From what I understand, "L'Ottocento" refers to the English equivalent of the 19th century (1801-1900). Is there a specific reason or any additional context as to why this term would refer to the 1800s and not the 800s as its literal translation would imply?


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According to Luca Serianni in section VI.21 of his book Italiano, the expression "l'Ottocento" can also be used for 9th century, ante or post Christum natum, depending on the context. This is what is explained in the book:

Nei numerali usati per i secoli dall'XI in poi può mancare la cifra delle migliaia. («il '300») o, in lettere, la parola mille («il Trecento»; si potrebbe pensare anche al IV secolo, prima o dopo Cristo: ma sarà il contesto a decidere). Nella sequenza di più centinaia indicanti secoli si può omettere cento nel primo membro (o nei primi membri) della serie: «un lirico italiano del Cinque o dell'Ottocento» (Leopardi, cit. in PASQUALI 1968: 172).

My translation:

In the numerals used for the centuries from the 11th onwards, the thousands figure may be missing («il '300») or, if written in letters, the word mille can be omitted ("il Trecento"; one could also think of the 4th century, ante or post Christum natum: the context will decide). In the sequence of several "hundreds" indicating centuries the word cento can be omitted in the first member (or in the first members) of the sequence: "un lirico italiano del Cinque o dell'Ottocento" (Leopardi, quoted in PASQUALI 1968: 172).

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