Italian Word of the Day: Successo (success)

The Italian word for success is the similar sounding successo (masculine, plural: successi). Both words can be traced back to the Latin word “successus” of the same meaning.


The expression avere successo (lit: to have success) translates as to be a success or to be successful. Although avere is by far the most common, you might also see successo used with other verbs such as:

  • raggiungere il successo = to achieve success
  • riscuotere un (grande) successo = to meet with (great) success
  • ottenere successo = to attain success

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is also the past participle of the verb succedere meaning to happen / to occur.

Questo cantante ha riscosso grande successo quest’anno.

This singer has met with lots of success this year.

Waist up portrait of multi-ethnic group of friends smiling at camera happily while enjoying Birthday party or prom night
La festa è stata un successo inaspettato. = The party was an unexpected success.

Preceded by the prepositions con (with) and di (of), we get the words successfully and successful respectively. For example:

  • Ha compiuto con successo la sua missione. = He successfully completed his mission.
  • È una donna di successo. = She’s a successful woman.

Place the preposition senza (without) in front of successo and you get equivalent of the word unsuccessful or unsuccessfully.

Ho provato a superare l’esame tre volte, senza successo.

I tried to pass the exam three times unsuccessfully.

While grande successo is the most common way of saying big success, there are other more descriptive adjectives you can use to say the same thing such as:

  • un successo significativo >> (significativo = significant)
  • un successo sbalorditivo >> (sbalorditivo = astonishing)
  • un successo clamoroso >> (clamoroso = resounding)

Alternatively you can use the augmentative form of successo which is successone (big success).

Successo is also the word Italians use to describe people, initiatives or activities that meet with great success. Some good examples include:

  • un successo editoriale = a best-selling book
  • un successo sportivo = a sporting triumph
  • un successo dei Beatles = a hit song by the Beatles
  • un successo di pubblico = public success
  • un successo di critica = critical success
Hand of female athlete holding gold medal in stadium
Un clamoroso successo per l’atleta italiana alle olimpiadi. = A resounding triumph for the Italian athlete at the Olympics.

In sports, successo can also mean victory or win.

La squadra ha concluso il campionato senza successi.

The team finished the championship without any wins.

In rare cases, successo may also refer to an outcome or result, be it positive or not. Used in this sense, it is often preceded by the adjectives buon (good) or cattivo (bad) in order to clarify whether the result was positive or negative (e.g. la missione ebbe un buon / cattivo successo = the mission had a good / bad outcome).

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