Italian Word of the Day: Capriccio (tantrum / whim)

The words tantrum and whim both translate as capriccio (masculine, plural: capricci) in Italian. Derived from the antiquated form caporiccio, meaning fright or sudden start, it shares the same origin as the English word caprice.

IPA: /ca·prìc·cio/

In the former sense of the word, it is often used to talk about the temper tantrums of young children. The expression fare i capricci, for example, means to throw a temper tantrum and the phrase Non fare i capricci! (lit: Don’t have a tantrum!) is how Italians tend to say Don’t be naughty!

Non fare i capricci quando andiamo dai nonni!

Don’t be naughty when we go to your grandparents’ house!


mother telling off young daughter
Smettila di fare i capricci o ti mando a letto senza cena! = Stop being naughty or you’ll go to bed without supper!

The second interpretation for capriccio is a whim, or in other words, a sudden, brief and often bizarre desire or impulse. If you do something a capriccio, for example, you do it based on a sudden urge without careful planning or due to a capricious inclination (i.e. on a whim).

In a romantic context, it can also mean crush / infatuation because these kinds of romantic feelings tend to start without warning and are usually short-lived.

Giacomo non avrebbe tenuto con sé la foto di Maria se fosse stato solo un capriccio estivo.

Giacomo wouldn’t have kept Maria’s photo if it was only a summer infatuation.


Figuratively speaking, capriccio can be used to describe changeable weather, mechanical objects that cease to work as they should, and incomprehensible phenomena.

Il computer sta facendo di nuovo i capricci.

The computer is playing up again.


Last but not least, a capriccio in musical terms is a lively piece of music that is typically short and free in form.

Some terms that are related to capriccio include:

  • capriccioso = capricious, fickle, whimsical
  • capricciosità = capriciousness, whimsy
  • capricciosamente = capriciously, naughtily

Trivia: the feminine capricciosa is the name of a popular pizza in Italy that is prepared with mozzarella, tomato sauce, mushroom, baked ham and artichokes. You may find variations on these ingredients depending on the region.

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