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Develop Your Vocabulary: Italian Words Used In English

Updated: Nov 24

slices of pizza on a table
Pizza - an Italian word used in English


In other articles that I’ve written I have addressed the number of French, Spanish, and Hindi-Urdu words that are commonplace in English.

Additionally, many words from the Italian language also have entered the everyday use of English. English really is a hybrid language, always changing and integrating words from other languages.

Italian words commonly used in English are to do with food. Indeed, they are foods regularly offered around the world. So, I would suggest that instead of pointing at a menu item to order, it’s much better to be able to ask for them instead.

Music, wine, and coffee also contain many Italian words. And then there are several words that cannot be categorised so, when I do, I’ll present them as a loose collection of words.

In this article, I’ll start with a list of twenty-five words focusing on food and coffee, and I’ll continue that list in a later blog piece.

Each word is explained and given a pronunciation guide (UK and Australian, but not American) as well.

So, here is the first list of twenty-five commonly used words used in food and cooking.

The 25 Words to Develop Your Vocabulary

1 al fresco – /æl ˈfres.kəʊ/ translated as in the open air, it is applied to eating outside a restaurant, perhaps at a table on the footpath.

2 al dente – /ˌæl ˈden.teɪ/ translated as ‘to the tooth’ it means that pasta is cooked and ready to serve. The pasta should be bitten easily.

3 Pasta – /ˈpæs.tə/ (mentioned above) is a dough stamped into various shapes and cooked in boiling water (to the al dente stage) and usually served with a (tomato) sauce. There are many kinds of pasta: rigatoni, spaghetti, vermicelli noodles, linguine etc. – all words from the Italian language.

4 Pizza – /ˈpiːt.sə/ a well-known and used word in English is a flat bread topped with sliced or diced vegetables, meats (e.g. salami, pepperoni, and prosciutto), and cheese (often mozzarella) and baked in an oven. Neapolitan pizza (and pasta) comes from the city of Naples in Italy.

5 Mozzarella /ˌmɒt.səˈrel.ə/ (mentioned above) is a soft cheese used often on pizzas.

6 Bolognese /ˌbɒl.əˈneɪz/ (from the city of Bologna in the north of Italy) is a rich, meaty sauce usually paired with spaghetti as ‘Spaghetti Bolognese’.

7 Lasagna – /ləˈzæn.jə/ a flat layers of pasta interspersed with layers of meaty tomato sauce and cheese. Lasagna is the name of the whole dish while lasagne refers to the type of pasta/noodles used.

8 Macaroni – /ˌmæk.ərˈəʊ.ni/ another type of pasta made into thin short tubes. ‘Mac and Cheese’ is a popular American dish.

9 Gnocchi – /ˈnjɒk.i/ small round or oblong shaped pieces of dough made with potato, eggs and flour, boiled in water, and then mixed with a (tomato) sauce.

10 Parmigiana – /ˌpɑː.mɪˈʒɑː.nə/ Traditional parmigiana is made with eggplants and zucchini (a vegetarian version of the Lasagna) but it has ‘morphed’ into, especially Australia, where it refers to the crumbed and baked chicken pieces topped with a tomato sauce and cheese – a ‘Chicken Parma/Parmi’.

11 Focaccia – /fəˈkætʃ.ə/ a flat shaped and dimpled Italian bread, crisp on the outside and soft in the middle, eaten with lots of olive oil drizzled on it.

12 Panini – /pəˈniː.ni/ a toasted Italian bread sandwich.

13 Bruschetta – /bruˈsket.ə/ is a slice of Italian bread often rubbed with garlic, topped with olive oil, tomato and salt, and either toasted in an oven or grilled.

14 Biscotti – /bɪˈskɒt.i/ (meaning twice baked) are oblong-shaped almond flavoured cookies/biscuits that are great for dipping into a cup of coffee.

15 Minestrone – /ˌmɪn.ɪˈstrəʊ.ni/ a chunky Italian tomato-based soup with vegetables, pasta, beans, and potato.

16 Broccoli – /ˈbrɒk.əl.i/ a green cabbage like vegetable, often cut into florets (like small trees) and stir-fried, baked, or steamed.

17 Zucchini – /zuˈkiː.ni/ a vegetable, also known as a courgette, a summer marrow, is a long green-skinned vegetable with a pale yellow flesh inside.

18 Pistachio – /pɪˈstæʃ.i.əʊ/ it sounds Italian, doesn’t it? That’s why it’s here. But, as a nut from the cashew family, it comes from Afghanistan, Central Asia, and Iran.

19 Scampi – /ˈskæm.pi/ also known in the UK as Langoustines, Italian scampi are small, orange/pink prawn-like (even lobster-like) crustaceans with long, thin claws.

20 Espresso – /esˈpres.əʊ/ a thicker and more intense type of coffee which is brewed under high pressure, rather than simply pouring boiling water onto coffee (the instant kind of coffee).

21 Cappuccino – /ˌkæp.uˈtʃiː.nəʊ/ an espresso coffee made with steamed milk and milk foam on top.

22 Latte – /ˈlæt.eɪ/ essentially a Cappuccino coffee without the foam on top.

23 Gelato – /dʒəˈlɑː.təʊ/ (plural gelati) is an Italian frozen dessert. It is similar to ice-cream but gelati are softer and denser than the lighter, fluffier (and higher in fat) American-style ice cream.

24 Pancetta – /pænˈtʃet.ə/ similar to bacon, it is salt-cured not smoked and is taken from the belly meat of a pig.

To end this list I give you, fittingly:

25 “Ciao” – /tʃaʊ/ Italians use it as both a greeting and a word of farewell, but it seems more common to use it to say ‘goodbye’.


The aim of this article has been to develop your vocabulary. What you have just read is a list of quite common Italian words that have entered the English language. I hope you have enjoyed reading and perhaps learning to become more familiar with these words related to cooking, foods, and coffee from the Italian language.

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(c) Apex English Tutoring - July 2023

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About the Author

Michael Finemore, MA (Research) CQU, TEFL/TESOL Certificate, an experienced English Teacher, is the Owner-Operator of Apex English Tutoring.

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