Italian Word of the Day: Mezzogiorno (noon / midday)

We already discussed mezzanotte (midnight) in a previous post, so now it’s time to take a look at the other end of the temporal spectrum, mezzogiorno (noon / midday).

/meẓ·ẓo·giór·no/ – [meddzoˈdʒorno]

Mezzogiorno is the combination of the words mezzo (half or halfway) and giorno (day). It is a masculine noun, so it takes the following definite and indefinite articles:

  • il mezzogiorno
  • i mezzogiorni
  • un mezzogiorno
  • (dei) mezzogiorni

In situations where we might say “twelve” in English, Italians often continue to use mezzogiorno. For example:

  • suonare mezzogiorno = to strike twelve
  • mezzogiorno e un quarto = quarter after twelve

Here are some common time phrases you might hear that contain mezzogiorno:

  • mezzogiorno e mezza = 12:30 p.m.
  • mezzogiorno e un quarto = 12:15 p.m.
  • mezzogiorno meno un quarto = 11:45 a.m.
  • mezzogiorno meno cinque = 11:55 a.m.
  • un minuto a mezzogiorno = 11:59 a.m.
Retro style alarm clock over the pastel blue, pink and green background
È quasi mezzogiorno. = It’s almost midday.

In Italian, a casual and brief way to talk about 12:30 a.m. or p.m. is by using the term mezza. The specific mezza you’re talking about would, of course, depend on the context.

An second translation for mezzogiorno in Italian is south, or south-facing.

Interestingly, mezzogiorno, or more specifically il mezzogiorno d’Italia, is also used to refer to the south of Italy. It encompasses the administrative regions aligned with the historical Kingdom of the Two Sicilies. These regions include Abruzzo, Apulia, Basilicata, Calabria, Campania, Molise, and Sicily. Despite its cultural, linguistic, and historical differences from the other regions, the island of Sardinia is often included in the Mezzogiorno for statistical and economic reasons.

You might wonder, why the term “mezzogiorno“? Well, it’s a reference to the strength and location of sunlight at midday in the southern part of the Italian peninsula. The term gained popularity after the annexation of the Bourbon Kingdom of the Two Sicilies by the mainland-based Savoyard Kingdom of Sardinia, and the unification of Italy in 1861.

map of italy

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