Home Language HacksItalian 34 Words That Don’t Exist in Italian (English Loanwords in Italian)

34 Words That Don’t Exist in Italian (English Loanwords in Italian)

From 'privacy' to 'computer', 'spray' to 'toast' here are some everyday words that don't exist in Italian and what to use instead

by Michele
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English Loanwords in Italian - 34 Words That Don’t Exist in Italian
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There are tonnes of Italian words in English, especially when it comes to food and music. From espresso, cappuccino, ciabatta, panini, gelato, prosciutto, trattoria or with the terms allegro, forte, piano, alto, basso, staccato, tempo. These are just a few examples that show you how a country’s culture in a specific field often reflects itself in the language as well. The result is that other languages then adopt these foreign words, known as loanwords, into their vocabulary.

Did you know that are tonnes of English words in Italian? Many of them are taken from the fields of web, technology and marketing and their use in the last few years has literally exploded.

Quite often these English words don’t have a literal translation in Italian (e.g. selfie), while just as many do, but they have nevertheless spread widely. Quite often these English loanwords are preferred and used more than existing Italian words, even if their meaning is the same (e.g. weekend vs. fine settimana). 

As a matter of fact, in addition to the practical aspect, there’s also a more “fashionable” option. Using foreign words has become “cool”, to the point of using them inappropriately or excluding a certain group of people for whom the understanding is not immediately clear.

In this guide, you’ll learn 34 common English loanwords in Italian that have become part of everyday vocabulary and whose meaning may be more or less different from the original one.

1. Privacy

What it means in Italian: private and personal space
Italian equivalent: la riservatezza
Example: Ho bisogno della mia privacy quando sono in bagno. (I need my privacy when I’m in the bathroom.)

In this case, the English word has replaced the Italian one because its meaning is much broader than in Italian. “Riservatezza” describes an introverted character and a restraint in expressing feelings. “Privacy” instead is used for any field that affects the private sphere (as in “la legge sulla privacy”, privacy law).

2. Computer

What it means in Italian: computer, laptop
Italian equivalent: none
Example: Devo comprare un computer nuovo. (I have to buy a new computer.)

The literal translation of “computer” in Italian would be “calcolatore”, although it’s never used and instead instantly replaced by the English “computer“.

Alongside that, for many other technology-related words the English version is the preferred one since this field mostly developed in the US and therefore Italian incorporated this kind of language into its vocabulary.

Here below is a list of IT terms with their literal Italian (and rarely used) equivalent:

  • Il mouse = il topo (only used to refer to the animal)
  • Online = in linea, in rete
  • L’email, = la posta elettronica
  • L’application = l’applicazione
  • I mass media = i mezzi di comunicazione di massa
  • I social (media) = i mezzi di comunicazione sociale
  • Il/la social media manager = la persona che gestisce I mezzi di comunicazione sociale

3. Toast

What it means in Italian: toasted sandwich
Italian equivalent: none
Example: Per pranzo ho mangiato solo un toast al formaggio. (I only had a toasted cheese sandwich for lunch.)

Not to be confused with “pane tostato” which is toasted sliced bread. The meaning of “toast” when used in Italian is partially lost in translation, as it only refers to a toasted sandwich. Also, it’s not used as a verb, “to toast / to make a toast”, for which Italian has its own expression, that is “fare un brindisi”.

4. Smoking / Tight

What it means in Italian: suit or tuxedo / long tails suit
Italian equivalent: none

  • Per questa festa è consigliato lo smoking. (A tuxedo is recommended for this party.)
  • Marco indossava uno splendido tight l’altra sera. (Marco had a wonderful suit the other night.)

The meaning of the words “smoking” and “tight” in Italian are completely lost in translation. They indicate two similar but different kinds of men’s suits. The ‘smoking’ is worn during prestigious receptions, such as at the theatre or during a gala party. It is also an appropriate dress for outdoor events. The tight refers to a long tails suit, also called “morning dress”, and is worn only at very formal weddings.

5. Sport

What it means in Italian: sport
Italian equivalent: attività fisica
Example: Il mio sport preferito è lo sci alpino. (My favourite sport is alpine skiing.)

This English word is used in Italian both with the meaning of “sports” (such as tennis, football, etc.) and in the sense of “physical activity”, “exercise”. The Italian expression “attività fisica” is limited to the latter meaning.

6. Check-up

What it means in Italian: a (comprehensive) medical check-up
Italian equivalent: controllo medico completo
Example: Devo fare un check-up completo. (I need to do a complete check-up.)

This English word in Italian is used to refer to the comprehensive medical check-up that involves a series of analyses and clinical examinations, especially in a preventive sense, of the general state of health. Its literal Italian translation is used more frequently by older people.  

7. Location

What it means in Italian: position, site, place
Italian equivalent: luogo, posizione, posto, locale
Example: Questo pub è situato in un’ottima location. (This pub is in a great location.)

As you can see, Italian has many words to describe the concept of “location”, nevertheless the English word sounds “cooler” and it’s frequently used by younger people or when talking about fancy places.

