The Italian word for the beautiful blue planet we all call home is la Terra (the Earth). It is normally spelled with a capital T in scientific contexts.
La Terra gira intorno al Sole.
The Earth revolves around the Sun.
Terra in its uncapitalised form (plural: terre) may be used to refer to the earth in unscientific contexts (e.g. Guardate come splende il sole! = Look at how the sun shines!). (Source: Zanichelli)
It is also the word Italians use for other concepts related to the earth beneath our feet, including soil, land, ground and earth-coloured. The example sentences below should give you an idea of how versatile this word actually is!
- La terra qui è molto fertile. = The soil here is very fertile.
- Dicono che Verduno è terra dei grandi vini Piemontesi. = They say that Verduno is the land of great Piedmont wines.
- Non mangiare cibo caduto per terra! = Don’t eat food that’s fallen on the ground!
- Luigi indossava una camicia color terra. = Luigi was wearing an earth-coloured shirt.
It is also the exclamation sailors shout when they spot land after a long journey at sea.
Quando il marinaio vide l’isola, esclamò: “Terra!”
When the sailor saw the island, he shouted: “Land, ho!“
Below are a few useful vocabulary items that contain the word terra:
- piano terra = ground floor (of an apartment building)
- terremoto = earthquake
- terracotta = terracotta (pottery)
- terraferma = dry land, mainland
- terrapieno = embankment
- rasoterra = close to the ground
- terra di nessuno = no man’s land
- Terra Santa = Holy Land
- Terra Madre = Mother Earth
Idioms containing ‘terra’
The word terra has played an important role in society since the time of early humans, so it should come as little surprise that it is used in numerous idioms in Italian!
Con i piedi per terra
Literal translation: with the feet on the ground
English meaning: to be down-to-earth
Essere terra terra
Literal translation: to be ground ground
English meaning: to be basic, simple
Ci corre quanto dal cielo alla terra
Literal translation: it runs as far as the sky from the earth
English meaning: it’s like night and day
Far mancare la terra da sotto i piedi
Literal translation: to make the earth disappear from under the feet
English meaning: to sweep someone off their feet
Cercare per mare e per terra
Literal translation: to search the seas and the earth
English meaning: to search high and low
Non stare né in cielo né in terra
Literal translation: to not stay in the sky or on earth
English meaning: no rhyme or reason
Rimanere / essere con i piedi per terra
Literal translation: to stay or to be with the feet on the ground
English meaning: to stay grounded
Sentirsi a terra
Literal translation: to feel grounded
English meaning: to feel sick, exhausted, depressed
Il sale della terra
Literal translation: salt of the earth
English meaning: salt of the earth
Heather Broster is a graduate with honours in linguistics from the University of Western Ontario. She is an aspiring polyglot, proficient in English and Italian, as well as Japanese, Welsh, and French to varying degrees of fluency. Originally from Toronto, Heather has resided in various countries, notably Italy for a period of six years. Her primary focus lies in the fields of language acquisition, education, and bilingual instruction.