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Not included here are calques and recent borrowings which remained semantically and phonetically unchanged and are, therefore, of limited etymological and historical interest.

For definitions and a broader explanation see:
Italian loanwords in English.

Musical terms:

The opera was introduced in Paris in 1646 by the Cardinal Mazzarino. The word opera (from opera musicale, litteraly meaning 'a work of music') was borrowed from Italian around that time.

Other musical terms borrowed from Italian include:
sonnet (1557): from sonetto, diminutive form for song

piano (1803): from French and Italian piano, short form of pianoforte

violin (1579): from violino, diminutive of viola (viola)

concert (1665): from concerto (harmony, concert), from concertare (to accord together)

quartet: from Italian quartetto, diminutive of quarto (fourth).

Art, Film and Literature:

Novel (1566): from Italian novella, short story or novel, tale, news

Scenario (1878): from italian scenario, from scena (scene)

Architecture :

Balcony: from balcone, the augmentative form of balco (scaffold). The -one ending in Italian often suggests something large or awkward.

Studio: from Italian studio (room for study)

Banking terms:

Bank: from Italian banca (literally: bench), originally a counter on which money-changers transacted their business.

Bankrupt: from Italian banca rotta (literally: bank broken). The original meaning in Italian was the ruin or breaking up of a trader's busines because of failure to pay creditors, or the abandonment of business to avoid paying debts.

Military terms:

Italian military terms also generated a lot of common English words. The word alarm, for example, derives from a call to arms all'arme (literally: to the arms!).

Other miliary terms include:
colonel (from colonello), sentinel (from sentinella).

Food and culinary terms:




(1852): from Italian salami, plural of salame, spiced pork sausage.

Politics, Sociology and Criminology

Ballot: from Venetian dialect ballotta ('small ball or pebble'), diminutive form of balla." A small ball once used to register votes in secret voting.

Ghetto (1611): from Italian ghetto, of uncertain origin. Possible explanations are that it developed from Venetian ghetto (the site of the first ghetto in Venice), or that it is a contracted form of borghetto, a small section of a town, from borgo (town, village).

Bandit: from banditto, the past participle of bandire (proscribe, banish), literally meaning 'proscribed', hence 'outlaw'.

Fascist (1921): borrowed from Italian Fascista, in reference to the party and fasces which were its symbol. Read more >>


Italian Loanwords in English
(the Italian etymology of some common English words)

compiled by Catherine Marien-de Luca

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