In English, a person who loves books is known as a bibliophile. The only translation that I can find for this word in Italian is bibliofilo which is deeply disappointing, given that the language is so adaptive. Is there a word which is not an Italian conversion of a word stolen from French by English for this sort of person?

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    I wouldn't be so sure that the process didn't go the other way round, that is, "biliofilo" is a composite word of ancient Greek origin, it should be English the language who took it from Romance languages. Commented Aug 1, 2014 at 8:57
  • I think Robyn meant that "bibliophile" was originally French and that both Italian and English "stole" it from French (which is certainly true for English, but I wouldn't be so sure about Italian).
    – user193
    Commented Aug 1, 2014 at 12:39
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    Thanks for jumping to my defence @randomatlabuser. As a native English speaker I am well aware of of the kleptomaniac history of my language. As a student of Italian, I love the way that it builds new words. My latest favourite is 'palestrato', derived from palestra, and is far more interesting than gym junkie. I will probably never master Italian, but at least I am trying.
    – Jim's Mum
    Commented Aug 2, 2014 at 11:58
  • As Machiavelli used to say, «Ma quella lingua si chiama d’una patria, la quale convertisce i vocaboli ch’ella ha accattati da altri nell’uso suo, et è sí potente che i vocaboli accattati non la disordinano, ma ella disordina loro» which is probably true for both Italian and English :-)
    – user193
    Commented Aug 2, 2014 at 22:03

2 Answers 2


Not really sure why you are disappointed... but that is the word commonly used and I am not aware of any common synonym, unless you use a periphrasis and say collezionista di libri.

On the issue of whether it is a French loan-word I am not completely sure, but then again, the French word comes from Greek as well (βιβλίον "book" and ϕιλία "love").

I could find an usage of bibliofilo already in the early 18th century, and Goldoni uses it in his "Memorie" (1795).

EDIT: following from egreg's comment, I looked for instances of bibliophile in other languages.

Google Books lists a Bulletin du bibliophile, du bibliothécaire et de la Société des amis de la Bibliothèque nationale et des grandes bibliothèques de France dated 1833

As noted by egreg, the OED has a 1824 quote for bibliophile

1824 Dibdin Libr. Comp. 780 The work‥has been reprinted by the Society of *Bibliophiles at Paris.

This suggests the word pre-dates this time, at least in France (since a Society of Bibliophiles apparently existed in Paris).

Data from Google Ngram shows pretty much the same trend (note that those peaks in the 1600 are spurious. Essentially they come from modern reprints of old books, and the word bibliophile is not actually in the body of the old book) If anything I would say that the word started getting used pretty much at the same time in Italy and France, and was later adopted in English.

nGram for "bibliophile" in various languages

EDIT 2: I would also add another possibility, which is bibliomane, corresponding to the English bibliomaniac. This, however, has a slightly negative connotation, which is well explained by the Enciclopedia Treccani at bibliomania

Se l'amore dei libri è la bibliofilia, la mania per essi è chiamata da circa due secoli bibliomania. Si può dire, a mo' di definizione, che, sino a tanto che la scelta dei libri d'una collezione si fonda sull'interesse tipografico, letterario, storico o artistico ch'essi presentano, il raccoglitore è degno del titolo di bibliofilo; mentre, ogni volta ch'egli si lascia guidare dal capriccio o dalla moda, non è altro che un bibliomane.

That page refers to a French book, called De la bibliomanie, dated 1761. Furthermore, they explain how the phenomenon probably predates the word!

Ma la bibliomania riappare quando, per esempio, un compratore del Lattanzio di Subiaco (1465), il primo libro datato che si sia stampato in Italia, insisterà per avere - pagandolo assai caro - un esemplare contenente il foglietto di errata, cioè un esemplare della seconda impressione che, in virtù di questa moda inesplicabile, e contrariamente alla regola, varrà, per una volta, assai più della prima.

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    And the Oxford English dictionary says the English bibliophile appeared in early 19th century.
    – egreg
    Commented Aug 1, 2014 at 9:10
  • @nico, that sounds very plausible!
    – user193
    Commented Aug 1, 2014 at 12:52
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    @nico, Thank you for your very comprehensive response to my question. Look like I will go with 'bibliofila' to add to my description of myself in Italian.
    – Jim's Mum
    Commented Aug 2, 2014 at 11:38
  • @Jim's Mum: glad it helped. Please, see also my last edit :)
    – nico
    Commented Aug 2, 2014 at 12:27

It appears that bibliofilo is the only word equivalent to the English bibliophile. If you must really use a synonym, you can say topo di biblioteca, which has the same meaning but belongs to a lower registry.

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    That is an option although, to my ear, bibliofilo has a slight implication of someone collecting books, because he loves them. A topo di biblioteca (in English bookworm) refers more to someone obsessively reading books, but not necessarily collecting them. But I am probably nitpicking... (and obviously the two are not mutually exclusive!)
    – nico
    Commented Aug 2, 2014 at 12:36

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