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I always had trouble translating "cool" in Italian.

It's tempting to translate the English term "cool" with "figo"; this seems to convey the wide meaning of cool well enough (surely better than other common translations like "fantastico" or "forte"), but the register is often inappropriate.

"Cool" is less colloquial than "figo", and, most importantly, it doesn't have any vulgar connotation; I can say that something is "figo" when talking with a friend, but I would never say it to my boss or write it in an advertisement (while I've seen "cool" used in almost any non-extremely-formal context).

So: is there some way to convey both the wide meaning and the register of "cool" in Italian?

  • 5
    In Tuscany we say "ganzo" and its meaning is really near to "cool", but it's a regional word. It's understood by all Italians, but it's normally used only in Tuscany, I think. "ganzo" sometimes (and still in Tuscany, I believe) is used also to identify an extramarital lover. For example, you can say "Luisa ha il ganzo", "Lorenzo ha la ganza", though I don't hear it very often, it's mostly used by old people and it depends on a location. – Andrea May 28 '14 at 10:41
  • I heard "ganzo" used often in translations, since it has the same semantic and a similar register of "cool" (IIRC in Italian translations of Calvin & Hobbes it's used very often), but, at least to me (I'm from Milan) it sounds a bit "forced" (I don't know why, but it feels a bit like adult people who try to imitate teen slang). – Matteo Italia May 28 '14 at 11:39
  • (OTOH, I agree that it's often a "safe" translation with generally no negative/vulgar perceived connotation, so +1 :) ) – Matteo Italia May 28 '14 at 11:48
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    I find the alternatives (even the ones proposed in the accepted answer) almost terrible: if forced to translate "cool" in an advertisement, for example, either I'd try to find some workaround, or I'd go for "cool", untranslated. See: garzantilinguistica.it/ricerca/?q=cool – gd1 Jun 6 '14 at 12:41
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    To the answerers giving replies about local terms used in specific towns: while they are interesting in and of themselves, they are OT in a site about Italian language, and specifically in response to a question asking how to express a particular concept in Italian. At most, they are comments. – DaG Mar 9 '15 at 15:00
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I'm afraid there's no way of conveying both meaning and register.

Here's a few options, each one of them has issues

  • figo, vulgar connotation, possibly NSFW
  • fico, slightly less vulgar than figo, but probably not enough
  • bello, appropriate in some contexts, but it generally loses the meaning
  • forte, only works in some sentences (Forte quel tipo!, Forte!), but it can have other meanings
  • tosto, again, works only with specific sentences

The only word I know people have being using to translate cool almost directly is togo.

I came to know it as an expression used in the popular sitcom Camera Cafè by the character Silvano, but it apparently has older origins. According to the comments it was used a lot in the 80's, but I don't know the etymology of it.

It has basically the same meaning of figo, without the vulgar connotation. However it sounds a little bit weird/lame, and I wouldn't feel comfortable in using it nowadays. Nonetheless I've heard people saying it in exclamations (and I always look at them suspiciously...)

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    my cousins from Cosenza were using togo a lot 10-20 years ago, I think it's still used – mucio Nov 12 '13 at 17:45
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    togo was widely used in the 80's in Lombardy. I would also add "figata" as a lighter version of "figo" – Sklivvz Nov 12 '13 at 17:49
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    @Sklivvz thanks, I added a note about the use of togo, since apparently you and mucio agree on it being used in the 80s. However I'm not sure that figata is lighter than figo. – Gabriele Petronella Nov 12 '13 at 17:53
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    Well done, answer accepted; I thought that this could probably be a very common question, so now we have something to link. – Matteo Italia Nov 12 '13 at 19:27
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    I'm not sure that the difference between “figo” and “fico” is so much in degree as it is in regional origin, the former being more of a northern form, the latter central-southern, as in “cagare” vs. “cacare”. Cf. youtu.be/HJ0Yh5wZjpc – DaG Nov 12 '13 at 22:29
6

You can use "bello" or "grande" (beside "fantastico" and "forte" that you've mentioned) to translate "cool".

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    Their meaning is not the same as "cool". Bello is too generic, it doesn't convey the "coolness". "Forte" would work just as an exclamation ("Cool!" -> "Forte!"). How would you translate all those hideous titles like "the 10 coolest gadgets", "the coolest place to work" & co.? – Matteo Italia Nov 12 '13 at 16:23
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    in these cases "cool" means something between "molto interessante" and "alla moda/del momento", but also "attraente": I 10 gadget del momento or Il posto di lavoro più attraente. Unfortunately transalation is never 1 to 1 – mucio Nov 12 '13 at 16:48
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    another way to translate cool can be also "giusto", but it sounds to me quite old fashioned. "The Fonz is cool" can be transalted "Fonzie è uno giusto". So "I 10 gadget più giusti del momento", "Il posto di lavoro più 'giusto'", but in the second case better specify with quotation marks – mucio Nov 12 '13 at 16:51
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    Eh, "giusto" could have been a great candidate... 30 years ago :) +1 anyway, I know there's no universal solution – Matteo Italia Nov 12 '13 at 19:24
4

"Splendido!" can be used, too.

It refers to something being wonderful. It´s origin is the infinitive "splendere" which means "shine".

It is used more by adult people but can be used for every situation where something stands out from the usual.

  • Welcome to Italian.SE! This, more than an answer, looks like a comment. Would you please try and expand it? – egreg Jun 6 '14 at 17:27
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    you should explain when "splendido" may be used. – mau Jun 7 '14 at 8:17
4

You could say

forte

bello

fantastico

or

buono

Buono is used more for good even though.

2

"Splendido" is a perfect translation of cool; of course only one of them. In the Free Dictionary Online you will find "excellent" and "first rate" (from the American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language 2011) and "sophisticated" and "elegant" (from the Collin's English Dictionary). Sometimes that is exactly what "cool" means.
The use of "splendido" has also another advantage: whoever wants to learn our language does not really need to learn fico, figo and figata, which I simply find ghastly.

I imagine that the downvote does not refer to the first paragraph. So there must be somebody around who actually prefers the definitions: fico, figo and figata. My warmest wishes (real, not joking) for the future.

Just two days ago I recommended to two teachers of our primary and secondary schools, where the use of those words is unfortunately common, to try all they can to explain to their students that ours is a beautiful language which has much better words for the same meaning, so there is no need to use vulgar expressions.

And here's the Italian:

"Splendido" è una perfetta traduzione di "cool"; naturalmente solo una fra le tante. Nel Free Dictionary Online possiamo trovare "excellent" e "first rate" (dall'American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language 2011) e "sophisticated" ed "elegant" (dal Collin's English Dictionary). A volte quello è esattamente ciò che si intende per "cool".
L'uso di "splendido" ha anche un altro vantaggio: chiunque voglia imparare la nostra lingua non ha davvero bisogno di imparare fico, figo and figata, che trovo semplicemente terribili.

Immagino che il voto negativo non si riferisca al primo partagrafo. Quindi ci deve essere qualcuno che preferisce davvero le definizioni: fico, figo and figata. I miei più sentiti auguri (sinceri, non scherzo), per il futuro.

Proprio due giorni fa ho raccomandato a due insegnanti delle nostre scuole elementari e medie, dove l'uso di quelle parole è sfortunatamente comune, di cercare di fare tutto quello che possono per spiegare ai loro studenti che la nostra è una bella lingua che ha parole molto migliori con lo stesso significato, quindi non c'è bisogno di usare espressioni volgari.

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