Italian Language Blog

Che Casino! Posted by on Dec 5, 2011 in Culture, Italian Language

1. casino (con l’accento sulla ‘o’), luogo dove si gioca d’azzardo.

1. casino (with the accent on the ‘o’), a place where one gambles.

2. casino (con l’accento sulla ‘i’), bordello.

2. casino (with the accent on the ‘i’ ), brothel

3. casino (con l’accento sulla ‘i’), confusione, chiasso, caos, molto

3. casino (with the accent on the ‘i’ ), confusion, racket, chaos, ‘a lot’

These days it’s this latter definition that you will hear used most often in everyday speech. Here are some typical examples:

scusa, c’è un po’ di casino in questa stanza (I’m sorry, there’s a bit of a mess in this room)

Oddio, la strada è completamente bloccata, che casino (oh God, the road’s completely blocked, what chaos/what a mess)

ti voglio un casino di bene! (I really like you a lot!).

Che casino fanno quei bimbi! (what a racket those kids are making!)

Let’s have a look at the etymology of the word:

As you can probably guess the word casino derives from casa (house), in fact it literally means ‘little house’. For many centuries the word had the definition found in Salvatore Battaglia’s grande dizionario della lingua italiana published in 21 volumes: “Villino signorile, per lo più di campagna; piccolo e grazioso edificio, in passato adibito a residenza padronale o ad usi particolari – casino di caccia, di pesca ecc.” (“elegant little villa, usually in the countryside; small and gracious building, in the past used as a manor house or for particular purposes – hunting or fishing lodge, etc.”)

Later, the word casino came to signify “un luogo di ritrovo e di ricreazione, pubblico, privato o militare, con sale di lettura, di gioco e di fumo” (“a public, private, or military recreational or meeting place, with reading, gaming, and smoking rooms.”). In other words, the casino became what we might call a ‘gentleman’s club’

The gaming aspect of these casini (clubs) gives rise to the English usage of the word as ‘a place where one gambles’. However, in Italy it was for certain other pleasures that the casino became notorious, and towards the end of the 1800’s the word casino became synonymous with postribolo or bordello (brothel). Battaglia later redefines casino as meaning:  “chiasso, confusione, luogo ove regnano grande trambusto e confusione estrema” (“loud noise, confusion, a place where a lot of hustle, bustle and extreme confusion reigns”).

It’s interesting to see how the use of certain words gradually becomes acceptable in society. When I was a child in the Seventies ‘casino’ was becoming popular  amongst children to describe a chaos, a mess, or a lot of noise. For example “forza, facciamo casino” (“come on, let’s make a racket”) meant let’s run around screaming like hell (and annoy the adults!). However, because of the association of the word ‘casino’ with a brothel, for my parents generation it was una parolaccia (a swearword) and we children were told off for using it. Things have changed since then, and nowadays ‘casino’  is no longer seen as being rude, being commonly used by everyone.

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  1. joseph:

    very interesting. thanks

  2. Jack:

    Great read, thankyou

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