A Romance Writer Learns Italian – My Word of the Week – Bellissimo (a, i, e)

Bellissimo (Bellissima, Bellissimi & Bellissime)

adj. very beautiful, all-beautiful, swell

from Word Reference

For previous installments of Italian Word of the Week, click here. For an explanation of how adjectives that end in “o” change depending on context, take a look at my previous post on “Caro“.

As with last time, we start with a mini grammar lesson.

  • Italian adjectives can be modified with suffixes (that’s a fancy way to say “endings”) to express different levels of emphasis. “-issimo” is the Italian absolute superlative, which basically means it is used to show that a certain quality is expressed to a highest degree possible. In this case, Bello (adj. beautiful) is modified to become Bellissimo, which is often translated to “very beautiful.” However, it is probably closer to “the most beautiful humanly possible.”
  • Cultural Note: That said, the Italian language seems to favor the dramatic (try watching Grey’s Anatomy dubbed in Italian–it’s very interesting). Therefore, it seems bellissimo is used somewhat capriciously.
  • Side Note: Remember I went over “Caro” last week? You guessed right–“Carissimo” is “very expensive, dear, precious, etc.”

So obviously, bellissima (f.) can be used to describe a woman. To see the Italian hand gesture equivalent of Una bellissima donna! (What a very beautiful woman!), you can take a look at Berlusconi’s first encounter with Michelle Obama (since sarcasm doesn’t translate well in text form–THIS IS AN INAPPROPRIATE GESTURE!). However, when talking about men, there seems to be a preference for the unmodified adjective (i.e. a hunk = un bell’uomo, un bell ragazzo).

That said, bellissimo can be used to describe a whole host of other things. Most common among them seems to be food (Questa pasta è bellissima!) and the weather. Occasionally, it is also used to mean “good”, but I haven’t quite mastered when and when not to use it in this fashion, so I won’t elaborate.

That’s it for this week!

Disclaimer: I am writing this as a student of Italian. If there is anyone out there who would like to add to or correct my post, please leave a comment. This is a learning process for me as well. 

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One response to “A Romance Writer Learns Italian – My Word of the Week – Bellissimo (a, i, e)

  1. Pingback: A Romance Writer Learns Italian – My Word of the Week – Freddo/Freddissimo (adj. cold/freezing) | Tara Quan

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