Italian Word of the Day: Gattonare (to crawl / to stalk)

The verb gattonare in Italian has two meanings, depending on whether you are describing a human being or an animal.

cover image with the word “gattonare” and its translation written on a notepad next to a cup of cofee

When a human, or more specifically a baby, is the subject, gattonare means to crawl.

Mia figlia ha cominciato a gattonare molto presto.

My daughter started crawling very early.

Happy mother looking at her crawling baby
Guardate, sta gattonando! – Look, he’s crawling!

When talking about predatory animals such as felines, however, gattonare refers to the act of stalking one’s prey while crouching down close to the ground.

Note that if you want to talk about stalking in a human context, Italians use the verb perseguitare (to persecute) or the phrase fare stalking (lit: to do stalking) with the English word.

Gattonare comes from the noun gattoni (on all fours) which in turn derives from the word gatto (cat). Gattoni also appears in a few alternative translations for to crawl, such as:

  • andare (a) gattoni (lit. to go on all fours)
  • procedere (a) gattoni (lit. to proceed on all fours)
  • avanzare (a) gattoni (lit. to move forward on all fours)
  • camminare (a) gattoni (lit. to walk on all fours)

Finally, we have the expression gatton gattoni, which refers to the act of stealthily creeping along the ground with the intention of going undetected.

Il leone si avvicinò gatton gattoni verso la sua preda.

The lion crept stealthily toward towards its prey.

Being a regular -are verb, it is very easy to conjugate in the present tense:

(io) gattono
I crawl

(tu) gattoni
you crawl – informal

(lui) gattona
he crawls

(lei) gattona
she crawls

(Lei) gattona
you crawl – formal

(noi) gattoniamo
we crawl

(voi) gattonate
you crawl – plural

(loro) gattonano
they crawl

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