Italian Word of the Day: A bruciapelo (point-blank)

The word bruciapelo (masculine, invariable) is mostly seen in the expression a bruciapelo which literally means point-blank or at point-blank range.

/à bru·cia·pé·lo/
cover image with the word “A bruciapelo” and its translation written on a notepad next to a cup of cofee

It is formed of two words: the verb bruciare (to burn) and the noun pelo (a single body hair). The idea is that if a gun is shot at very close range, it can burn the hair off the victim’s body.

Il criminale gli sparò a bruciapelo, uccidendolo.

The criminal shot him point-blank, killing him.

Detective holding a gun, he is wearing a fedora hat and a trench coat, 1950s noir film character

Quite often, however, a bruciapelo is used in a figurative sense when something is done or said out of the blue, catching the other person off guard. For example:

La mia ragazza mi chiese a bruciapelo se ero ancora felice con lei.

My girlfriend asked me point-blank if I was still happy with her.

Il presidente è abituato a ricevere domande fatte a bruciapelo.

The president is used to receiving pointed questions.

There is another use of the word bruciapelo, without the a in front, but it is a technical term that indicates a macchina bruciapelo, a machine that burns the down of cotton fabric.

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