The word for a shell, or seashell, in Italian is just as beautiful as the object itself: conchiglia. It can be traced back to the Latin conchylium which in turn comes from the Greek konkhýlion, a derivative of kónkhē meaning “concavity”. So if you ever have trouble recalling this word, just remember that shells are “concave”!
Conchiglia is a feminine noun, so it takes the following definite and indefinite articles:
- la conchiglia = the shell
- le conchiglie = the shells
- una conchiglia = a shell
- (delle) conchiglie = (some) shells
Ho trovato una bellissima conchiglia sulla spiaggia.
I found a beautiful shell on the beach.
Conchiglia is also the name given to various decorative and non-decorative objects whose shape is reminiscent of a shell. These include:
- punto a conchiglia = shell-stitch (crochet)
- conchiglia protettiva = protective cup for groin (used in sports)
- conchiglia = conch (the roof of a semicircular apse)
In its plural form conchiglie, it refers to a kind of shell-shaped pasta used in soups and other dishes.
To say that something is shaped like a shell, you can use the phrase a (forma di) conchiglia.
Il nostro portachiavi è a forma di conchiglia.
Our keychain is shaped like a shell.
Note that you cannot use the word conchiglia to refer to shells that don’t belong to marine molluscs, such as the shell of an egg or nut, or a snail shell. In this case, you need to use the word guscio instead.