Italian Word of the Day: Potente (powerful)

The word for powerful in Italian is potente. If you have trouble remembering this word, I find it helps to create a mental link with the English term potent.

IPA: /po·tèn·te/

The singular potente modifies both masculine and feminine singular subjects. In its plural form, it becomes potenti.

As in English, potente can be interpreted in the following ways:

  • someone or something with physical strength (e.g. muscoli potenti = powerful muscles)
  • someone with a lot of influence or resources (e.g. un politico potente = a powerful politician)
  • a collective with a lot of resources and power (e.g. una nazione potente = a powerful nation)
  • something that is intense, overwhelming, evocative or concentrated (e.g. un odore potente = a powerful smell)
  • art or writing that is rich, inspiring and evocative (e.g. un discorso potente = a powerful speech)
  • an action carried out in a forceful manner (e.g. un colpo potente = a powerful blow)

Un potente terremoto ha scosso la città.

A powerful earthquake shook the city.

car engine
Un motore potente = A powerful engine

Below are a few useful terms that are etymologically related to potente:

  • potere = power
  • potenza = power
  • potenziare = to strengthen, reinforce
  • potenziamento = strengthening
  • potentemente = powerfully

In the colloquial language of pre-teens, teenagers, students and young adults, potente is often used as an exclamation of admiration, similar to the colloquialism cool in English.

Che potente quel film!

What a cool film!

In rare cases, it may be followed by the preposition a + infinitive verb to mean capable, suitable or valid. (e.g. È potente a fare qualcosa. = He is capable of doing something.)

In addition to being an adjective, potente may also function as a noun to describe a powerful person or nation.

Bisogna aiutare i poveri e lottare contro i potenti.

We must help the poor and fight against the powerful.

Washington Monument on the Reflecting Pool in Washington, D.C.
Una nazione potente = A powerful nation

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