Italian Word of the Day: Demordere (to give up / to throw in the towel)

Demordere is a useful verb in Italian that means to give up, to give in, or to throw in the towel. According to Treccani, it is based on the French verb démordre of the same meaning.

image with the word “demordere” and its translation written on a notepad next to a cup of coffee

The combination of the verb mordere (to bite) and the prefix de- (indicating the removal, separation or estrangement of something), it literally translates as something akin to “to release the bite”.

You will almost always see this verb used in the company of non, an adverb of negation. The common expression Non demordere!, for example, is one way of saying Don’t give up! in Italian.

Dai, non demordere! Sono sicuro che riuscirai a portare a termine il tuo progetto!

Come on, don’t give up! I’m sure you’ll manage to complete your project!

Full length rear view of young African man in sports clothing exercising while jogging on the bridge outdoors
Non demordere! Ce la farai ad arrivare al traguardo! – Don’t give up! You’ll make it to the finish line!

It isn’t unheard of to see it used in a positive sense, however, as in the following example:

Dopo vari tentativi, i ladri hanno deciso di demordere.

After various attempts, the thieves decided to give up.

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