The greatest turning point in history for the human species was the discovery of fire, or fuoco in Italian (masculine, plural: fuochi).
Mi sono seduto vicino al fuoco per scaldarmi.
I sat beside the fire to warm myself up.
In a figurative sense, fuoco can also be translated as hearth or flame (in the sense of a burning passion or ardour):
- Il fuoco dell’amore = the passion of love
- sentirsi il fuoco addosso = to be passionate, excited (lit. to feel fire on oneself)
Quel uomo ha un fuoco dentro che non può essere spento!
That man’s got a flame inside that can’t be put out!
A fuoco di paglia is a passion or enthusiasm that doesn’t last for very long.
When talking about cooking, fuoco is often used to refer to the heat of the burner. Common terms include fuoco basso (low heat), fuoco medio (medium heat) and fuoco alto (high heat).
Bisogna friggere le cipolle a fuoco basso in modo che non brucino.
You must fry the onions on low heat so that they don’t burn.
A single firefighter is known as a pompiere or vigile del fuoco whereas the entire fire department is known by the plural vigili del fuoco.
Although the plural fuochi on its own can mean fires, it is commonly used as an abbreviation for fuochi d’artificio (fireworks).
The word fuoco is also contained within numerous military terms and expressions including:
- aprire il fuoco = open fire
- cessare il fuoco = cease fire
- fuoco nemico = enemy fire
- arma da fuoco = firearm
- fare fuoco a = to shoot at
A term closely related to fuoco is incendio. Whereas fuoco tends to refer to the element, incendio is used when something, such as a building or forest, is on fire.
L’incendio nel bosco è andato avanti per giorni.
The bushfire continued for days.
A game you might have played as a child is Hot and Cold. In Italian, when you get close to the hidden object, the other players start to yell out fuochino, fuocherello (little fire, small fire). When you’re on the verge of finding the object, they will then say fuoco.
Expressions featuring ‘fuoco’
Mettere il fuoco al culo
Literal translation: to put fire on (someone’s) bum (vulgar)
English meaning: to light a fire under someone’s bum, to get someone to hurry or to spring into action
Fare fuoco e fiamme
Literal translation: to make fire and flames
English meaning: to go ballistic, to flip your lid
Giornata di fuoco
Literal translation: a day of fire
English meaning: a hectic day
Mettere a ferro e fuoco
Literal translation: to put to iron and fire
English meaning: to put a country to the sword, to ravage (in war)
Non ci metterei la mano sul fuoco
Literal translation: I wouldn’t put my hand on the fire
English meaning: I wouldn’t swear to it
Togliere le castagne dal fuoco
Literal translation: to pull (someone’s) chestnuts out of the fire
English meaning: to save someone’s skin/bacon
Buttare acqua sul fuoco
Literal translation: to throw water into the fire
English meaning: to reduce the controversy