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I have translated "foam" into Italian. There is: "schiuma, spuma".

I am studying the differences between them.

schiuma - "1. Aggregato, generalmente instabile, di bolle d’aria (o di altro gas) che si forma alla superficie di un liquido, spec. se a bassa tensione superficiale; può essere prodotta per agitazione, per ebollizione, per effervescenza, ed è favorita da sostanze (dette batotone) che abbassano la tensione superficiale: la s. del mare, detta anche spuma; le creste dell’onda erano bianche di s.; secondo il mito, Venere sarebbe nata dalla s. del mare; la s. della birra, del vino (se agitato o quando si versa); la s. del brodo; la s. del latte (un cappuccino senza schiuma); un detersivo, un sapone che fa molta s.; s. da bagno, sapone liquido, detto anche bagnoschiuma (v.); s. da barba, speciale sapone, di solito venduto in bombolette spray, usato per ammorbidire sia il pelo sia la pelle prima della rasatura; estintore a s., v. estintore e anche schiumogeno. Con altro sign., s. solida o s. plastica, quella di cui è costituito il materiale espanso (v. espanso)." - Treccani

spuma - " [lat. spūma, der. di spuĕre «sputare»]. – 1. Lo stesso che schiuma, in senso proprio, rispetto a cui ha tono più letterario: le onde rinnovano continuamente la loro ricca frangia di spuma (Capuana). In partic.: a. Spuma (o schiuma) di mare, altro nome della sepiolite. b. Altro nome (anche schiuma) della preparazione gastronomica detta più comunem., con termine francese, mousse (v.): s. di tonno, di prosciutto, di salmone." - Treccani

What is the difference?

Thank you.

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    Professional lexicographers took pain to write at length exactly to explain the difference in dictionary entries like those. What's not clear to you about them? (Hint: «rispetto a cui ha tono più letterario») – DaG Nov 21 '16 at 15:04
  • I do not speak Italian well. – cornejo Nov 21 '16 at 15:23
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    @cornejo Then why are you interested in such subtle differences of meaning? I cannot understand what you hope to get from these questions, and this makes it much harder to write answers for you. – Denis Nardin Nov 21 '16 at 16:31
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    To be clear: I believe all of your questions could be turned into much more successful questions if you explained your motivation for asking them. Seriously, right now it feels like you are opening books at random and asking for the meaning of the words devoid of context. – Denis Nardin Nov 21 '16 at 16:33
  • As a general rule, a proper translation requires context and you give none. For this particular word, schiuma should be correct in most cases. – egreg Nov 22 '16 at 10:02
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Being italian, probably I speak sort of "every-day" language, but about "spuma" and "schiuma" I can say that the second is the most used in current speech.

Never heard about "spuma del cappuccino" everyone says "schiuma" ("schiumetta" too), referring to cappuccino foam, "spuma" isn't so used because is quite old; cornejo's quotes refer to Capuana, but Capuana was born in 1839 and died in 1915 ...

As far as I know, in current speech, "spuma" is used while talking about food (saying "schiuma di prosciutto" is at risk to suggest rotten jam, the right word in this case is "spuma").

Two notes, finally: "spuma" was also a beverage made by sparkling water, caramel and spices (my grandma always kept a "spuma" bottle for me in erarly '70, when I was a little girl).

And: "schiuma", in moral sense, is used like english "scum", meaning the worst part of, for example, a human group.

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Overall, they have very little differences, which may not even be perceived by all the people the same way.

Usually schiuma is more used and if misplaced in a sentence where spuma would sound better, it doesn't sound as bad as spuma instead of schiuma.

Ex: for "latte foam" I would personally use "spuma del cappuccino", but "schiuma del cappuccino" sounds a little worse but is correct anyway.

For "that squirrel mouth is foaming" spuma is really not used, you'd translate it like "quello scoiattolo ha la schiuma alla bocca".

So, as you can always change spuma to schiuma but not necessarily vice versa, when in doubt use schiuma.

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