Italian Word of the Day: Scoiattolo (squirrel)

The word for squirrel in Italian is scoiattolo (masculine, plural: scoiattoli). Both terms can be traced back to the Greek skiouros, which is a combination of skia (shadow) and oura (tail).


The diminutive scoiattolino can be used to indicate a small squirrel or a squirrel kitten.

When you imagine a typical squirrel, what comes to mind is likely a member of the tree squirrel family such as the red squirrel (scoiattolo rosso) or Eastern gray squirrel (scoiattolo grigio). However there are many other species including the:

  • scoiattolo volante = flying squirrel
  • tamia = chipmunk
  • marmotta = marmot
  • scoiattolo di terra = ground squirrel
  • cane della prateria = prairie dog

Gli scoiattoli sono tra i mammiferi più diffusi al mondo.

Squirrels are among the most widespread mammals in the world.

Red squirrel on a tree stump with nuts
Un simpatico scoiattolo che raccoglie noci = A cute squirrel collecting nuts

In a figurative sense, the word scoiattolo can be used to describe a person who is agile and energetic.

  • È agile come uno scoiattolo. = He’s as agile as a squirrel.
  • È veloce come uno scoiattolo. = He’s as fast as a squirrel.
  • Arrampicarsi come uno scoiattolo. = To climb like a squirrel.

Quella bambina è proprio agile come uno scoiattolo. Guarda come si arrampica sull’albero!

That little girl really is a squirrel. Look at how she’s climbing the tree!

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