Italian Word of the Day: Carbone (coal)

Today’s word of the day is part of our Italian Christmas Word Advent Calendar series. Each day throughout December, we’ll post a word that is related to the holiday season. Enjoy!

According to the American and English Christmas tradition, Santa Claus puts toys (giochi) and sweets (caramelle) inside the stockings of the children who have been good, and coal – or carbone in Italian – inside those of naughty children.

IPA: /karˈbone/

In Italy, it is Befana, the Italian Christmas witch, who has the job of filling the stockings, not on Christmas Eve but on the night before the Epiphany (l’Epifania). It is common for both good and bad children to receive carbone di zucchero (sugar coal), which comes in multiple colours besides black.

I bambini erano felici di trovare il carbone di zucchero dentro le calze.

The children were happy to find sugar coal inside the stockings.


Below you can see a quick recipe that shows you how to make this delicious sweet from the comfort of your home.

Carbone can also be translated as charcoal or quite simply, carbon. Below are a few other words that derive from or are related to carbone:

  • carbonio = the chemical element carbon (symbol C)
  • carbonaio = coal merchant
  • carbonella = another word for charcoal
  • carboncino = charcoal used for drawing
  • carbonizzare = to carbonise, char, burn

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