List of English Words of Italian Origin

, Content Lead
Updated March 11, 2019
The word "ballet" originates in Italian
    The word "ballet" originates in Italian

The Italian language has a profound influence on the English language, and hundreds of words qualify for the list of English words of Italian origin. Since so many words come from Italian, we will make the list a little less overwhelming by breaking the words down into categories. Since Italian food seems to be such a favorite of the American people, we will start there!

Food and Cooking

You'll encounter many of these food terms both inside and beyond your local Italian restaurant!

  • al dente: literally "to the tooth," meaning firm and slightly chewy (particularly pasta)
  • al fresco: outside in the fresh air
  • amaretto: almond-flavored liqueur
  • antipasto: appetizer course with olives, cured meat, artichokes and peppers
  • arugula: a type of slightly peppery, leafy vegetable
  • barista: originally a barman or bartender, now used for person who makes coffee at a cafe
  • biscotti: a type of cookie
  • bologna: a type of deli meat
  • broccoli: a variety of green vegetable
  • cappuccino: espresso with foamed milk
  • carpaccio: thinly sliced meat
  • ciabatta: type of Italian bread
  • espresso: strong, small coffee
  • focaccia: round, flat bread with herbs
  • fettuccine: ribbon style pasta
  • gelato: frozen dessert similar to ice cream
  • lasagna: a layered pasta dish
  • latte: coffee with steamed milk
  • linguine: a long, flat pasta
  • macchiato: espresso with a small amount of foamy milk
  • maraschino: a strong, sweet liquer often used with cherries
  • panini: Italian grilled sandwich
  • parmesan: a type of dry cheese
  • pasta: Italian style noodles
  • pepperoni: originally referring to bell peppers, now also used for hard, cured sausage
  • pesto: a type of green sauce made with olive oil and pine nuts
  • pizza: flat dough topped with tomato sauce, cheese, and other ingredients
  • polenta: a dough made with cornmeal
  • prosciutto: salted, cured ham sliced very thin
  • provolone: a type of cheese
  • salami: salted Italian sausage
  • scampi: large shrimp
  • spumoni: variety of Italian ice cream
  • tiramisu: Italian dessert with ladyfingers and coffee
  • tortellini: type of filled pasta
  • trattoria: Italian restaurant
  • tortoni: variety of ice cream

Music Vocabulary

With so many incredible composers and artists over the years, Italian culture and heritage has influenced music all around the globe.

  • allegro: played in a lively and brisk style
  • alto: a "high" male voice or "low" female voice
  • basso: a low, bass voice
  • bravura: requiring great skill and agility to be played
  • bel canto: an easy listening type of singing
  • capriccio: free, irregular musical composition
  • castrato: castrated male singer
  • cavatina: simple melody
  • cello: larged stringed instrument of the violin family
  • concert: a public musical performance
  • diva: famous female singer with air of self-importance
  • folio: folder containing loose papers, like sheet music
  • fantasia: free and fantasy-like instrumental composition
  • forte: to be played strong or loudly
  • intermezzo: short composition in between main acts or divisions
  • libretto: small book or text
  • maestro: master
  • mandola: type of lute, predecessor to the mandolin
  • opera: a musical drama
  • operetta: a "light" or comic opera
  • piccolo: small flute
  • piano: type of musical instrument
  • solo: musical piece played or performed by one individual alone
  • soprano: highest singing voice
  • tempo: relative time or pace
  • viola: a stringed instrument

Science Terms

Italy has produced such notable Italian scientists as Alessandro Volta and Guglielmo Marconi, leading to many Italian terms being adapted to English as well.

  • granite: a very hard igneous rock
  • gonzo: weird or unusual
  • influenza: acute disease known more commonly as the flu
  • lagoon: shallow pond near larger body of water
  • lava: molten rock from a volcano
  • malaria: literally "bad air," a type of disease usually transmitted by mosquitoes
  • medico: a doctor, surgeon, or medical student
  • neutrino: very small neutral particle
  • pellagra: disease caused by niacin deficiency
  • peperino: a porous volcanic rock
  • rocket: self-propelling projectile
  • torso: trunk of the human body
  • volcano: a mountain with a vent in the earth's crust at the top

Other English Words from Italian

Beyond food, music and science, many more Italian words have made their way into English too.

  • alarm: a warning sound
  • alert: wide awake, a warning, or to warn for action
  • arcade: an arched space or a public area with video games
  • balcony: a platform extending from a building
  • bankrupt: person unable to pay all debts
  • ballet: a theatrical type of dance
  • balloon: inflated bag or ball
  • ballot: a slip of paper used for voting
  • bizarre: fantastically strange
  • brave: valiant and courageous
  • bronze: a copper and tin alloy
  • bulletin: a brief statement of news or events
  • cameo: an engraving technique, or a small role played by a famous performer
  • carnival: a festival or exhibition
  • carpet: heavy fabric for covering floors
  • cartoon: a drawing
  • cash: physical money
  • casino: an establishment for gambling
  • ciao: informal greeting for both "hello" and "goodbye"
  • facade: front of a building or superficial appearance
  • fiasco: complete failure
  • figurine: a small figure or statue of the human form
  • finale: the last part of a performance
  • gallery: a room or building for art exhibition
  • gondola: type of boat from Venice, Italy or an enclosed cabin for transporting up a ski slope
  • grotesque: unnatural, ugly or absurd in appearance
  • lotto: a game of chance
  • Madonna: the Vrigin Mary
  • magazine: a periodic publication or a place for keeping ammunition
  • manage: to take charge or direct
  • musket: infantry gun predating the modern rifle
  • novel: new and original, or a long fictional story
  • partisan: supporting one person, party or group
  • pastel: soft, subdued color
  • pedal: foot-operated lever
  • politico: politician
  • replica: a copy of an original
  • scenario: sequence of events
  • sketch: simple drawing
  • sonnet: a style of poetry, typically consisting of 14 lines
  • tariff: a tax imposed on imports or exports
  • umbrella: light cover to protect from rain
  • vista: a view

Grazie Mille, Italia!

Perhaps after reading our list of English words of Italian origin, you will feel like running out for some Italian food or to see an Italian opera. In any case, you can certainly say that you have learned a lot of information about the origin of words!

As you can see from the above list, we owe the Italian language quite a bit of thanks. So many of the words that we use on a daily basis (magazine, brave, and alarm, for example) come from Italian origins. Furthermore, this list does not just point out the words that come from Italy, but also parts of the culture.

Imagine life without pizza or coffee! Learning about the Italian origins of the language also reminds us how many different food items originated in Italy.