Italian Word of the Day: Quarantena (quarantine)

The word for quarantine in Italian is the extremely similar quarantena (feminine, plural: quarantene).

IPA: /qua·ran·tè·na/

Although today it refers to an indefinite period of isolation for people or animals exposed to infectious or contagious diseases, it was originally a 14th-15th century Venetian word used to describe a precise forty-day (quaranta giorni) period of isolation for the passengers and crew of ships during the Black Death plague epidemic.

Siamo in quarantena da quasi due settimane ormai.

We’ve already been in quarantine for two weeks.

An alternative way of saying the same thing in both languages is isolamento (isolation).

Some verbs you’ll commonly see used with quarantena include:

  • mettere (qualcuno) in quarantena = to put (someone) in quarantine
  • tenere (qualcuno) in quarantena = to keep (someone) in quarantine
  • fare la quarantena = to quarantine oneself

Used figuratively, mettere / tenere in quarantena can also mean to hold something back or stop something from going ahead such as a publication, promotion or reform until it has been properly examined or verified.

Per il momento, teniamo quest’articolo in quarantena mentre aspettiamo prove più concrete.

For now, let’s keep this article to the side while we wait for more concrete evidence.

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