Italian Word of the Day: Cioè (that is / namely)

Today we’re going to talk about a little word with a very big meaning: the conjunction cioè. It is a fusion of the pronoun ciò (this, that) and è, which is the verb essere (to be) conjugated in the third person singular of the present tense.

IPA: /cio·è/

Cioè is used to introduce detailed information, a correction of something already said or a specific example, much like the following English expressions:

  • that is (to say) – when you want to give further details or be more exact about something
  • namely – when you want to give a specific example or introduce additional information
  • in other words – when you want to clarify a statement
  • rather – when you want to correct what’s been said

Parliamo delle partite giocate dalla Juventus in casa, cioè a Torino.

We’re talking about the games played by Juventus at home, that is, in Turin.

view of the Mole Antonelliane in Turin with the mountains in the background
Torino = Turin

Abbiamo imparato molto sui grandi felini, cioè leoni e tigri.

We learned a lot about the big cats, namely lions and tigers.

Ho usato un chilo di farina, cioè tutto il pacco.

I used one kilogram of flour, or in other words, the whole packet.

Ha risposto a tutte le domande, cioè, a quasi tutte.

He answered all the questions, or rather, almost all of them.

A sad dog waiting for its owner.
Sono cinque ore che aspetto, cioè tutto il pomeriggio! – I’ve been waiting for five hours, the whole afternoon, that is!

Cioè can also be used with an interrogative tone in response to a statement that requires clarification or elaboration as in the following example:

Ho una domanda da farti. – Cioè…?

I have something to ask you. – And that would be…?

In everyday speech, cioè is also used (and some might even say overused) as a filler, that is, a word that allows us to take the time to gather our thoughts about what we want to say next. It corresponds to a number of English fillers including I mean, like and you know.

Cioè… non volevo farlo ma non avevo altra scelta.

I mean… I didn’t want to do it but I didn’t have a choice.

Important: Because it tends to be said very quickly, it may sound like the speaker is saying c’è (there is) rather than cioè.

Sign up for a free trial of LingQ (affiliate link), the app I use to improve my Italian vocabulary, and receive an additional 100 LingQs which can be used before needing to upgrade!

Read our full review of LingQ and find out why we love it so much!

Leave a Comment