Italian Word of the Day: Fresco (fresh / cool)

Important: Are you interested in knowing how to translate the English slang term cool into Italian? Then head on over to our dedicated article where we talk about the five different ways of translating this word!

The word for cool or chilly in Italian, in the literal sense of a low temperature, is fresco.

IPA: /ˈfreː.sko/

Because fresco is an adjective, the ending changes in accordance with the gender and number of the subject:

  • fresco = masculine, singular
  • fresca = feminine, singular
  • freschi = masculine, plural
  • fresche = feminine, plural

Something you’ll hear all Italians say as summer turns to autumn is Fa fresco! (It’s chilly!) and Fa freschino! / Fa freschetto! (It’s a bit chilly!)

Fa un po’ fresco oggi. Mi sa che mi metto la giacca.

It’s a bit chilly today. I think I’m going to put on my jacket.

middle age woman walking her dog in a park in autumn
Faceva freschetto questa mattina al parco! = It was chilly at the park this morning.

Mettere al fresco means to put in a cool place such as a fridge whereas tenere in fresco means to keep in a cool place.

Metto il vino al fresco prima della cena di stasera.

I’ll chill the wine (put the wine in a cool place) before supper tonight.

Fresco has a few other translations besides cool, one of most common being fresh. For example, freshly baked bread is referred to as pane fresco whereas fresh fruit is frutta fresca.

Vado al mercato a comprare del pesce fresco.

I’m going to the market to buy fresh fish.

fresh fish in a market stall

Another possible translation is new, newly-made or refreshed, and can be used to describe anything from the latest news (notizia fresca) and wet paint (pittura fresca) to newly-weds (sposini freschi) or the feeling of being mentally refreshed (mente fresca) after a nap or a rest.

Now let’s move on to some of the more idiomatic uses of fresco! 🙂

A great expression in Italian is stare fresco which means to find oneself in a difficult or bad situation. From this comes the exclamation Stai fresco! which roughly translates as Yeah right! or Think again!

Mi presti €100,000? – Eh sì, stai fresco!

Will you lend me €100,000? – Hah, yeah right!

Fresco also works as a euphemistic term for prison, probably because the prison cells of the past were infamously cold! If you break the law, you may well end up in prison (finire al fresco) and the length of time you stay in prison (stare al fresco) will depend on the gravity of the crime!

handcuffed hands behind bar

Did you know that…?
The English adverb and adjective al fresco comes from the mid 18th century Italian expression meaning “in the fresh (air)“.

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