In Italian language biographies of musicians, I am seeing the phrase "classe [year]". What does this idiom mean?

For example:

Nato a Kiev. classe 1988, Antonii Baryshevskyi iniziò a suonare il pianoforte all’età di sette anni. http://www.tcbo.it/eventi/uryupin-baryshevskyi/

Dan Ettinger, classe 1971, è tra i direttori più acclamati della sua generazione. http://www.tcbo.it/eventi/dan-ettinger/

I guess that the Italian word "classe" corresponds to the English word "class", meaning "group sharing characteristics", or "people who graduated from a school together in a particular year". But I don't know what characteristic these musicians would have that would be labelled with a year.

Does it refer to their birth year? Meaning, Baryshevskyi was born in 1988, and Ettinger was born in 1971?

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    Welcome to Italian.SE, @JimDeLaHunt! – Charo Nov 23 '19 at 16:46
  • Let me add to the great answers a personal remark: this use, while perfectly understandable in Italian, is not wholly standard, and denotes some affectation on the writer's part. – DaG Nov 23 '19 at 17:03
  • @DaG Wait, what do you mean by "not wholly standard"? It is even used on official documents (like the encomio for the classe del 1899), and where I'm from is certainly used by everyone – Denis Nardin Nov 23 '19 at 18:01
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    Right, @DenisNardin, “standard” isn't the best way to put it. To my ear it sounds either distinctly formal/bureaucratic (consistently with the encomio you mention) or as alluding (jocularly or, as seems to be the case in the OP's text, to elevate the tone) to those uses. Regional uses may differ, as always; in Rome, besides those cases, the last I heard/seen it was when compulsory military service was still a thing. – DaG Nov 23 '19 at 18:12

The expression is derived from the military.

Until some years ago, military service was compulsory for males and conscripts where called by year and the formed the classe del <year>. For instance, at the end of World War One, the “classe del 1899” was enlisted, but they got to be called “ragazzi del ’99” because of their young age. Actually also the “classe del 1900” got an anticipated call, but they just had training.

So, “classe 1988” means “born in 1988”.

It was common, at least in my region, to refer to somebody born the same year as “è un mio classe”.

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  • Ah, I always associated it with the school class instead, possibly because I never had to do military service. – Denis Nardin Nov 23 '19 at 16:27
  • @DenisNardin: I've seen this expression sometimes and I also always thought it had something to do with school classes. – Charo Nov 23 '19 at 17:50
  • @Charo I've never heard the year of birth associated to the school class, to be honest. – egreg Nov 23 '19 at 17:58
  • @egreg: I really didn't know that, it was simply something I imagined. – Charo Nov 23 '19 at 18:00
  • @egreg In US usage, "class of 2018" is a quite common expression to mean "people who finished high school in 2018" (referred to a specific school, usually). Example: laschoolreport.com/… – Federico Poloni Nov 24 '19 at 12:52

It means that they are born in that specific year.

For example:

Marco, classe 1967, etc...

It means that Marco is born in 1967

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    Welcome to Italian.SE! – Charo Nov 23 '19 at 16:45

Just to add a small detail to the excellent post by @egreg, here is an example from Italian literature of the original military use of this expression explained in their answer. It's an extract from the tale Michele a Guadalajara, published in the book L'impero in provincia by Francesco Jovine (unfortunately, it's a book that it's hard to find). It tells the story of some peasants enlisted by fascist Italy for the Spanish Civil War.

      Michele non era riuscito a passare avanti; ora stava facendo un debole tentativo di introdursi tra la siepe dei corpi che gli sbarrava la strada. Angelo lo prese alle spalle e gli disse in un orecchio:
      – Lascia fare a me; non ti muovere.
      Ventinove erano già arruolati; e ce ne erano almeno altri cinque che avrebbero voluto farlo; ma qui Angelo calzolaio balzò in prima fila e disse: – Ci sono io.
      Poi aggiunse fieramente tutto di un fiato:
      – Angelo Lafratta, classe 1907; ventidue mesi da permanente, campagna di Abissinia, medaglia di bronzo.

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