Italian Word of the Day: Lentamente (slowly)

In order to say slowly in Italian, all you have to do is take the feminine singular form of the adjective lento (slow) and add on the suffix -mente (which means -ly) to produce the adverb lentamente.

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

Cammino lentamente perché mi fa male la gamba.

I’m walking slowly because my leg hurts.

An adverb that can replace lentamente in almost every instance is piano. The difference is that the sole translation for lentamente is slowly whereas piano is a multifaceted term that can mean slowly, softly, cautiously, quietly or delicately depending on the context.

mangiare lentamente = to eat slowly
camminare lentamente = to walk slowly
andare lentamente = to go slowly

mangiare piano = to eat slowly
camminare piano = to walk slowly
andare piano = to go slowly

Piano is also used more when giving instructions or commands, probably because it is shorter and easier to blurt out quickly (e.g. Vai piano! = Go slowly!).

slow yellow road sign with palm trees in the background
Vai piano! Non hai visto il cartello? = Go slowly! Didn’t you see the sign?

Quite often, piano is repeated for emphasis, creating the expressions piano piano / pian piano / pian pianino. They can also be used figuratively to mean little by little.

Mi raccomando, versa la crema piano piano.

Please, make sure you pour the cream slowly.

Pian pianino, il nostro negozio si è fatto conoscere in tutta la città.

Little by little, our shop become well-known all across town.

There is also the expression Chi va piano, va sano e va lontano, which literally translates as “he who goes slowly, goes healthily and goes far”. The English equivalent is Slow and steady wins the race.

The daily road used with caution by a slow snail
La chiocciola si muove piano piano. – The snail moves slowly.

Another synonym is adagio which means slowly or unhurriedly.

Parla adagio o non ti capirà nessuno!

Speak slowly or no one will understand you!

Other ways to say slowly in Italian include:

  • a passo di lumaca = at a snail’s pace
  • con calma = calmly
  • tranquillamente = easily

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