Italian Word of the Day: Balzo (bounce / leap)

The Italian word balzo (masculine, plural: balzi) refers to the sudden movement of an object (usually a ball or something elastic) after it rebounds off the ground or any hard surface. Possible translations in English include bounce, leap, spring, and jump. It derives from the verb balzare meaning to bounce.

/bàl·zo/

The expression fare un balzo (literally ‘to make a bounce’) means the same thing as the verb balzare.

Two children playing with balls
La palla fece un balzo sul pavimento. = The ball bounced on the floor.

You might see balzo appear in the following set adverbial phrases:

  • d’un balzo = with a leap
  • con un balzo = with a leap

Con un grande balzo, il lupo si lanciò verso Cappuccetto Rosso.

With a great leap, the wolf lunged toward Little Red Riding Hood.


Balzo can also be used figuratively to refer to a sudden abrupt change or a sudden increase in something. For example:

  • un balzo in avanti per la società = a leap forward / a stride forward for the society
  • un balzo del prezzo = a jump in price

The idiomatic expressions aspettare la palla al balzo (literally: to wait for the ball to bounce) and cogliere / prendere la palla al balzo (literally: to grab the bouncing ball) mean to wait for the opportune moment and to seize an opportunity respectively.

Two related terms are:

  • rimbalzo = more or less the same meaning as balzo
  • sbalzo = jolt, jerk, jump, sudden change

Domani è previsto uno sbalzo di temperatura.

Tomorrow a jump in temperature is expected.


Important: Balzo shouldn’t be confused with the feminine balza which translates as cliff, ledge or flounce (of a dress).

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