Italian Word of the Day: Barca (boat)

The Italian word for boat, which is barca (feminine, plural: barche), derives from the Latin term of the same spelling.

IPA: /ˈbar.ka/

There are many different types of boats in existence, the most common of which include:

  • barca a remi = rowboat
  • barca a vela = sailboat
  • barca a motore = motorboat
  • barca a vapore = steamboat
  • barca da pesca = fishing boat
young and middle age man on a rowboat
Padre e figlio su una barca a remi = A father and his son in a rowboat

A small boat is known as a barchetta or barchina/o (the diminutive forms) whereas a large boat is called a barcone (the augmentative form).

Trivia: the English word yacht is widely used in Italian to describe a luxury medium-sized sailing boat equipped for cruising, but there is also a native word for it which is less popular: panfilo.

The way you would say to go boating in Italian is andare in barca or fare una gita in barca (lit: to go on a boat trip). The former is also a figurative expression meaning to lose control or be confused.

Il lago di Como è il luogo ideale per una gita in barca.

Lake Como is the ideal place for a boat trip.

To get into the boat is salire in barca whereas to get out of the boat is scendere dalla barca.

Man balancing between the harbour wall with one foot on a sailing boat
Occhio a non cadere! = Careful not to fall!

An idiom that exists in both Italian and English, which means to be in the same unpleasant situation as other people, is essere tutti nella stessa barca / to be all in the same boat.

Barca is also used in the set expression una barca di (qualcosa) which translates as loads of (something) in English. A popular variation is una barcata di…

Il signor Rossi ha una barcata di soldi.

Mr. Rossi has loads of money.

Other variations on this expression include:

  • una marea di… = a tide of…
  • un sacco di… = a sack of…
  • un mucchio di... = a heap of…
  • un casino di… = a mess of…

Idioms featuring the word “barca”

In addition to boat, the term barca is used figuratively to talk about business activities, especially when there are difficulties to overcome. Below are a few common idioms that use barca in this sense:

Tirare i remi in barca

Literal translation: to pull the oars into the boat
English meaning: to withdraw from a venture, to suspend a deal, to give up

Mandare avanti la barca

Literal translation: to send the boat forward
English meaning: to keep the show going, to keep the ship afloat

La barca fa acqua da tutte le parti

Literal translation: the boat is leaking everywhere
English meaning: a business is in danger of failing, a situation appears to be heading towards disaster

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