Italian Word of the Day: Gioia (joy)

It’s Christmas Day, and what better word to capture the essence of this festive occasion than joy, or gioia in Italian!

/giò·ia/ – [ˈdʒɔja]
italian word gioia

Gioia is a feminine noun that takes the following definite and indefinite articles:

  • la gioia = the joy
  • le gioie = the joys
  • una gioia = a joy
  • (delle) gioie = (some) joys

Gioia, similar to the English word joy, can denote both a state of being and the source of one’s happiness, as illustrated in the following two example phrases.

Young woman feeling happy and looking excited
La gioia di vivere = “Joie de vivre” (joy of living)

Gioia can also be used to describe a person, such as a daughter or son, who brings happiness and joy. In this context, alternative translations may include darling or light of one’s life. What’s more, gioia and gioia mia (literally “my joy”) are very common terms of endearment in Italian.

Below are a few expressions you might encounter containing the word gioia:

  • essere pazzo / pazza di gioia = to be overjoyed
  • darsi alla pazza gioia = to live it up / have a wild time
  • essere fuori di sé dalla gioia = to be bursting with joy
Happy tourist visiting Colosseum in Rome.
Si sta dando alla pazza gioia a Roma. = He’s living it up in Rome.

Sometimes you’ll hear the expression che gioia, which literally translates to ‘what joy,’ but is closer in meaning to the English ‘how nice‘ or ‘that’s great.’ It can be used sincerely or sarcastically.

  • Che gioia essere qui! = How nice it is to be here!
  • Che gioia, sta piovendo di nuovo! = Oh great, it’s raining again!

You might also encounter the sarcastic expression Mai una gioia! (lit. never a joy!) which is used to convey a sense of perpetual disappointment, frustration, or dissatisfaction about the events happening in one’s life. In English, we might simply say My life sucks! or Nothing ever seems to go right!

In addition to its joyful meaning, gioia can also mean jewel, gem or precious stone. For example, you could describe a woman as being coperta di gioie (covered in jewels).

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