For members


Italian word of the day: ‘Whatsappino’

Here’s one for the pioneers of the Italian language.

Italian word of the day: Whatsappino
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond

Much to the dismay of purists, dozens of new words are regularly added to the Italian vocabulary by the Accademia della Crusca, Italy’s most authoritative linguistic academy.

Though most additions are ‘Italianisations’ of popular foreign nouns or expressions, words of more dubious linguistic value also make the cut every now and then. 

If whatsappino – a term whose online popularity seems to be growing by the minute – were to be one of the Accademia’s new entries for 2023, we’d likely have to place it under the latter category.

As you might have already guessed, a whatsappino (pronounced ‘whats-up-eeno’) is any text or voice message exchanged through the well-known Whatsapp Messenger platform. 

This noun is made up of ‘whatsapp’ and the diminutive suffix ‘-ino’, used for a particularly small item (for instance, a ‘tazzina’ is a small cup) or something exceptionally cute and adorable (a ‘gattino’ is a cat that’s very lovable).

Esci stasera?

Non lo so ancora. Dopo ti mando un whatsappino.

Are you going out tonight?

I don’t know yet. I’ll send you a short message later. 

Mandami un whatsappino con la lista della spesa quando puoi.

Please send me a message with the shopping list when you have a minute.

It is still unclear who exactly felt that the words messaggio (message) or messaggino (short message) were no longer good enough for the job at hand and chose to gift Italian society with whatsappino, but one of the first reported usages dates back to 2013, when TV host Carlo Conti used it in his book ‘Cosa sarà dei migliori anni?’ (‘What will it be of the best years’).

So it appears that, once again, a great change started with a great mind.

At any rate, the word whatsappino didn’t really catch on among Italian speakers until very recently.

Usage seems to have multiplied almost overnight, likely spurred by social media conversations on the topic. 

So, should you ever have any pressing urges to start using ‘whatsappino’ in your conversations with locals, when would it be best to use it?

As with most neologisms, T&Cs regarding the usage of the word are still pretty vague.

However, it would be wise to only use whatsappino in informal settings and with people you know – Italian aunties seem to have a natural penchant for ‘whatsappini‘, so they might be a good place to start. 

You should also be aware that using the word in formal circumstances might very well result in a bunch of hostile glares or, even worse, in the quintessentially Italian ‘Ma come parli?!’, which is roughly translatable into English as ‘What on earth are you saying?’.

So, pending further developments, use whatsappino cautiously.

Do you have an Italian word you’d like us to feature? If so, please email us with your suggestion.

Member comments

  1. Thanks for this cute addition to my vocabulary and for the discussion of its burgeoning usage. Molto bello.

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.
For members


Italian expression of the day: ‘Meno male’

Thank goodness for this phrase.

Italian expression of the day: 'Meno male'
Photo: DepositPhotos

Feel like the studying’s paid off and you’re finally getting all this Italian vocab to stick? 

Meno male, we might tell you: ‘just as well’. Click here to hear it pronounced.

This common expression (literally: ‘less bad’) is a way to welcome a piece of information, while implying that the alternative would be a whole lot worse.

You can translate it as anything from ‘just as well’ to ‘fortunately’ to ‘thank goodness’.

Sei tornato! Meno male!
You’re back! Thank goodness!

You can say it on its own, like in the example above, or specify what you’re thankful for by adding che.

Meno male che stai bene.
It’s a good job you’re ok.

It expresses gladness, gratitude, but most of all, relief. That’s why you might hear people use with a big sigh and a wipe of the forehead, like we would say: ‘phew!’

The prize for the most notorious (and cringeworthy) usage of this phrase in Italy goes to the song Meno male che Silvio c’e (‘Thank goodness for Silvio’) by Andrea Vantini, used in late politician Silvio Berlusconi’s campaigning with his former party Popolo della Libertà.

Finally, note the spelling: while you might see it written as one word by some, in fact it’s most definitely two.

Meno male we checked the dictionary, eh?

Do you have an Italian word you’d like us to feature? If so, please email us with your suggestion.