Italian Word of the Day: Minuto (minute)

Each hour (ora) of the day consists of sixty minutes, which in Italian are known as minuti (singular: minuto). It comes from the late Latin minutum, which means particle, and is the neuter noun form of the adjective minutus.



/mi·nù·to/ – [miˈnuto]
italian word minuto

Because minuto is a masculine noun, it takes the following definite and indefinite articles:

  • il minuto = the minute
  • i minuti = the minutes
  • un minuto = a minute
  • dei minuti = (some) minutes

Tra un minuto l’orologio batterà la mezzanotte.

In one minute the clock will strike midnight.

Mancano dieci minuti alle quattro. Ci prepariamo per uscire?

It’s ten minutes to four. Shall we get ready to go out?

Clock on brick wall
Sono le dieci meno sei minuti. = It’s six minutes to ten.

Minuto also has the figurative meaning of “a very short period of time”. Used in this sense, the correct English translation could be any of the following: minute, moment, second or instant. This meaning is exemplified in set expressions such as:

  • Non c’è un minuto da perdere. = There isn’t a minute to lose.
  • Aspetta un minuto! = Wait a minute!
  • Arrivare all’ultimo minuto = To arrive at the last minute
  • Arrivare a minuti = To arrive at any minute

Mio figlio non sta mai fermo un minuto.

My son never sits still for a minute.

Aspetta due minuti, adesso arrivo!

Wait a second, I’m coming now!
(literally: wait two minutes)

Waiter taking order from clients at outdoor cafe.
Potrebbe darci un minuto? Grazie.Could you give us a minute? Thank you.

When newscasters deliver a detailed running commentary on a sporting event, you will often hear the term minuto per minuto, which is the Italian for play-by-play.

Minuto has another meaning in Italian, which is tiny or minuscule, just like the English minute. You can use it for things or people (caretteri minuti = tiny characters; una ragazza minuta = a tiny girl).

Idiomatic Expressions Featuring “Minuto”

Spaccare il minuto

Literal translation: to break the minute

English meaning: to keep perfect time (when talking about a clock or watch), to be extremely punctual (when talking about a person)

Contare i minuti

Literal translation: to count the minutes

English meaning: to count the minutes (to be impatient for time to pass)

Guardare / Stare al minuto

Literal translation: to watch / stay at the minute

English meaning: to be extremely punctual, and to expect the same of others

Arrivare al minuto

Literal translation: to arrive at the minute

English meaning: to arrive right on time

Avere i minuti contati

Literal translation: to have one’s minutes counted

English meaning: to have no time to spare

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