Italian Word of the Day: Re (king)

The very last king to rule Italy was Umberto II of the House of Savoy. Immediately following the 1946 referendum to abolish the monarchy and the transformation of Italy into a republic, he was exiled to Cascais on the Portuguese Riviera, having reigned for a mere 34 days. Umberto II’s departure marked the end of a long, though not unbroken succession of Kings of Italy, dating back as early as the late 5th century.

The word for the singular king and plural kings in Italian is re. The word comes from the Latin rex.

IPA: /re/

italian word re

Il re ha governato il paese per tanti anni.

The king ruled the country for many years.

Royal golden crown with jewels on pillow on black background
La corona del re = The king’s crown

Some terms that are closely related to re include regno (kingdom), regnare (to reign), regale (regal), regio / reale (royal) and regnicolo (a subject of the monarchy). The verb reggere (to withstand, bear, support) also shares the same etymology, as it comes from the Latin word regere (to govern, direct). Reuccio is the diminutive of re.

In Italian, an interesting expression containing the word re is essere più realista del re (to be more royalist than the king). It is used to describe someone who supports an idea with greater enthusiasm or determination than the original proponent or those directly concerned. A close English translation is “to be more Catholic than the Pope himself“.

Another expression is Il re è nudo! (The king is naked!). Originating from the Hans Christian Andersen’s fable written in 1837, it is used when a group of people choose to look the other way in front of obvious facts.

If you say Ho mangiato da re (I ate like a king), you’re referring to a meal so well prepared and so delicious that it looks as if it was made for a king.

You can use the noun re to describe a person or an entrepreneur who’s very successful at what he does. People and brands can even receive the nickname re when they’re amongst the best in their field.

Il re è tornato! Sebastien Loeb vince in Spagna a cinque anni dal suo ritiro.

The king is back! Sebastien Loeb wins in Spain five years after his retirement.

Lavazza è il re del caffè.

Lavazza is the king of coffee.


In 2018, it was rumoured that Prince Emanuele Filiberto of Savoy, the only grandson of Umberto II, was considering the launch of a new royalist party (partito neo-monarchico) to restore the monarchy in Italy. Whether this project is actually in the works has yet to be confirmed. According to a poll conducted by the Istituto Piepoli, 15% of Italians would favour the return of the monarchy in Italy while 8% would support Emanuele Filiberto as the new re.

Other meanings

Re assumes a complete different meaning when talking about music. It is a musical note, the equivalent of D in English.

Il Concerto per Due Violini in Re minore è una delle composizioni più famose di Johann Sebastian Bach.

The Concerto for Two Violins in D minor is one of Johann Sebastian Bach’s most famous compositions.

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