Italian Word of the Day: Capelli (hair)

The word for the hair on one’s head is the plural capelli in Italian. The singular capello, on the other hand, usually refers to an individual strand of hair.

IPA: /ca·pél·lo – ca·pél·li/

This word is easily mixed up with the similar sounding cappelli, the plural of cappello, which is the Italian word for hat. You can hear the difference by carefully listening to the phrase below. (Pay attention to the brief pause that occurs between the two Ps in cappello!)

I cappelli tendono ad appiattire i capelli.

Hats tend to flatten hair.

Below is a list of the most common types and styles of hair (tipi e tagli di capelli) and hair colours (colori dei capelli).

Tipi e tagli di capelli
Hair types and styles

  • capelli lunghi = long hair
  • capelli corti = short hair
  • capelli lisci = straight hair
  • capelli mossi / ondulati = wavy hair
  • capelli ricci = curly hair
  • capelli fini = fine hair
  • capelli crespi = frizzy hair
  • capelli piatti = flat hair
  • capelli rasati = shaved hair
  • capelli disordinati = messy hair
  • capelli annodati = tangled hair
  • capelli unti = greasy hair
  • capelli radi = thinning hair

Colori dei capelli
Hair colour

  • capelli chiari = fair hair
  • capelli scuri = dark hair
  • capelli biondi = blonde hair
  • capelli castani = brown hair
  • capelli neri = black hair
  • capelli rossi = red hair
  • capelli bianchi = white hair
  • capelli grigi = grey hair
three women with different hair style
Abbiamo tutte capelli diversi. = We all have different hair.

To say to do your hair in Italian, you can choose between the reflexive verbs farsi / acconciarsi i capelli (to style one’s hair) or sistemarsi i capelli (to tidy one’s hair).

Prima di uscire, mia sorella vuole sistemarsi i capelli.

Before going out, my sister wants to do her hair.

When you go to the hair salon (parrucchiere) or barber shop (bottega del barbiere) to get a new haircut (nuovo taglio di capelli / nuova acconciatura), there are various kinds of equipment and products the hairdresser will use on your hair. These include a hairbrush (spazzola), hair clippers (tagliacapelli), a hairdryer (fon or asciugacapelli), hair dye (tinta per capelli), a hair straightener (piastra per capelli), hair clips (fermacapelli), curlers (bigodini) and a razor (rasoio).

hairdresser drying a customer's hair
Sono dal parrucchiere. = I’m at the hair salon.

Here is a selection of useful verbs you’ll often see used with capelli in conversation:

  • pettinarsi i capelli = to comb/brush one’s hair
  • farsi tagliare i capelli = to get one’s hair cut
  • lasciare crescere i capelli = to let one’s hair grow
  • perdere i capelli = to lose one’s hair
  • asciugarsi i capelli = to dry one’s hair
  • raccogliere i capelli = to put up one’s hair
  • sciogliersi i capelli = to let down one’s hair
  • portare i capelli (corti/lunghi/etc.) = to wear one’s hair (short/long/etc.)

Ponytail translates literally as coda di cavallo (tail of the horse) in Italian, though usually it is shortened to simply coda (tail), whereas pigtails are referred to as codini (little tails).

As for a head of hair, it translates as either chioma or capigliatura.

Trecce africaneAfrican braids

Useful expressions with the words “capello / capelli”

There are many expressions with the word capello and its plural capelli. Here is a list of the most interesting ones.

Avere un diavolo per capello

Literal translation: to have a devil on each hair
English meaning: to be furious, irritable

Averne fin sopra i capelli

Literal translation: to have it over your hair
English meaning: to be sick or tired of something / someone

Tirato per i capelli

Literal translation: pulled by the hair
English meaning: far-fetched, stretching things a bit

Mettersi le mani nei capelli

Literal translation: to put one’s hands in one’s hair
English meaning: to tear one’s hair out

Essere sospeso a un capello

Literal translation: to hang by a hair
English meaning: to hang by a hair

Non spostarsi di un capello

Literal translation: to not move by a hair
English meaning: to not budge an inch

Spaccare un capello in quattro

Literal translation: to split a hair into four
English meaning: to split hairs

Avere più guai che capelli

Literal translation: to have more troubles than hair
English meaning: to have a huge number of problems to deal with

Far venire i capelli bianchi

Literal translation: to make one’s hair white
English meaning: to worry somebody a lot (so much that his/her hair becomes white)

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