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I have read the following sentence in https://www.wordreference.com/iten/conoscere:

Conosco Sergio fin dai tempi dell'università.

It is translated as "I've known Sergio since we were in university", but I don't understand how. Is "fin" a reduced version of "fino" or "fine"? "Fino" is "until" and "fine" is end, so I am lost. Maybe "fino/fine dai tempi" is a fixed expression?

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Yes, here it is a truncated form of fino. And fino doesn't mean necessarily “until” but rather designates, or highlights, an initial or final endpoint of something. See Treccani's entry or, in the words of De Mauro's dictionary,1

seguito da preposizione o avverbio, indica il limite al quale si arriva o dal quale si parte

Fin dai tempi (di qualcosa) is something of a standard phrase, but you can use fin(o) in this sense in any number of other phrases: fin dal Medioevo, fin da quando ci siamo conosciuti, fin da ora, the inelegant expression fin da subito and so on.

Notice that in several cases, and in all of the above examples, fin(o) isn't strictly necessary, but stresses the extension back in time of the time period we are talking about. Fin dal Medioevo is more or less “since the Middle Age” and “already in the Middle Age” rolled in one.

And one would say Ti amo fin dal primo momento in cui ti ho vista to highlight the fact that not even a minute elapsed from the first sighting and the falling in love.

1 Since the OP has shown to prefer it to other dictionaries.

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  • Unfortunately, De Mauro's has not examples of this usage of departure point. In Treccani, as my example sentences, "fin" and "da" are always used together in this context. Doesn't "da" already imply a departure point? "fin" seems redundant to me. Don't "Conosco Sergio dai tempi dell'università" and "Conosco Sergio fin dai tempi dell'università" mean the same? Sep 25 '19 at 15:55
  • This what I referred to, fleetingly, by “highlights”. Let me slightly expand my answer.
    – DaG
    Sep 25 '19 at 15:57
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    So, in Sergio's example, adding fin stresses that you and Sergio go way back.
    – DaG
    Sep 25 '19 at 16:03
  • @AlanEvangelista: I forgot: in other contexts, less usually, fin may well be a truncation for fine too: in fin dei conti or alla fin fine, for instance.
    – DaG
    Sep 25 '19 at 16:09

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