I noticed an inconsistency between the English word round and the Italian translation doppiare;
in the nautical slang we use round with the meaning of move/go/pass through a cape;
i.e. round the Cape of Good Hope

Translating it in Italian I noticed a peculiarity since doppiare comes from doppio, that is twice, and it is not logical, since when we overcome an obstacle we pass it, we do not pass it twice...

What is the origin of the Italian word?

  • 1
    It's not a complete answer, but according to the Vocabulary Treccani in this meaning it comes from the Spanish doblar. Maybe someone else can shed light on how this meaning arose in Spanish
    – Denis Nardin
    Sep 30, 2023 at 12:24
  • @DenisNardin doblar comes from latin word duplāre... this is not the right way...
    – mattia.b89
    Sep 30, 2023 at 13:07
  • It is clear that the link is with double, in Spanish, in Italian and in Latin. The problem, as I see in the question, is which is the connection between double and passing through a cape, which seems not so obvious. Sep 30, 2023 at 13:28
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    I just asked it on Spanish.SE: spanish.stackexchange.com/questions/42566/…
    – Quassnoi
    Oct 3, 2023 at 17:33
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    The double meaning raddoppiare and curvare is also in the Latin verb duplico dizionario-latino.com/… . I wonder if the verb duplo is a contraction of duplico. So, it seems to me that the connection between doppiare and curvare is not suprising, curvare is making double. Oct 4, 2023 at 8:55

2 Answers 2


I'm certainly not an expert in boating, but I can give a possible answer about the meaning and the origin of the term doppiare in nautical language.

And about its connection with the term doppio.

Nautical terminology is very complicated and there are dictionaries on this subject.

The following is a Dizionario del mare (Dictionary of the Sea), of 1932, and the entry doppiare can shed light on our problem:


I put the image of the entry doppiare below:

Definition of "doppiare" (part 1) Definition of "doppiare" (part 2)


Doppiare termine proprio della marina. Significa passare a breve distanza, descrivendo un breve giro, dall’una all’altra parte di un capo, di una punta, di un'isola. Quando si passa in linea retta si dice: montare.

The dictionary describes two ways of passing through a cape, doppiare and montare.

Doppiare un capo means passing a short distance from a cape (or an island), describing a turn. Instead, when the cape is passed along a straight line the term is montare.

Therefore, but this is my conjecture, when a boat doppia a cape, it goes, in a sense, twice along the cape: it goes along the first side, then it passes the point of the cape and then goes again along the other side of the cape.

This seems to me not very different from the English term 'round', which also suggests a curved movement, not a straight line.

And the origin from the Spanish term doblar, mentioned by Denis Nardin in the comments, seems to confirm this connection between curvare, girare and raddoppiare, both present in the Spanish term doblar.

  • 1
    I like your explanation; let's see if someone else can prove it
    – mattia.b89
    Sep 30, 2023 at 13:14
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    cf English "double back", to turn around and go back on the same path. Not the same, but also not entirely dissimilar.
    – psmears
    Sep 30, 2023 at 21:50
  • I see, interesting, thank you. Sep 30, 2023 at 22:32
  • I think one possible connection to "doppio" is about ropes. Doing a "double-rope" (corda doppia in Italian) using a single rope makes it draw a tight round turn on one end. Nov 23, 2023 at 22:59
  • I don't understand why you rejected my edit. Dec 7, 2023 at 23:53

"To double" and its friends meaning "to round a cape" is a thing in many languages, including English, Italian, Spanish and French (and probably others).

I don't have anything to back it up with, but my hunch is that in this sense it's been conflated with or at least influenced by Latin duplex or one of its descendants (rather than its direct ancestor duplus), and it has more to do with the -plex part (whence piegare "to flex, bend") than with the du- part.

It probably happened in one Romance language and then got calqued by the other ones (and later borrowed by English).

If it were true, this word would have semantic parallels in many more languages, including Russian обогнуть, Homeric Greek περιγνάμπτω, English "to lap", all meaning "to go around an obstacle" and descending from a root meaning "to fold, bend".

  • La tua idea è interessante (+1), perché chiama in causa il suffisso moltiplicativo -plex, l’equivalente dell’italiano -plice e dell’inglese -fold. Che a sua volta viene dalla radice indoeuropea -plek (parte, piega, intreccio). Esprime la complessità di un oggetto (in base al numero di piegamenti), duplice, semplice, molteplice etc. vedi ad esempio dico.unime.it/2016/02/17/la-complessita-del-semplice (è un servizio della Università di Messina). Oct 3, 2023 at 14:27
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    Però, non mi è chiaro perché doppiare (dal doblar spagnolo, a sua volta dal duplare latino) debba venire proprio da duplex e non da simplex o triplex o complex etc., visto che quello che importa è il suffisso -plex. Non lo so, possono avvenire pure cose strane nella storia della lingua, ma che possa esserci un nesso tra raddoppiare e piegare mi sembra abbastanza intuitivo (‘due pieghe’), anche nel caso delle navi che girano intorno a un ostacolo. Oct 3, 2023 at 14:28
  • In spagnolo questo doppio significato, raddoppiare e piegare di doblar è esplicito, e forse si potrebbe capire in spagnolo da dove viene questo duplice significato, ma non conosco lo spagnolo. Si potrebbe vedere anche il latino duplare, ma purtroppo ora non ho a disposizione il dizionario grande cartaceo, e quelli online sono inguardabili, per quel poco che ho visto. Oct 3, 2023 at 14:29
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    Thanks @BakerStreet I did not know about DICO; I wrote them, too
    – mattia.b89
    Oct 3, 2023 at 15:48

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