Italian Word of the Day: Ferro (iron)

Ferro (plural: ferri) may not seem like a very interesting word on the surface, but dig a little deeper and you’ll soon discover that it forms the basis of many terms and expressions in both Italian and English!

IPA: /ˈfɛrro/

Il ferro si usa solitamente per produrre acciaio.

Iron is normally used to produce steel.

For example, it can be used to describe things or activities that require strength or resistance, such as the sport braccio di ferro (arm wrestling, or literally arm of iron). (Not coincidentally, this is also the name of the popular cartoon character Popeye in Italian!)

If you say that someone has uno stomaco di ferro (an iron-clad stomach), it means they are able to digest almost anything no matter how strong or spicy. And you would need una volontà di ferro (an iron will) to stand up to a cruel leader who rules with il pugno di ferro (an iron fist).

Without ferro, we wouldn’t have useful things such as fili di ferro (metal wires), ferrovie (railways), ferri di cavallo (horseshoes) or ferri da stiro (smoothing irons). Once a piece of metal loses its usefulness, it becomes ferrovecchio, or scrap metal.

Ferro can be transformed into two useful adjectives: ferroso (ferrous or iron) and ferrato (reinforced with iron). The latter is also used to refer to a person who is knowledgable or well-versed.

Confesso di non essere molto ferrato in matematica.

I confess that I’m not very well-versed in mathematics.

The verb ferrare is used exclusively for shoeing (a horse) but it literally means to reinforce with iron.

A famous idiom you’ll learn within weeks of arriving in Italy is Tocca ferro! which is how Italians say Knock on wood! Both are said to stop a confident statement from bringing bad luck.

Other idioms that contain “ferro”

Are you interested in learning some other idioms featuring the word ferro? Then let’s take a look at them now!

Mettere a ferro e fuoco

Literal meaning: to put on iron and fire
English translation: to ravage, devastate

Essere in una botte di ferro

Literal meaning: to be in an iron barrel
English translation: to be ironclad, well-protected

Con mano di ferro e guanto di velluto

Literal meaning: with an iron hand in a velvet glove
English translation: to be very energetic and determined yet diplomatic

Battere il ferro finché è caldo

Literal meaning: to strike while the iron is hot
English translation: to strike while the iron is hot

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