“You’re just too good to be true, can’t take my eyes off of you…”
We could be referring to an alluring object of our affection, that bag we’ve been lusting after, or a particularly delicious cake.
In all cases, we’re eyeing up something we covet, or in Italian, the verb to replace the English phrasal verb is adocchiare (pronunciation here).
Non fa altro che adocchiare le ragazze.
He’s too busy eyeing up the girls.
Ma niente cioccolatini senza di me, ti ho visto adocchiare quelli che ho comprato ieri.
But no chocolates without me. I saw you eyeing up the ones I bought yesterday.
In these examples, we could translate the verb as ‘eye up’ or ‘to have one’s eyes on’.
Like in English, you can see the derivation – adocchiare contains the part of the word for eye, occhio.
But it’s not always used to express desire for something or someone. It can also simply mean to spot, like you’ve noticed something or can see something if you pay attention.
E se guardate attentamente, potrete adocchiare le rovine dell’antico castello che ha dato il nome alla nostro comune.
And, if you look closely, you can spot the remains of the old castle, after which our town is named.
Se stiamo zitti, possiamo adocchiare uno scoiattolo o addirittura un piccolo capriolo.
If we’re quiet, we can spot a squirrel or even a roe deer.
Se aguzzi la vista, potresti anche adocchiare personaggi ricchi e famosi tra la folla.
If you pay attention, you could also spot rich and famous people in the crowds.
You could also translate it as ‘catch sight of something or someone’.
I miei amici, quando adocchiarono mia sorella, non smisero di battibeccare su chi la dovesse invitare ad un’uscita.
When they caught sight of my sister, my friends did not stop bickering about who should invite her out.
So now you know what word to drop in the next time you’re eyeing up your cute neighbour or a scrummy dessert.
Do you have an Italian word you’d like us to feature? If so, please email us with your suggestion.