Italian Word of the Day: Indietreggiare (to move backwards)

The Italian verb indietreggiare is formed from the adverb indietro meaning behind, back or backwards.


You can use it to express a number of concepts that translate as to move backwards in English including:

1. to fall back / to retreat

Indietreggiare, in the most literal sense of the word, refers to the withdrawal from enemy forces or dangerous situations. Some synonyms in Italian include farsi indietro and ritirarsi.

L’esercito non ha altra scelta: deve indietreggiare e aspettare i rinforzi.

The army doesn’t have another option: it must retreat and wait for reinforcements.

2. to back up / to reverse (a vehicle)

Indietreggiare may also be used when talking about moving a vehicle backwards but the expression fare marcia indietro is more common. (Marcia indietro in this case means reverse gear, also known as retromarcia.)

Anna avviò il motore e indietreggiò di qualche metro.

Anna turned on the engine and backed up a few meters.

Woman driving a car in reverse

3. to step / move back

You can use the verb to describe a person stepping back or to tell somebody to move back. Another common phrase is fare un passo indietro (to take a step backward).

Puoi indietreggiare di qualche passo per favore?

Can you move back a few steps, please?

4. to shrink / to back away / to recoil

Indietreggiare is frequently used in a figurative sense to mean ‘to recoil from danger, something unpleasant or a confrontation’.

Marco indietreggia sempre di fronte alle difficoltà.

Marco always backs away from problems.

Note: Indietreggiare can take either avere (to have) or essere (to be) as its auxiliary verb. In other words, it is possible to translate the phrase I moved backwards as either Ho indietreggiato and Sono indietreggiato.

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