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There is a huge number of children and grandchildren of Italian immigrants in my country and some of them are my friends. More than once I heard a native Italian use the word "eco" at the end of a sentence and was curious about its meaning. I then asked a friend of mine what his father meant when he said "eco" and the reply I got was "It doesn't mean anything". Well, even if it doesn't mean anything, there must be a reason for using the word. My question is: what exactly does "eco" mean when used at the end of a sentence?

I've tried to find the meaning of "eco" (not sure that's the way it is spelled) in Italian-English online dictionaries but found nothing.

EDIT - I've never seen the written word so I'm not sure how to spell it (Eco, Echo, Ecco, Eko) It's pronounced with an open "e" and a closed "o", with the stress on the first syllable. I also heard it in the 1972 Italian movie "Il Caso Mattei" where the actor who plays Enrico Mattei uses it a few times at the end of sentences.

EDIT II - Now I know that the word is spelt "e c c o".

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    I am not sure I understand what you mean. Could you give us an example frase? Maybe do you mean ecco rather than eco? (those are two different words, with different meanings) – Denis Nardin Sep 11 '16 at 1:31
  • @DenisNardin Maybe. I've never seen the written word. It's pronounced with an open and strong "e" and a closed "o". – Centaurus Sep 11 '16 at 1:40
  • To me it seems more dialect than authentic Italian. Are your friends from Naples area? It might be 'e cos'. – nick Sep 11 '16 at 2:24
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    The important distinction is the quality of the consonant, that is whether it is geminate or not. It would be really helpful if you could give an example sentence. – Denis Nardin Sep 11 '16 at 2:46
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    Note that the terms used by the 3rd or 4th generations of immigrants are those heard at home and probably used by their grandparents. They often are dialectal terms that were used a century or more ago and which may be no longer commonly used now. Though regional dialects are still well present in Italy, their usage is less common than it used to be. – user519 Sep 11 '16 at 7:30
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It should be ecco. Its usage as an interjection is informal and you can find it mainly in colloquial contexts, but it is shown in dictionaries:

Ecco:

  • In funzione di segnale discorsivo, slegato da rapporti sintattici e collocabile in vario modo nella frase, serve:

    • a) in posizione libera, a riempire momenti di incertezza e a modificare l'impianto della frase: “mi è sembrato…, ecco, … ho saputo che lui…”;

    • b) all'inizio di un discorso, per prendere la parola: “Secondo te, chi è stato dei due?” “Ecco. Per me il vero responsabile è Franco”; per esprimere disappunto: “Ecco! Ho dimenticato di nuovo le chiavi!”; per riprendere il tema principale del discorso: “Ecco, vi dicevo che in quegli anni …”;

    • c) alla fine, per commentare e rafforzare le proprie affermazioni precedenti: “Sei un opportunista. Ecco!” • sec. XIII

Sabatini-Coletti

English translation:

Ecco:

  • Is used with a discursive function, detached from the syntactic context and placed in various ways in a sentence in the following contexts:

    • a) with no fixed position, to fill moments of uncertainty and to change the structure of the sentenve: "I felt ..., ecco, ... I knew he ...";

    • b) at the beginning of a speech, to start a sentence: "Which of the two do you think it was?", "Ecco. For me, the real culprit is Franco"; to express displeasure: "Ecco! I forgot the keys again!"; to resume the main theme of the speech: "Ecco, I said that in those years ..." ;

    • c) finally , to comment and to strengthen its previous statements: "You're an opportunist. Ecco!" • 13th century

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  • @DaG - would an American not understand XIII? – user519 Sep 11 '16 at 8:30
  • It's not the current usage to denote centuries with Roman numerals in English; since I was improving the format (italics etc.), I also changed this. – DaG Sep 11 '16 at 8:40
  • Thank you. Yes, that's exactly what I was looking for. I still have some doubts, though. Since it was so hard for me to make you folks understand what word I was talking about, I presume it must be very unusual in 21st century Italian. Am I right? Second, sometimes it's very difficult to find the perfect translation for an interjection. As "ecco" seems to be used in some completely different contexts and even as a filler, if you had to translate it into English would you translate it at all? – Centaurus Sep 11 '16 at 14:20
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    @Centaurus: Actually, it's a very common word, in colloquial Italian. Apparently, we were misled by the spelling “eco” which in itself means “echo” (and is also used, in an unrelated etymology, to refer to everything “ecological”). – DaG Sep 11 '16 at 14:31
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    @Centaurus I also would like to add that, although it is often used at the end of a sentence, this is far from the most common usage of the word, so it might not have been the first thing coming to mind – Denis Nardin Sep 11 '16 at 16:00
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I also think you mean "ecco", somehow it is like using "I mean" in english (it adds nothing to the meaning, but it "styles" your speech). "Ecco" should not be used in every sentence in written italian, only in the spoken one, being it a drastical choice.

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