On New Year’s Eve, people all over the world ring in the new year by counting down the final ten seconds before the clock strikes midnight. In Italian, countdown is translated with three words: conto alla rovescia.
Conto is a masculine noun that has various meanings including calculation, the check you receive at a restaurant, sum and even importance. It takes the following definite and indefinite articles:
- il conto = the calculation
- un conto = a calculation
- i conti = the calculations
- (dei) conti = (some) calculations
Alla rovescia also has a number of translations, including inside out, wrong way round, and amiss, but in this case, it means backwards.
Fare il conto alla rovescia – literally “to do the countdown” – is how Italians create the verb “to count down”.
Stasera faremo il conto alla rovescia per accogliere il nuovo anno.
Tonight we will be counting down to welcome in the new year.
You can also replace conto with the verb contare (to count) as in the following example:
La gente comincia a contare alla rovescia partendo dal numero dieci.
People are starting to count down from the number ten.
If you are going to take part in an Italian countdown, it is important that you know how to say the numbers from 1 to 10 backwards. It’s trickier than it sounds if you have only just started learning Italian!
Dieci, nove, otto, sette, sei, cinque, quattro, tre, due, uno…Buon Anno!
Ten, nine, eight, seven, six, five, four, three, two, one…Happy New Year!
A possible synonym is conteggio alla rovescia, with conteggio meaning count, total or calculation, but it isn’t nearly as common.