8. Show

What it means in Italian: a TV show, a show at the theatre, a scene (figurative)
Italian equivalent: spettacolo, programma
Example: “Uomini e donne” è uno show televisivo di Maria de Filippi. (“Uomini e donne” is a TV show by Maria de Filippi.)

The English word “show” is preferred over the Italian “programma” especially when talking about TV, whereas it’s preferred to say “spettacolo (teatrale)” to talk about theatre. “Show” might also be used sarcastically to tell someone not to make a scene (“non fare lo show!”).

9. Chance

What it means in Italian: chance / opportunity / possibility
Italian equivalent: possibilità, opportunità
Example: Ti ho dato una chance. (I gave you a chance.)

The Italian version of “chance” is pronounced with a French accent (shans) and over time it has become equivalent to the already existing Italian words “possibilità” and “opportunità”. Here the meaning doesn’t differ from the original one.

 10. Network

What it means in Italian: network of contacts and people
Italian equivalent: rete di conoscenze
Example: Luisa ha un buon network. / Luisa ha una buona rete di conoscenze. (Luisa has a good network.)

Here the Italian and the English words are identical and can be used interchangeably.

11. Mix

What it means in Italian: a mix (noun)
Italian equivalent: miscuglio
Example: Ho fatto un mix di erbe per il mio tè. (I mixed some herbs to make tea.)

The word “mix” has become so widespread in Italian that it’s used more frequently than its Italian counterpart.

 12. Spray

What it means in Italian: spray bottle / spray can
Italian equivalent: none
Example: Quando compro i deodoranti, preferisco gli spray. (When I buy deodorant, I prefer sprays.)

The meaning of the English word “spray” in Italian has been partially lost in translation. This word is only used as a noun and it means spray bottle or can (such as paint, deodorant, hair spray) whereas as an action Italian uses the verb “spruzzare”.

 13. Feeling

What it means in Italian: chemistry
Italian equivalent: rapporto di intesa
Example: Tra quei due c’è feeling. (There’s chemistry between those two.)

The use of this English word in Italian is very specific and is used to describe the chemistry between two people. The expression “rapporto di intesa” in Italian is more a description of this concept and therefore is rarely used. Any other meaning of the word “feeling” is translated into Italian with “sensazione” or “sentimento”.

 14. Shooting

What it means in Italian: a photoshoot
Italian equivalent: none
Example: Ho fatto uno shooting per una rivista. (I did a photoshoot for a magazine.)

Attenzione! “Shooting” in Italian is only used in the field of photography and has nothing to do with the use of guns.

 15. Slip

What it means in Italian: panties, underpants
Italian equivalent: mutanda
Example: Ho comprato uno slip di cotone. (I bought cotton panties.)

Even though “slip” is an English word, its meaning in Italian has been completely lost in translation. For the actual meanings of “slip”, Italian has its own words: sottoveste (women’s undergarment), svista/errore (mistake), scivolone (a fall).

 16. Hamburger

What it means in Italian: hamburger
Italian equivalent: none
Example: Ti piacciono gli hamburger? (Do you like hamburgers?)

Like many other languages, Italian as well lacks a native word for “hamburger” and therefore uses the English one, but with a sharper pronunciation (am-boor-gher).

17. Problem-solving

What it means in Italian: problem-solving (skill)
Italian equivalent: capacità di risolvere problemi
Example: Per questo lavoro è richiesta la capacità di problem-solving. (For this job, problem-solving skills are required.)

In the working environment, the use of English words is more widespread than in others, as they convey the idea of being more professional, knowledgeable, reliable and in step with the times, no matter if there’s an Italian way to express the same concept most of the time. Not to mention that the English version is often more concise and immediate. Among these words, one that is often found in Italian job descriptions is “problem solving”.

18.  Know-how

What it means in Italian: know-how (skill)
Italian equivalent: conoscenza tecnica
Example: Luca non ha ottenuto quel lavoro perché gli mancava il know-how. (Luca didn’t get the job as he was lacking the know-how skills.)

Confirming the above, this English word is preferred to its Italian translation.

 19. Mood

What it means in Italian: mood, emotional state
Italian equivalent: umore
Example: Non sempre amo cucinare, dipende dal mio mood. (I don’t always love cooking, it depends on my mood.)
This English word has been incorporated into Italian slang and is commonly used among younger people.

20. Dog sitter / babysitter

What it means in Italian: dog sitter / babysitter
Italian equivalent: none / tata

  • Ogni sabato pomeriggio lavoro come dogsitter. (Every Saturday afternoon I work as a dog sitter.)
  • Mi serve una tata per stasera. (I need a babysitter/nanny for tonight.)

Italian doesn’t really have a word for “dog sitter” (probably because the job itself is not very popular in Italy), but it does have a word for “babysitter” that is, “tata” although it is quite old-fashioned and not used as frequently.

 21. Meeting

What it means in Italian: work meeting
Italian equivalent: riunione
Example: Ho un meeting con il capo alle 5 di pomeriggio. (I have a meeting with the boss at 5pm.)

Even if Italian has its own word for it, “meeting” is used quite frequently nowadays because it sounds fashionable and professional.

