Italian Word of the Day: Gomito (elbow)

The word for elbow in Italian is gomito (masculine). It derives from the Latin term cubitus.

IPA: /ˈɡomito/

Like many other parts of the body, gomito has a masculine and feminine plural form despite being a masculine noun. The masculine plural i gomiti is widely accepted as the standard form whereas the feminine plural le gomita is restricted to certain regions such as Tuscany.

Il bimbo si è fatto male al gomito cadendo dalla bicicletta.

The child hurt his elbow by falling off his bike.

Derived from gomito is the noun gomitata which means nudge or jab. Also related is the verb sgomitare which means to elbow (one’s way). In Italian, it also means to move the elbows a lot when walking or running.

Below are a few common verbs that often accompany gomito and its related terms:

  • appoggiarsi sui gomiti = to lean on one’s elbows
  • sbucciarsi il gomito = to graze one’s elbow
  • dare un colpetto col gomito = to nudge (lit: to tap with the elbow)
  • dare una gomitata / dare delle gomitate = to elbow, to jab with one’s elbow
  • farsi strada a gomitate / sgomitare = to elbow one’s way through

By extension, gomito may also refer to the elbow of a sleeve, such as for example, il gomito della camicia (the elbow of the shirt).

man caughing
The man is coughing into his elbow = L’uomo sta tossendo nel suo gomito

Whereas we say shoulder to shoulder in English to imply physical closeness, Italians say gomito a gomito (elbow to elbow).

In a figurative sense, gomito can refer to a sharp bend in the road. Fare un gomito means to take / make a bend.

In questo punto il sentiero fa un gomito di circa 90 gradi verso sud-est.

At this point the path takes a sharp bend of about 90 degrees toward the southeast.

This word also appears in the popular idiom alzare il gomito (to drink excessively). The literal meaning is to raise one’s elbow, which is exactly what a heavy drinker does when they raise a glass to their mouth to drink.

Returning once more to the irregular plural gomita, this form is occasionally seen in the expression con le gomita (lit: with the elbows), meaning to do or produce something quickly without preparation or attention to detail. (Note that you can use the plural gomiti as well.)

  • lavorare con le gomita = to throw something together quickly
  • lavoro fatto con le gomita = a half-baked job
  • ragionare con le gomita = to reason inappropriately

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