Italian Word of the Day: Singhiozzo (hiccup)

Today’s word of the day is something extremely annoying and sometimes quite hard to get rid of: the hiccups (also spelled hiccoughs) which in Italian translates as singhiozzo (plural: singhiozzi).

IPA: /sinˈɡjot.t͡so/

It comes from the verb singhiozzare meaning to hiccup (when referring to a human being) or to go by fits and starts (when talking about a machine).

Il motore singhiozza un po’ quando accelero.

The engine sputters a bit when I accelerate.


Il motore va a singhiozzi. Devo farlo controllare da un meccanico. = The engine sputters. I need to have it checked by a mechanic.

Whereas in English we say that we have the hiccups using the plural of the noun, the Italians use the singular form (avere il singhiozzo).

Ho il singhiozzo da quasi un’ora. Che pizza!

I’ve had the hiccups for almost an hour. What a pain!


Some popular remedies for il singhiozzo include:

  • bere l’acqua = drinking water
  • trattenere il respiro = holding your breath
  • respirare profondamente gonfiando la pancia = expanding your stomach by breathing in deeply
  • farsi spaventare = getting someone to scare you

If someone is sobbing uncontrollably and can barely speak, you can say that they are piangiendo con singhiozzi (crying with sobs/hiccups).

The expression a singhiozzo is used to describe something that is intermittent, unstable, fitful or spasmodic. This could be anything such as person’s unreliable performance, an experience with lots of ups and downs, or an on-and-off contract or job.

Pietro lavora a singhiozzo da diverse settimane.

Pietro has been working on and off for many weeks.


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