e invece sono inchiodata alla mia scrivenia.
I should be on holiday and instead I’m stuck at my desk.
Siamo inchiodati a questa scuola per altri tre anni.
We’re stuck at this school for another three years.
Sono stati inchiodati dal fuoco di armi.
They were trapped by gunfire.
Just like in English, you can inchiodare (‘nail’) someone in the sense of proving their guilt.
Chiunque sia stato, ha lasciato tracce di DNA che lo inchioderanno.
Whoever it was, they left traces of DNA that will take them down.
Ti inchioderò per questo omicidio.
I’m going to nail you for this murder.
Senza la pistola non lo inchioderemo, perché non abbiamo altre prove.
Without the gun we’re not going to get him, because we have no other proof.
For reasons that are less clear, the word can also mean to slam on the brakes in a car.
Ha inchiodato e ha afferrato la pistola quando ha visto la volante bloccando la strada.
He slammed on the brakes and grabbed the gun when he saw the police car blocking the road.
Hanno inchiodato la macchina a pochi passi da noi.
They screeched to a halt in the car just a few feet away from us.
Those last two definitions mean that you’re very likely to encounter the word when watching mystery shows or listening to true crime podcasts. Look out for it the next time you watch a detective drama.
In the meantime, have a think about what (or who) you can inchiodare this week.
Do you have an Italian word you’d like us to feature? If so, please email us with your suggestion.