Italian Word of the Day: Cipolla (onion)

The word for onion in Italian is cipolla (feminine, plural: cipolle). They are a key ingredient in Italian cooking along with garlic, olive oil and tomatoes.

IPA: /tʃipol.la/

Onions can be divided into three broad categories – red onions (cipolle rosse), white onions (cipolle bianche) and copper onions (cipolle ramate) – and within these categories, there are twenty different types known throughout the peninsula.

Ci sono tanti tipi di cipolle in Italia.

There are many kinds of onions in Italy.


The most famous is the cipolla rossa di Tropea (Tropea red onion) which is known for its sweet flavour.

Public Domain – Taken by Bristakya

An onion is described using the diminutive cipollina when it is smaller in size than the average onion. For example, chives are known as erba cipollina whereas pickled onions are cipolline sottaceto. Spring onions have their own name which is cipollotto.

In padella, fai appassire le cipolline in olio, rosmarino e sale.

In a pan, lightly fry the small onions in oil, rosemary and salt.


A humorous slang term for orologio da tasca (pocket watch) in Italian is orologio a cipolla. It refers to the big, old-fashioned pocket watches of a bygone era.

When it’s cold outside or when the temperature changes from one moment to the next, Italian parents will encourage their children to vestirsi a cipolla which means to wear layers. This expression literally translates as “dress like an onion”!

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