Italian Word of the Day: Fiamma (flame)

The Italian word for flame is fiamma (feminine, plural: fiamme). Both the Italian and English words can be traced back to the Latin flamma of the same meaning.


Some of the most common types of flames and the objects that produce them include:

  • la fiamma di una candela = the flame of a candle
  • la fiamma di una lucerna = the flame of a lamp
  • la fiamma di un fiammifero = the flame of a match
  • la fiamma del fornello = the flame of the burner

La fiamma della candela oscillava nel vento.

The flame of the candle danced in the wind.

If you use a gas stove, you can cook your meals a fiamma bassa (on a low flame) or a fiamma alta (on a high flame).

The plural fiamme (flames) is another way to refer to a fire. It occurs in many expressions such as:

  • andare in fiamme = to burst into flames
  • dare alle fiamme = to set on fire
  • essere in fiamme = to be on fire
  • soffiare sulle fiamme = to fan the flames
  • spegnere le fiamme = to put out the fire

La casa è stata distrutta dalle fiamme.

The house was destroyed by the fire.

Young man in eyeglases and shirt looking at campfire during backpack trip at leisure
È incantato dalle fiamme. = He is enchanted by the flames.

The mechanically minded of you might be interested to know that ritorno di fiamma (literally ‘return of flame’) refers to the backfiring of an engine when its cylinder ignites too early. In a figurative sense, it also denotes the sudden rekindling of romantic feelings.

Speaking of romance, both fiamma and flame are metaphors for the word sweetheart (amato/a).

Ho ritrovato una vecchia fiamma su Facebook.

I found an old flame on Facebook.

romantic and tenderness kiss with man and girl at the beach under the sunlight
La sua nuova fiamma – His new flame

It is also a metaphor for ardour or passion, as in the expressions la fiamma della fede (the ardour of faith) and la fiamma dell’amore (the flame of love).

Due to its colour, fiamma may also be used to talk about very bright shades of red (rosso fiamma = flame red), as well as the shade one’s cheeks go when blushing.

Expressions featuring ‘fiamma’

Fare fuoco e fiamme

Literal meaning: to make fire and flames
English translation: to try in every possible way to obtain something

Mettere a fuoco e fiamme

Literal meaning: to put on fire and flames
English translation: to destroy with fire and devastation

Lanciare fiamme dagli occhi

Literal meaning: to throw flames from the eyes
English translation: to express anger, indignation, or hatred with a simple glance

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