When I was at the elementary schools, I was taught that scancellare is not correct, and that I should always say cancellare. When I grew up, I have heard that scancellare is correct, and that the initial S is, someway, an intensifier.

Is scancellare really correct/acceptable? If it is not in standard Italian, is it acceptable in some contexts? For example, could be acceptable as regionalism?

Lo Zingarelli 2013 reports scancellare, but it says it is lett. pop. (I guess it means it is literary and popular.) The application I use on my Mac links scancellare to cancellare, which means that, looking for scancellare, I get the description for cancellare with just a small reference to scancellare.


What I am asking is if it is a word I could use in a formal context, during school tests, or similar contexts.

  • treccani.it/vocabolario/scancellare
    – DaG
    Nov 11, 2013 at 10:36
  • 1
    To follow up my link: sorry, kiamlaluno, but this is just an example of the kind of “easily answerable” questions I mentioned in a Meta question (meta.italian.stackexchange.com/questions/21/…). A quick lookup in a dictionary reveals that “scancellare” is an actual, if popular, Italian word in use, with modern examples from Luigi Capuana and Eugenio Montale. So it would have been better to do a little research and, if something was still unclear, to ask a more specific question, after summing up what can be easily found out.
    – DaG
    Nov 11, 2013 at 10:50
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    The fact Eugenio Montale used scancellare doesn't mean it can be used in formal writing, or at school, nor that scancellare is not a regionalism.
    – apaderno
    Nov 11, 2013 at 11:08
  • Thanks for enriching your question with the Zingarelli reference. Neither of these two dictionaries (nor Devoto-Oli nor DOP) mark the word as “regional”. Do you have some hint that it might be? As for using it in formal writing, it shares with “sé stesso” and several other words and phrases the completely undeserved repute of being “wrong”, so you might be scolded (or simply assumed to be something of an ignorant) for using it, again undeservedly.
    – DaG
    Nov 11, 2013 at 11:15
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    Dictionaries cannot replace a native speaker, for the simple reason there are nuances in using a word that cannot be described in a dictionary. As native speaker, I still don't understand in which contexts scancellare would be acceptable, since the word could be used to imitate how people without an instruction speak.
    – apaderno
    Nov 11, 2013 at 11:44

3 Answers 3


I would avoid it in anything but informal conversation; the correct Italian form is "cancellare", and in my experience using "scancellare" in formal contexts (or even just in written form) is definitely inappropriate.

Maybe I'm biased because I heard it often in elementary school, but I'd say that, more than a "popular" word, it feels like a childhood word, like other dubious intensives (I remember that at some point we all called the pencil sharpener "attemperamatite" instead of "temperamatite" :) ).


In Italian the s- prefix has two functions:

  1. denote the opposite action, like in tappare/stappare, mettere/smettere

  2. denote an “intensive” action, like in

    • forzare/sforzare
    • correre/scorrere
    • calciare/scalciare

The three “intensified” verbs above denote a slight different action, but nobody would interpret scorrere with the meaning not be running.

For a horse we'd use scalciare rather than calciare (both mean to kick). I see no reason for prohibiting the two usages

  • Cancella quello cha hai scritto (erase what you wrote)
  • Ho scancellato la lavagna (I erased the blackboard)

where the intensive prefix has its function to denote a “personal” action, like for the horse that scalcia.

The word scancellare has centuries of history: the Treccani dictionary reports it being used by Poliziano (1454-1494). The war against it made in elementary schools is really stupid.


I agree that it is popular and most time considered an error. Moreover, in Italian you have words that get opposite meaning if you add an S at the beginning: tappare/Stappare, chiudere/Schiudere, fatto/Sfatto so if you follow this line scancellare should be interpreted as "undelete". Of course when used it has the meaning of delete, therefore scancellare is both popular and not so logical.

  • 2
    Your argument does not really hold, as undelete is a neologism, born with computers (once you delete something on paper it's gone, so undelete really did not have any meaning in the past). Scancellare, on the other hand, was used in the past as pointed out by the other answers.
    – nico
    Jan 5, 2014 at 20:58

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