Italian Word of the Day: Cena (dinner)

Traditionally in Italy, people have four meals a day: colazione (breakfast), pranzo (lunch), merenda (afternoon snack) and cena (dinner or supper).

IPA: /’tʃ

By adding the suffix -one onto the end of cena (feminine, plural: cene), you get the word cenone meaning big supper. Cenare is the verb meaning to have supper or to dine whereas dinnertime translates as ora di cena.

Stasera torno a casa per cenare con la famiglia.

Tonight I’m going home to have dinner with the family.

Grandmother in eyeglasses carrying turkey with potatoes for dinner for her family

If you want to say that the dinner is ready, you can say la cena è pronta, or è pronto in tavola (lit. it’s ready on the table). To you kids you can also call out A tavola!

Below are some useful verbs you might use in conjunction with cena:

  • preparare la cena = prepare dinner
  • organizzare una cena = organise a dinner (party)
  • invitare (qualcuno) a cena = invite (someone) to dinner
  • portare (qualcuno) a cena = take (someone) out to dinner
  • servire la cena = to serve dinner

Ho cominciato a preparare la cena alle 5.

I started preparing the dinner at 5 o’clock.

The word apericena is a portmanteau of the words aperitivo (drinks and nibbles) and cena. Whereas aperitivi traditionally consist of a drink along with a few olives and nuts, apericene are a proper replacement for dinner due to the amount of food on offer. Because they are so cheap – usually around €10 for a decent meal or buffet and a drink – they are extremely popular amongst university students on a budget.

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