Italian Word of the Day: Terra (Earth)

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.


the italian word for earth

La Terra gira intorno al Sole.

The Earth revolves around the Sun.

The Earth

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

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