One of the favorite Italian filler words, that is, what you say when you're gathering your thoughts, is 'in somma'. It occurs to me that in basically the only text which purports to faithfully reproduce the Latin colloquial, the Satyricon, one of the characters does use 'ad summum' is his filler expression. Is 'in somma' as a filler expression a modern development or is it possible that this has been the go to filler expression on the Italian peninsula for 2000 years?

I realize we don't have any colloquially written Italian for a very long time and that by 1950 only 2% of the population was speaking the Italian used today, still, if any colloquial is found that is very old and 'in summa' is in there that might be good evidence that this filler expression never died out from the 1st century.


1 Answer 1


In modern Italian it's spelt as a single word (insomma).

As to its origins, dictionaries give as its origin in somma, either as a Latin or an Italian phrase.

Notice that a somma is the result of an addition (a “sum”): with insomma you're summing up your conclusions, basically. Latin ad summum, on the other hand, means “toward the highest point”, or figuratively “to the utmost”; see for instance https://dizionari.corriere.it/dizionario_latino/Latino/S/summum_1.shtml

(Somma in the meaning of “sum” comes itself indirectly from the same adjective summus, but through a longer path.)

  • Thanks but you answered a different question. My question is not: "is the meaning of 'insomma' similar to the meaning of 'ad summum?'" rather my question is: do we have any evidence that 'insomma' has been a filler expression (an expression you say when you're collecting your thoughts) for as long as we've had records of that type of speech act?
    – bobsmith76
    Apr 23, 2023 at 9:33
  • @bobsmith76 Thanks for clarifying, but I'm not sure I understand yet. As for “this filler expression never died out from the 1st century”, the premise is false since insomma didn't exist in the 1st century; according to Zingarelli it dates from about 1261. If you're asking about all kinds of “filler expression” of this general kind, in both Latin and Italian, the question seems off topic about Latin (but there is a SE about Latin) and quite broad about Italian.
    – DaG
    Apr 23, 2023 at 13:41
  • And anyhow, I see now that I was somehow answering to the question as phrased in the title: “Does 'in somma' directly descend from the Latin 'ad summum"”, and I have shown that the answer is “no”.
    – DaG
    Apr 23, 2023 at 13:42
  • The filler expression used by some people of the Italian peninsula in the first century CE was 'ad summum', at least given the minor evidence that we have. So what I'm trying to figure out is if that expression remained the filler expression of the people of the Italian Peninsula except that a few syllables were slightly altered. The fact that 'insomma' dates from 1261 does not help things because we need to know if it was used a filler expression. Of course we have no evidence of what the filler expression was for a very long time. But if it can be shown that
    – bobsmith76
    Apr 23, 2023 at 22:53
  • 'insomma' only recently became a filler expression in the last 30 years or so that that at least would be evidence against the theory.
    – bobsmith76
    Apr 23, 2023 at 22:56

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.