I have come across the word "centralina", and more specifically "centralina privata". The building is found in a rural mountainous setting. Having looked up the word in various dictionaries I have come up with the following translations:

  • centralina telefonica (telephone branch exchange)
  • centralina elettrica (electrical power plant)
  • centralina termica (thermal power plant)
  • centralina idraulica (hydrdaulic plant)

However, I'm not sure which one to choose. Given that the setting is a village of roughly 2,000 people, I was thinking it would be an "electrical power plant", perhaps someone can comment on this.

Also, it seems to me, that when talking about PBX (private telephone branch exchanges), the words "centralina" and "centralino" are used interchangeably. Is this correct?


  • 1
    A centralina is not a power plant: it is a small control centre (often, cabinet-sized) to switch on and off, and perform some regulations on, an electrical line (or a water conduit etc.). As for how to say it in English, this is not the right site.
    – DaG
    Oct 27, 2015 at 21:23
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    Yeah, my dictionary lists it as a "local plant" or "control unit". I guess by plant something different than power plant is meant? What is the difference? I'm just trying to get the picture. What's the difference between a control centre and a power plant? Power comes from both, correct? Sorry for my ignorance on the subject. Thnaks. (also, if this is the wrong site, than what site would you recommend?). Thanks. Oct 27, 2015 at 21:32
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    For a PBX, the word is centralino, never centralina.
    – egreg
    Oct 27, 2015 at 21:33
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    Also, what about the person working at a PBX. Would that be called a "centralino" as well? Thanks. Oct 27, 2015 at 21:35
  • Simplifying, as regards electric power, a centrale (elettrica) (power plant) is the place where electric energy is generated, exploiting a waterfall, burning gas, splitting atoms etc.; while a centralina (elettrica) is a place, or box, where some cable arrives and the energy necessary for a city, a neighbourhood or even a single house is managed.
    – DaG
    Oct 27, 2015 at 22:32

3 Answers 3


The word "centralina" is used for a place where there is a control. There are two types of controls:

  • a place where switch on or off some lines (both in a dedicated place how in power plants or only a box where there are the controls). This is just control and doesn't need big place;
  • a place where reduce or increase the power of line (in Italy, the big lines of power use many KV but in the homes we receive only 230V, so they are necessary some places where transformer the voltage of input line to the local voltage). This type of "centralina" can be very little if the new line is little or if just isolation is necessary but also big size where new lines with big power are created starting from main power line. For example, we can think to power line as a tree and every time that we add a branch we need a "centralina" to control the power conversion and isolate the main line from local line. This until the leaf that for power are homes.

For this reason, the definition found in dictionary is correct: we can have just control (first point) or part of a power plant (second point).

It's possible to use "centralina", especially with the first meaning, for phone lines, thermal or hydraulic plants. But also in these cases, both types of "centralina" are necessary (for example, for phone lines are necessary places where local lines are connected with main line: some servers done this work).

The word "centralino", normally, is used with a little different meaning: in the past it was necessary a person that manually switch phones lines. "Centralino" is used for this person or this group of people that control switch in phone lines. Changing the way how switch is done (not a long manually but automatically) the word "centralino" has been used also for a control part that done switches and, with this means, it's possible to use it for every place as in first point also for not phone lines.

I'm sorry if the English is not good, but I hope that explanation is clear.


Altough I'm Italian I'm not sure about the meaning of centralina.

As for centralino, it means a device you use to answar to phone calls and then redirect them to difefrent phones (like in an office).

But personally I use the word centralino only in this way: centralino telefonico. This means a place like a call-centre, where many people work and are ready to answer the phone and the questions of customers. I am not sure this meaning exists, but I wait for someone to agree or disagree with this usage.


Referring to the original question, the electrical power plant is not a "centralina elettrica", but a "centrale elettrica". The rest has already been clearly explained above.

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