22. Comfort

What it means in Italian: comfort
Italian equivalent: conforto, comodità, lusso
Example: Quest’auto è dotata di tutti i comfort. (This car is featured with all the comforts.)

Italian doesn’t lack a word for “comfort” but the English word has become part of the vocabulary as well and it is also used in some expressions, such as “la zona di comfort” (comfort zone).

23. Lockdown

What it means in Italian: lockdown
Italian equivalent: confinamento
Example: Il governo ha annunciato un nuovo lockdown. (The government announced a new lockdown.)

In recent times, the word lockdown is preferred to “confinamento” because it sounds less old-fashioned and more up-to-date.

24. Box (auto)

What it means in Italian: garage
Italian equivalent: posto auto
Example: Nell’affitto è compreso il costo del box auto. (The rent includes the cost of the garage as well.)

The meaning of “box” in Italian is slightly different than the original one, as it is used only with the meaning of “garage”, which is also used in Italian, more frequently than “posto auto”.

25. Beauty-case

What it means in Italian: washbag, toiletry bag, cosmetic bag, vanity case
Italian equivalent: borsa dei cosmetici
Example: Devo mettere il mio beauty in valigia. (I have to pack my toiletry bag in the suitcase.)

The Italian expression “borsa dei cosmetici” is used interchangeably with the English “beauty-case” or simply “beauty”, to indicate a toiletry bag that you carry when travelling.

26. Fashion / Trendy

What it means in Italian: fashionable
Italian equivalent: alla moda
Example: Come sei fashion! (You’re so fashionable!)

Both “fashion” and “trendy” are used in Italian to describe the quality of a person who dresses very well and is up-to-date with the latest fashion trends. Their use is considered “cooler” than the Italian “alla moda”.

27. Leader

What it means in Italian: leader, head
Italian equivalent: capo
Example: Giovanni è il leader della nostra quadra. (Giovanni is our team leader.)

The word “leader” in Italian is preferred when talking about a working team or a sports team or when talking about the head of an association or an institution.

28. Outlet

What it means in Italian: shopping outlet
Italian equivalent: none
Example: Vuoi venire con me all’outlet domani? (Would you like to come with me to the shopping outlet tomorrow?)

Among the several meanings of the English word “outlet”, Italian only adopted “shopping outlet” which refers to a retail store that sells discounted items.

29. Catering

What it means in Italian: catering, food supply, food service
Italian equivalent: none
Example: Ho chiamato un catering per la mia festa di compleanno. (I called a catering company for my birthday party.)

In Italian, the word “catering” (pronounced kah-teh-reeng) is very popular when talking about food supply service, since its literal translation, fornitura di cibo per eventi” (food supply for events), is more of a description of the activity rather than its denomination.

30. Contest

What it means in Italian: contest, race
Italian equivalent: gara
Example: Ho partecipato ad un contest musicale. (I took part in a music contest.)

The word “contest” in Italian is used quite frequently to talk about any kind of competition, as a synonym for the Italian word “gara” (which mainly refers to a sports race or competition).

 31. Mascara / Rimmel

What it means in Italian: mascara
Italian equivalent: none


  • Mi è finito il mascara. Mi presti il tuo per favore? (I ran out of mascara. Could I borrow yours?)
  • Prima di uscire metto sempre un po’ di Rimmel. (I always put on a little Rimmel before I go out.)

Not only has the English word “mascara” been incorporated into Italian vocabulary, but also “Rimmel”, the first company to invent mascara, is often being used in Italian to refer to the same make-up product.

32. Spelling

What it means in Italian: spelling
Italian equivalent: ortografia
Example: Puoi farmi lo spelling di questa parola per favore? (Could you spell this word for me please?)

The Italian word “ortografia” indicates the correct writing of a word, i.e. how it is spelled. “Spelling” has nevertheless entered the Italian vocabulary in the expression “fare lo spelling”, that is, “to spell”.

33. Kleenex

What it means in Italian: tissue
Italian equivalent: fazzoletto
Example: Mi passi un Kleenex/ fazzoletto per favore? (Could you pass me a tissue please?)

In the same way as “Rimmel”, the company name, is used to indicate the product it represents, “Kleenex” has become in Italian an alternative way to say “fazzoletti”, tissues.

34. Weekend

What it means in Italian: weekend
Italian equivalent: fine settimana
Example: Ci vediamo questo weekend/ fine settimana! (See you this weekend!)

Even though Italian has a word for “weekend”, that is, “fine settimana”, the use of this English word in Italian has increased rapidly in recent years, especially among young people, who prefer to use it instead of its Italian counterpart.


As you can see, there are many Italian loanwords taken from English that are used on an everyday basis and especially in specific fields instead of their Italian version (or to compensate for the lack of it). These are just la punta dell’iceberg (the tip of the iceberg, here’s another one!) and it looks as if English vocabulary in Italian is here to stay and even expand in the next few years. What other English words do you think Italian will use next? Share your thoughts in the comments. Want more? Check out my guide to Italian Cognates and how 17 simple rules can Italianize words you already know.

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English Loanwords in Italian - 34 Words That Don’t Exist in Italian

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