Italian Word of the Day: Specchio (mirror)

The Italian word for a mirror is specchio. It comes from the Latin speculum, which is a derivative of the Latin verb specere meaning to look.

cover image with the word “specchio” and its translation written on a notepad next to a cup of coffee

Specchio is a masculine noun. Take away the final -o and you have the plural, specchi.

uno specchio
lo specchio

degli specchi
gli specchi

There are two ways to express the concept ‘to look at oneself in the mirror‘ in Italian. You can simply say guardarsi allo specchio*, which is a very literal translation, or you can use the verb specchiarsi. It is also possible to say stare davanti allo specchio (to stand in front of the mirror).

*Note: guardarsi allo specchio also has a figurative meaning, and that is to have a look at oneself and admit one’s flaws, or to become conscious of one’s own reality.

Gianni è proprio vanitoso. Si guarda allo specchio continuamente!

Gianni is so vain. He constantly looks at himself in the mirror!

Afro Woman Looking In Mirror Touching Face And Perfect Skin At Bathroom.
Si sta specchiando. = She’s looking at herself in the mirror.

Some different kinds of mirrors include:

  • specchio deformante = distorting mirror (used at theme parks)
  • specchio magico = magic mirror (in fairytales such as Snow White)
  • specchio tascabile / da borsetta = pocket mirror
  • specchio da trucco = make-up mirror
  • specchio da muro / da parete = wall mirror
  • specchietto = compact mirror (lit. little mirror)
  • specchietto retrovisore = rearview mirror

Specchio can also be used in a figurative sense to refer to something – usually a body of water – that is flat, uniform and motionless. For example, if you call the sea uno specchio, the implication is that there aren’t any waves.

Oggi il mare è uno specchio. Potrebbe essere il giorno perfetto per vedere dei delfini!

Today the sea is mirror calm. It could be the perfect day to see dolphins!

Spectacular scenery of lake with smooth surface reflecting amazing mountain range and sky
Il lago è uno specchio. = The lake is mirror calm.

Another figurative meaning for specchio is reflection or window, and it is used almost exclusively when talking about a person’s soul.

Dicono che gli occhi siano lo specchio dell’anima.

They say that the eyes are the window to the soul.

Specchio has a lot of additional meanings, mostly technical and some unrelated to mirrors. One of the most interesting is an abstract definition that reflects the feelings typical of a person or the characteristics typical of a certain time. For example, uno specchio dei tempi translates as a sign of the times.

Finally, we have the famous quote spoken by the Evil Queen in the animated Disney film Snow White:

Specchio, servo delle mie brame, chi è la più bella del reame?

Magic mirror on the wall, who is the fairest one of all?

Note that in the Italian version, the queen asks who is the most beautiful rather than who is the fairest. She also refers to the mirror as a servant. Here is the literal translation:

  • Mirror, servant of my yearnings, who is the most beautiful in the realm?

You can hear the Italian voice at minute 0:24 in the video below.

Expressions featuring the word ‘specchio’

Arrampicarsi sugli specchi

Literal translation: to climb mirrors
English meaning: to clutch / grab at straws

Tenere la casa come uno specchio

Literal translation: to keep the house like a mirror
English meaning: to keep the house spotless

Farsi specchio di qualcuno

Literal translation: to make oneself mirror of someone
English meaning: to take someone as model, to imitate someone

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