Italian Word of the Day: Trucco (make-up / trick)

The Italian word trucco (masculine, plural: trucchi) has different meanings. One of the first that comes to mind is make-up. It can be used in reference to cosmetics applied to the face in order to beautify a person’s appearance, as well as theatrical make-up used to alter a person’s face for live performances, film or television.


It derives directly from the verbs truccare (to put on make-up) and truccarsi (to put make-up on oneself). Although truccarsi is the most straightforward way of saying to put on make-up, it is also possible to use the synonymous expressions darsi il trucco or farsi il trucco.

Devo farmi il trucco prima di andare in onda.

I need to put on my make-up before going on air.

To remove one’s make-up translates in three different ways: struccarsi, togliersi il trucco or levarsi il trucco.

Anyone who enjoys putting on make-up will probably own at least a handful of the following cosmetics (cosmetici). It is interesting to note that Italian has imported foreign terms from English and French to describe certain products:

  • ombretto = eye shadow
  • mascara = mascara
  • eyeliner = eyeliner
  • fard = blush
  • rossetto = lipstick
  • fondotinta = foundation
  • struccante = make-up remover
woman putting red lipstick
La signora si sta truccando. = The woman is putting on make-up.

A person whose job is to apply cosmetics to performers or models is a truccatore (male make-up artist) or truccatrice (female make-up artist).

Two possible (albeit less common) synonyms for trucco are truccatura and maquillage, the latter coming from French.

Other meanings for “trucco”: trick and catch

If you look at various Italian dictionaries, you’ll see that make-up is not the first meaning listed for the word trucco.

This is because it is a popular term to refer to artifice or trickery such as that of a magician.

Mi insegni qualche trucco di magia?

Can you teach me some magic tricks?

You can use trucco to talk about the techniques one learns with years of experience doing a job. The expression i trucchi del mestiere, for example, means the tricks of the trade.

Trucco can also have a negative connotation when used to describe fraud or a scam. The noun truccatura, the adjective truccato/a and the verb truccare can also be used in this sense.

Conosco un trucco per non pagare le bollette.

I know a trick for not paying the bills.

horse race
La corsa era truccata! = The race was fixed!

A final translation is catch which refers to a hidden problem or a disadvantage in a situation that looks too good to be true.

È troppo bello per essere vero, dov’è il trucco?

It’s too good to be true, where’s the catch?

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