Italian Word of the Day: Tesoro (treasure)

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that tesoro (masculine, plural: tesori) is the Italian word for treasure!

IPA: /teˈzɔ.ro/

Both terms can trace back their origins to the Greek word thesauros (storehouse, treasure).

Il pirata aveva seppellito il tesoro prima di morire.

The pirate had buried a treasure before he died.


La mappa del tesoro = The treasure map

However what you may not know is that tesoro can also translate as fortune, wealth or riches. For example, if you want to say that something costs a fortune, one possible translation is costare un tesoro (lit: to cost a treasure). Likewise valere un tesoro means to be worth a fortune .

Crescere un figlio costa un tesoro.

Raising a child costs a fortune.


Yet another translation is treasury, as in the funds or revenue of a state, institution or society.

Tesoro can refer to artistic works or masterpieces of great value, including sacred furnishings, relics and precious objects associated with a church or sanctuary.

L’Italia è patria di molti tesori artistici.

Italy is home to many artistic masterpieces.


Il Colosseo a Roma, uno dei tesori nazionali più importanti. = The Colosseum in Rome, one of the most important national treasures.

If you have children, I can guarantee that at some point in your life as a parent, you will take part in a caccia al tesoro, the Italian word for treasure hunt.

Figuratively speaking, tesoro (along with its diminutive forms tesorino, tesoruccio and tesoretto) is frequently used as a term of endearment that loosely translates as darling or sweetheart. It can also work as an affectionate name for someone with a generous and sympathetic nature. In some regions of Italy, tesoro can also be abbreviated to the short and sweet teso’.

Tuo figlio è proprio un tesoro!

Your son is a real sweetheart!


Tesoro, or should I say tesssoro! is what the creature Gollum from Lord of The Rings (Il Signore degli Anelli) calls the ‘one ring to rule them all’ in the Italian version of the film.


Expressions using the word ‘tesoro’

Fare tesoro di (qualcosa)

Literal translation: to make a treasure of (something)
English meaning:
to treasure, to cherish, to put to good use, to take to heart


Chi trova un amico trova un tesoro

Literal translation: He who finds a friend finds a treasure
English meaning:
A friend is a treasure


Trivia: Chi trova un amico trova un tesoro is the title of a comedy featuring the famous Italian duo Bud Spencer and Terrence Hill (whose real names are Carlo Pedersoli and Mario Girotti). The film tells the story of Alan (Hill), a young reckless man who hides in Charlie’s boat (Spencer) when he’s about to embark on a solitary cruise. The pair ends up on an island and decide to help the indigenous population. Here is a funny fighting scene where they defend themselves from a bunch of silly pirates.

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