Italian Word of the Day: Musica (music)

The Italian word for music is the similar sounding musica (feminine, plural: musiche). Both words can be traced back to the Greek mousikē (tekhnē) which means (art) of the Muses.

/mù·ṣi·ca/

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Like the English word, musica is used to talk about not only the combination of melodic vocals and sounds itself, but also the art of composing or performing music. (Note that there is a separate term for sheet music, which is spartito.)

The following verbs are often seen in the company of the word musica:

  • ascoltare musica = to listen to music
  • studiare musica = to study music
  • comporre musica = to compose music
  • scrivere musica = to write music
  • fare musica = to make music

Note: If you want to say to play music, you should use the verb suonare. Although you can say suonare la musica, it is more common to use suonare on its own because musica is implied.

Mi piace ascoltare la musica mentre faccio le pulizie di casa.

I like listening to music while cleaning the house.


little girl listening to music on her headphones
Sta ascoltando musica con le sue cuffie.She’s listening to music on her headphones.

Some of the most popular kinds of music include:

musica rock
rock music

musica classica
classical music

musica pop
pop music

musica country
country music

musica dance / da ballo
dance music

musica lirica
opera music

musica strumentale
instrumental music

musica di sottofondo
background music

musica jazz
jazz music

musica rap
rap music

Musica can also refer to a band (particularly a marching band) or a concert.

Stasera c’è musica in piazza. Vuoi uscire con noi?

Tonight there is a concert in the square. Do you want to go out with us?


Musica doesn’t always have to refer to arranged vocal or instrumental sounds – it may also denote any sound perceived as pleasing to the ear.

For example, if you wanted to sound poetic, you could say la musica delle onde (the music of the waves) instead of il rumore delle onde (the sound of the waves).

Hike in Wind River Range in Wyoming, USA. Autumn season.
La musica del fiume = The music of the river

Curiously it can also assume the opposite meaning of an unpleasant or out-of-tune sound such as cars racing along the street or dogs barking.

La musica dei cani continuò fino alle tre di notte.

The sound of the barking dogs continued until 3 a.m.


You can use musica figuratively in the following idiomatic expressions to describe a situation that has become monotonous and boring because it has gone on longer than necessary:

  • Bisogna cambiare musica. = It’s time for a change. (lit: It is necessary to change the music.)
  • Quando finirà questa musica? = When will this situation end? (lit: When will this music end?)

And in some cases, it can denote any kind of situation, boring or not, as in the following expressions:

  • Questa è un’altra musica. = It’s a completely different matter. (lit: This is another music.)
  • È sempre la solita musica. = It’s the same old story. (lit: It’s always the same music.)

Musichetta, which is the diminutive of musica, may refer to a short and light-hearted piece of music, or a song of little artistic value. For example, if you are put on hold while on the phone, you may be forced to listen to an annoying piece of musichetta d’attesa (lit: waiting music).


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