While it might be tempting to assume that the Italian adjective contento is the direct counterpart of the English content, it actually encompasses a slightly broader range of meanings as we’ll soon discover.
The most common translations for contento are glad and happy. Like its English counterparts, it denotes a subdued or contained kind of happiness.
happy / glad / content / pleased
Sono contento di vederti.
I’m glad / happy to see you.
Aveva un’espressione molto contenta.
She had a very happy expression.
It can also be used ironically, as in the following phrase.
E va bene, sei più bravo di me. Sei contento adesso?
Ok, whatever, you’re better than me. Are you happy now?
Three additional translations are satisfied, pleased and, of course, content. It can be used to describe the feeling of being fulfilled or self-realised.
Sono molto contento dei risultati.
I’m very satisfied / content / pleased with the results.
The ending of contento varies based on the gender and number of the subject it describes.
- contento = masculine, singular
- contenti = masculine, plural
- contenta = feminine, singular
- contente = feminine, plural
Contento is derived from the Latin word contĕntus, which is the past participle of the verb continere, meaning “to contain,” and by extension, “to be satisfied or content with something.”
A few related terms include:
- contentare = to make (someone) happy
- contentarsi = to be happy / satisfied / pleased
- accontentare = to please / to satisfy
- accontentarsi = to settle for something / be happy with
- contentezza = happiness / contentment
- contentino = something to keep someone happy / sweetener
At the end of most Italian fairy tales, you’ll come across the phrase “E vissero felici e contenti,” which translates to “And they all lived happily ever after” in English. Interestingly, in the Italian version, the word happy is reiterated twice, as both felice and contento convey the same meaning.
Which brings us to the following question…
What’s the difference between ‘contento’ and ‘felice’?
Felice and contento both translate to ‘happy‘ in English. While they are sometimes used interchangeably, especially in casual conversation, they do carry nuanced differences in meaning.
Felice is often considered a state of profound satisfaction and overall well-being, characterised by a positive outlook on life. It embodies a deeper and more enduring form of contentment.
Contento, on the other hand, typically refers to smaller pleasures or temporary states of contentment. It conveys a sense of temporary or smaller-scale satisfaction.
Italian idiomatic expressions containing ‘contento’
Essere contento come una pasqua (also felice come una pasqua)
Literal translation: To be as happy as an Easter
English meaning: To be very happy
Cuorcontento (also cuor contento)
Literal translation: Heart-happy
English meaning: Happy-go-lucky, carefree
Heather Broster is a graduate with honours in linguistics from the University of Western Ontario. She is an aspiring polyglot, proficient in English and Italian, as well as Japanese, Welsh, and French to varying degrees of fluency. Originally from Toronto, Heather has resided in various countries, notably Italy for a period of six years. Her primary focus lies in the fields of language acquisition, education, and bilingual instruction.