Italian Word of the Day: Mutande (underpants)

Today’s word of the day is part of our Italian Christmas Word Advent Calendar series. Each day throughout December, we’ll post a word that is related to the holiday season. Enjoy!

The word for underpants in Italian is mutande (feminine plural). Although the singular version exists (mutanda), it is rarely used.

IPA: /mu·tàn·de/

You may wonder why we are talking about underpants in our Advent Calendar series. Well, it is linked to the funny New Year’s Eve tradition of wearing a brand new pair of red underpants that you throw away on January 1st. The underwear should be a gift (regalo) from a friend (amico) or partner.

Ricordati di indossare le mutande rosse a capodanno, sono di buon auspicio.

Remember to wear red underpants on New Year’s Eve, they’ll bring you luck.

Men underwear OR Short Boxer isolated on white background
Mia moglie mi ha regalato un paio di boxer rossi per capodanno. = My wife gave me a pair of red boxers for New Year’s Eve.

Why rosso (red)? Well the colour red is closely associated with luck, prosperity and love (amore), so wearing red underpants will help you start the new year with good luck on your side.

I’d always assumed this was a purely Italian tradition but apparently it is also popular in other countries. The origin is not entirely clear. Apparently in the Middle Ages, men used to wear a red piece of cloth around their groin to ensure they remained fertile (and to protect themselves from witches and evil spells). Red plays an important role in other countries too. For example in China, it means success and wealth at the Chinese New Year.

The diminutive form of mutande is mutandine. It can refer to female underwear or kids’ underwear. Then we have the word slip which is also used for swimming trunks.

Finally, the expression rimanere in mutande means to lose everything (literally all you have left is your underpants).

Povero Paolo, ha perso il lavoro e ha dovuto vendere casa. È rimasto in mutande.

Poor Paolo, he lost his job and had to sell his house. He lost everything.

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