Italian Word of the Day: Alba (dawn / sunrise)

Although the word alba (feminine, plural: albe) in Italian can translate as either dawn or sunrise in English, it is technically closer in meaning to the former because it denotes the first appearance of light in the sky as night transitions to day.

/àl·ba/

It comes from the Latin alba, which in turn derives from the adjective albus meaning white.

Some possible synonyms for alba include:

  • lo spuntar del sole = the appearance of the sun
  • il sorgere del sole = the rising of the sun
  • aurora = the purple glow that appears in the eastern sky before sunrise, immediately after dawn
  • prime ore del giorno / del mattino = early hours of the day / morning
  • sul far dell’alba = at the break of day

Mi sveglio sempre prima dell’alba.

I always wake up before dawn.


Grand Canal in Venice at the dawn, Italy
Venezia all’alba – Venice at dawn

Similar to the word dawn, alba can be used figuratively to talk about the beginning of a favourable period of time or phenomenon. For example:

  • l’alba della civiltà = the dawn of civilisation
  • l’alba della vita = the start of one’s life
  • l’alba del XX secolo = the dawn of the 20th century

Did you know that…?
Alba is the name of an important Italian town in the province of Cuneo in Piedmont. Famous for its white truffle (tartufo bianco) and wine (vino) production, it is considered the capital of the hilly area of Langhe. It is also home to two of four Ferrero factories in Italy where the famous spread Nutella was born and is still produced to this day.

Sweet hazelnut spread. Chocolate cream in jar on pink table.
La Nutella viene prodotta ad Alba. – Nutella is produced in Alba.

Alba is also a girl’s name in Italian, though it is more prevalent in the north of Italy than in the south. The masculine equivalent is Albio.


Albachiara by Vasco Rossi

Vasco Rossi is one of the most successful Italian songwriters, having released more than 30 albums. Included on his second album was the song Albachiara, one of his greatest hits and the song that usually concludes his concerts.

Albachiara is composed of two words, alba and chiara with the latter meaning clear, bright or soft when talking about light. Normally you’d keep the two words separate.

Respiri piano per non far rumore
Ti addormenti di sera e ti risvegli col sole

Sei chiara come un’alba
Sei fresca come l’aria

Diventi rossa se qualcuno ti guarda
E sei fantastica quando sei assorta
Nei tuoi problemi, nei tuoi pensieri

Ti vesti svogliatamente
Non metti mai niente che possa attirare attenzione
Un particolare, solo per farti guardare

Respiri piano per non far rumore
Ti addormenti di sera e ti risvegli col sole

Sei chiara come un’alba
Sei fresca come l’aria

Diventi rossa se qualcuno ti guarda
E sei fantastica quando sei assorta
Nei tuoi problemi, nei tuoi pensieri

Ti vesti svogliatamente
Non metti mai niente che possa attirare attenzione
Un particolare, per farti guardare

E con la faccia pulita
Cammini per strada mangiando una mela
Coi libri di scuola, ti piace studiare
Non te ne devi vergognare

E quando guardi con quegli occhi grandi
Forse un po’ troppo sinceri, sinceri, sì
Si vede quello che pensi, quello che sogni

E qualche volta fai pensieri strani
Con una mano, una mano ti sfiori
Tu sola dentro la stanza
E tutto il mondo fuori

You breathe slowly to not make any noise
You fall asleep in the evening and you wake with the sun

You’re bright like a sunrise
You’re fresh like the air

You blush if somebody looks at you
And you’re fantastic when you are absorbed
in your problems, in your thoughts

You dress up listlessly
You never wear anything that can draw attention
A detail, just to make you look

You breathe slowly to not make any noise
You fall asleep in the evening and you wake with the sun

You’re bright like a sunrise
You’re fresh like the air

You blush if somebody looks at you
And you’re fantastic when you are absorbed
in your problems, in your thoughts

You dress up listlessly
You never wear anything that can draw attention
A detail, to make you look

And with a clean face
You walk on the streets eating an apple
With your school books, you like to study
You don’t have to be ashamed of it

And when you look with those big eyes
Perhaps a bit too sincere, sincere, yes
We can see what you think, what you dream

And sometimes you have strange thoughts
With one hand, you brush against the other
You alone inside the room
And all the world outside

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