Italian Language Blog

Nomi Composti Posted by on May 18, 2011 in Grammar

Not content with confusing foreigners with multisyllabic words we frequently like to stick a couple of them together – just for fun! These nouns, which consist of two or more words joined together, are called nomi composti. Here are a few common ones:

1. formed from the verb parare = to shield / to protect from:

parabrezza from para (shield) + brezza (breeze) = ‘windscreen’ or ‘windshield’

paraurti from para (shield) + urti (crashes) = ‘bumper’ or ‘fender’

parafango from para (shield) + fango (mud) = ‘mudguard’

paracadute from para (protect from) + cadute (falls) = ‘parachute’

paralume from para (shield) + lume (light) = ‘lamp shade’

parafulmine from para (protect from) + fulmine (lightning) = ‘lightning-conductor’

N.B. para- as in ‘paramedic’ or ‘paramilitary’ has a different meaning. In this case para- means ‘beside’ as in ‘parallel’.



2. formed from the verb portare = to carry:

portapacchi from porta (carry) + pacchi (parcels) = ‘roof rack’

portachiavi from porta (carry) + chiavi (keys) = ‘key ring’

portacenere from porta (carry) + cenere (ash) = ‘ashtray’

portaerei from porta (carry) + aerei (airplanes) = ‘aircraft carrier’

portafoglio from porta (carry) + foglio (sheet / banknote) = ‘wallet’

portamonete from porta (carry) + monete (coins) = ‘purse’

portaombrelli from porta (carry) + ombrelli (umbrellas) = ‘umbrella stand’


portaocchiali from porta (carry) + occhiali (glasses) = ‘glasses case’



3. formed from the word capo (head / master / leader):

caposquadra from capo (head) + squadra (squad / team) = ‘foreman’ or ‘team leader’

capolinea from capo (head) + linea (line) = ‘bus or tram terminus’

capoluogo from capo (head) + luogo (place) = ‘main town’

capolavoro from capo (master) + lavoro (work) = ‘masterpiece’

capodanno  from capo (head) + d’anno (of the year) = ‘new year’s day’


4. odds and ends:

spazzaneve from spazzare (to sweep) +  neve  (snow) = ‘snow plough’

arcobaleno from arco (arch / bow) + baleno (flash of lightning) = ‘rainbow’

cassapanca from cassa (crate) + panca (bench) = ‘bench chest’ (it’s a sort of chest that you can sit on!)

colapasta from colare (to drain) + pasta (pasta) = ‘colander’

cavolfiore from cavolo (cabbage) + fiore (flower) = ‘cauliflower’

attaccapanni from attaccare (to attach) + panni (clothes) = ‘clothes peg’ or ‘clothes-stand’

reggiseno from reggere (to hold) + seno (breast) = ‘bra’

reggicalze from reggere (to hold) + calze (stockings / socks) = ‘suspender belt’ or ‘garter belt’

mangianastri from mangiare (to eat) + nastri (tapes) = ‘portable cassette player’

pescespada from pesce (fish) + spada (sword) = ‘swordfish’

grattacielo from grattare (to scratch) + cielo (sky) = ‘skyscraper’

salvagente from salvare (to save) + gente (people) = ‘lifebelt’ or ‘life-jacket’

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  1. Patricia:

    Grazie – Mi piacciono queste parole. Sono interesante.

  2. Vince:

    Salve Serena:

    ‘Parabrezza’ – I just look at this word and I hear the music.


  3. andreas:

    Salve Serena!
    La parola composta che mi piace molto e’ “pescecane”

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