Italian Word of the Day: Lucciola (firefly)

The Italian word for a firefly, glow-worm or lightning bug is lucciola (feminine, plural: lucciole). It comes from the Latin lucjola, which is the diminutive form of lux lucis meaning light.


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

All species of lucciole, both at the larva and adult stage, are characterised by the ability to produce luce (light) from the abdomen due to a phenomenon called bioluminescence.

Di notte, le lucciole illuminano il bosco. È uno spettacolo bellissimo e surreale.

At night, the fireflies light up the woods. It’s a beautiful and surreal sight.

A forest filled with fireflies
Una foresta piena di lucciole – A forest filled with fireflies

In the world of cinema and theatre, lucciola was once used to refer to a person (usually a woman) who showed people to their seats using a pocket flashlight when the lights went off. It also denotes a type of reflector for film shooting that radiates an intense and well-distributed light.

Colloquially, you can use the word as a euphemism for prostitute or streetwalker because lucciole attract mates with their glowing rear ends!

Finally, a beautiful word to describe a cloud of fireflies (uno sciame di lucciole) is lucciolaio.

Idioms with the word ‘lucciola’

Three idiomatic expressions in which lucciole are mentioned are:

Dare a intendere lucciole per lanterne

Literal translation: to lead someone to believe that fireflies are lanterns
English meaning: to trick, to tell lies, to misrepresent reality

Prendere lucciole per lanterne

Literal translation: to take fireflies for lanterns
English meaning: to misunderstand

Vedere le lucciole

Literal translation: to see fireflies
English meaning: to experience intense physical pain
An uncommon variation of vedere le stelle (lit: to see stars)

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