Google translate says piano is "plan", "floor", etc. However, I've heard that "piano, piano" could translate to "little by little". Is that an accurate translation? Does "piano" mean other things than just "floor"?

  • 3
    There are several online Italian-English dictionaries (WordReference etc.), and they are on the whole unsatisfactory; the least evil is perhaps en.wiktionary.org (see here for piano piano, and check the several Italian meanings of piano too). But one thing you should studiously avoid, and it is Google Translate. It is worse than just guessing, worse than asking a friend, worse than nothing.
    – DaG
    Commented Feb 20, 2015 at 21:27
  • @DaG, Google Translate is not that bad. In fact, if you try it out, it translates piano piano as slowly. If you only type piano, you have to open the list of possible translations to find its translations as an adverb. Google Translate is particularly useful for groups of words. Commented Feb 21, 2015 at 15:28
  • Talking of dictionaries, for those who also speak German, I recommend dict.leo.org (also in Italian). It correctly lists 4 translations of piano piano. For the single-word ones, it is just a matter of selecting the German word and selecting "English<>German" instead of "Italian<>German". It is a process with 2 degrees of freedom, but if you know some German it is very effective. Commented Feb 21, 2015 at 15:50
  • @Dag: One additional information about Google Translate: what I have been able to observe is that it uses English as the intermediate language if neither source nor target language are English, with overall bad, and sometimes hilarious, results. Commented Feb 21, 2015 at 15:56
  • @WalterTross: Yes, Google Translate may have some uses, but is definitely unsuitable for someone learning a language. Real, good dictionaries take pains to distinguish different meanings and nuances, while GT, in the best scenario, just throws them all together, and in the worst and most usual omits some of them.
    – DaG
    Commented Feb 21, 2015 at 23:48

3 Answers 3


Piano is a very peculiar word in Italian because it has several meanings, all deducted by context:

It means:

  1. Softly\Slowly\Quietly\Soft\Slow\Quiet (Adv\Adj.) as in your case: "Ci siamo conosciuti piano piano". We knew each other little by little. "Parla più piano!". "Speak quieter!"

  2. Flat (Adj.): "La strada era abbastanza piana". "The road was quite flat".

  3. Flat\Plane land (Noun): "La casa era costruita in piano". "The house was built on flat land."

  4. Plane (Noun): As in mathematics: "Piano cartesiano". "Cartesian Plane".

  5. Piano (Noun): As in the instrument (better, pianoforte): "Lei ha suonato il piano". "She played the piano".

  6. Plan (Noun): "Abbiamo un ottimo piano". "We have a great plan".

  7. Floor (Noun): "Abitare al primo piano". "Living on the first floor".

  8. Slow Down! (Adverb): "Piano!". "Slow down!". This is true both for the figurative and the literal meaning. You can also find the form "Vai piano!" for the literal and the form "Vacci piano!" for the figurative.


It could have several meanings:

Floor (noun):

Abito al secondo piano

Slow/gently (adverb):

Non correre, vai piano!

Avvicinati piano piano (little by little)

Piano (musical instrument)

Suoni il piano? (also "pianoforte")

Plan (noun)

Qual è il tuo piano? (What's your plan?)


My cousin in Italy always said, "piano e piano" as I struggled to speak Italian. It's an italian phrase meaning little by little or step by step. "Pieno" means full.

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