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Gettare, lanciare, tirare, scagliare all mean “to throw”. Which word is used as to throwing a ball? What situations are the other words used in?

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This list is sorted by use frequency:

  • tirare: this is classical "to throw", by hand or by foot

  • lanciare: usually when the ball is thrown by hand

  • scagliare: this is very uncommon, it's usually used when you throw the ball against someone, and that's usually specified. "Gli ha scagliato la palla contro" is an example. Since it represents an offensive act, intended to hurt someone, its use is very uncommon for a ball.

Gettare (as buttare) isn't used with this meaning, it rather means "to throw away".

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    Rather than giving an answer, let me comment RicoRally's good one, but in need of some qualification. Gettare is now mostly used in the sense of gettare via, but its first meaning is indeed “to throw” (see Treccani which gives, among others, the example «g. un sasso (in un luogo, contro qualcuno)»). And “shot put” event is getto del peso in Italian. The OP might want to also keep in mind that tirare is a very versatile verb: it means “to throw”, but also “to pull”, “to drag”, “to attract”, “to draw”... Better check a good dictionary.
    – DaG
    Nov 24 '14 at 10:10
  • @DaG Indeed checking a good dictionary is better. Also please note that my answer was considering just the "ball" case. But thank you for the clarification.
    – RicoRally
    Nov 24 '14 at 10:16
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    To add my 2 cents, i have lots of experience in also hearing 'tirare' as used to throw something against somebody. "Tirare un pugno", "Tirare un sasso". Might it be because of my origins in the south?
    – funforums
    Nov 27 '14 at 16:30
  • I can add that "tirare" can be used when you throw something taking the aim Feb 7 '18 at 15:09

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