How to Say “Water” in Italian – Acqua

Water is one of the most precious resources we have. 60% of our body is made up of it and we use it for many things including washing, drinking and cooking.

If there is one Italian city that has a close association with water, it is Venice or Venezia as it is known in Italian. When you arrive in Venice by train and exit the station, it’s like going through a magical gateway that transports you to another world. Suddenly everything stands on water. And it moves me every time I go back.

One of the many rii (sing. rio = small canal) in Venezia

The Italian word for water is acqua and it is a feminine noun.

IPA: [ˈäkkwä]

Mi porti un bicchiere d’acqua per favore?

Can you bring me a glass of water, please?


È mancata l’acqua per diverse ore questa mattina.

There was no water (in the house) for several hours this morning.


The plural is acque and is often associated with regions of water:

  • acque sotterranee = aquifer (also called falda acquifera or falda idrica in Italian)
  • acque oceaniche / marine = sea / marine waters
  • acque territoriali = territorial waters
  • acque costiere = coastal waters

It also refers to the late stage in pregnancy when the mother loses the amniotic liquid:

Mario, dobbiamo andare in ospedale, le si sono rotte le acque!

Mario, we have to go to the hospital, her water broke!


Additional vocabulary

There are many words based around acqua. Here are some of the most common:

  • acquoso adj = watery
  • acquario nm = fish tank / aquarium
  • acquarello nm = watercolour
  • acquazzone or rovescio d’acqua nm = (lit. big water or downpour of water) heavy shower
  • acqua torrenziale nf = torrential water
  • acquatico adj = water based, aquatic
  • acquedotto nm = water main
  • acqua alta nf = flooding (mainly relates to Venice)
  • acqua santa nf = holy water
  • annacquare vtr = to water down
  • pelo dell’acqua nm = (lit. the hair of the water) water surface
  • specchio d’acqua nm = (lit. mirror of water) stretch / pool of water
  • acqua di Colonia nf = Eau de Cologne

Idioms

The most interesting thing about acqua is just how many idioms and expressions there are connected to this word.

Perdersi in un bicchier d’acqua

  • literal : to get lost in a glass of water
  • meaning : to panic or give up on something that is very easy to solve
  • English equivalent : to make a mountain out of a molehill

Acqua e sapone

  • literal : water and soap
  • meaning : it means natural beauty without make-up, pure and simple (often refers to a woman or girl)
  • English equivalent : meat and potatoes

Essere con l’acqua alla gola

  • literal : to be with the water up your throat
  • meaning : to be in a very difficult situation
  • English equivalent : in dire straits, in over your head

Essere in cattive acque

  • literal : to be in bad waters
  • meaning : to be in a difficult or dangerous situation
  • English equivalent : to be in a bad way

Un pesce fuor d’acqua

  • literal : a fish out of water (same as English)
  • meaning : to be out of your comfort zone

Fare un buco nell’acqua

  • literal : to make a hole in the water
  • meaning : to fail at doing something, to be unsuccessful
  • English equivalent : to draw a blank, swing and a miss

Fare acqua da tutte le parti

  • literal : to drip water everywhere
  • meaning : to not work properly, to have serious flaws
  • English equivalent : to be full of holes, not hold water

Scoprire l’acqua calda

  • literal : to discover hot water
  • meaning : to discover something obvious, predictable
  • english equivalent : to reinvent the wheel

Tirare l’acqua al proprio mulino

  • literal : to pull water to your own mill
  • meaning : to do something for your own gain without considering other people
  • English equivalent : to look after number one

Far passare acqua sotto i ponti

  • literal : to let water pass under the bridge
  • meaning : to let time pass before doing something, to wait for the opportune moment