Italian Word of the Day: Scarabocchio (blot / scribble)

In English, there are separate words for different kinds of careless marks made while writing or drawing. We have blot for a dark stain made by ink, scrawl for illegible handwriting, scribble for something written or drawn in a hurry, and doodle for a poorly drawn picture.

In Italian, all these concepts can be expressed with one very handy word: scarabocchio (masculine, plural: scarabocchi).


Interestingly scarabocchio comes from the word scarabeo which is the word for scarab beetle in Italian.

Scarab (Scarabaeus) beetle on desert sand dune
Lo scarabeo cammina sulla duna di sabbia. = The scarab beetle walks on the sand dune.

It was thought that an ink blot (macchia d’inchiostro), with its abstract pattern of black splotches, resembled the figure of a scarab. Would you agree?

top view of brown dip pen and black ink blots on white paper
Macchie d’inchiostro = ink blots

Let’s get back to our word of the day. Here is an example with a phrase:

Questa firma è uno scarabocchio indecifrabile. Tu riesci a leggerla?

This signature is an indecipherable scribble. Can you read it?

Hand draws scribble in a notebook. Blank notepad page in bullet journal on bright blue office desktop. Top view of modern table with notebook, stationery. Mock up, copy space
Il suo quaderno è pieno di scarabocchi! – His notebook is full of doodles!

Derived from scarabocchio is the verb scarabocchiare which means to scribble all over something, or to throw something together quickly such as a draft or letter.

Ha scarabocchiato un paio di paragrafi per la presentazione di domani.

He/she threw a few paragraphs together for tomorrow’s presentation.

Scarabocchio is also a pejorative term for an unattractive person.

Finally, we have the diminutive scarabocchietto (little scribble) and augmentative scarabocchione (big scribble). The latter is also a noun describing a person who makes a lot of scarabocchi, has sloppy writing or does bad drawings.

Leave a Comment