Italian Word of the Day: Occhiata (glance / quick look)

Occhiata, which is the combination of the word occhio (eye) with the noun-forming suffix -ata, may not be the most profound word in Italian but it is used very frequently in everyday conversation.

/oc·chià·ta/ – [okˈkjata]
Italian word "occhiata"

It translates to glance, glimpse, quick look or peek depending on the context, and as you’ve probably guessed from the ending, it is a feminine noun.

  • l’occhiata = the glance
  • un’occhiata = a glance
  • le occhiate = the glances
  • delle occhiate = some glances

A situation in which you will hear occhiata a lot is while shopping for clothes, especially if you don’t wish to be bothered by the salesperson. Below is a very common exchange you’ll hear in shops using the expression dare un’occhiata (literally “to give a quick look”):

Dare un’occhiata is also a popular expression when taking a quick look at something or checking something quickly, such as dare un’occhiata alla posta (to check the mail) or dare un’occhiata al giornale (to have a quick look at the newspaper, or to give the newspaper a quick read).

A synonym of dare un’occhiata is dare uno sguardo, with sguardo meaning gaze, look or glance depending on the context.

Another variation is dare un occhio. Both dare un’occhiata and dare un occhio can translate to to keep an eye on / to look after something or someone

  • dare un’occhiata / un occhio al cane = to keep an eye on the dog / to look after the dog (temporarily)
  • Puoi dare un’occhiata / un occhio ai bambini per 5 minuti? = Can you look after the kids for five minute?
African american friends trying on clothes and holding shirts on hangers to compare in shopping mall.

In addition to the verb dare (to give), you will also hear lanciare un’occhiata, which means more or less the same thing, and scambiarsi un’occhiata, which means to exchange glances.

Occhiata can be used with a number of adjectives to describe the way in which a person is looking at something, or to describe the mood behind someone’s look. Here are some common examples in everyday Italian:

  • un’occhiata veloce = a quick look
  • un’occhiata di sfuggita = a very quick look
  • un’occhiata fredda = a cold look
  • un’occhiata di fuoco = a fiery glance
  • un’occhiata d’intesa = a knowing look
  • un’occhiata interrogativa = a questioning look
  • un’occhiata assassina = an evil look

If you really want emphasise the quick and casual nature of your glance, you can use the diminutive occhiatina (“little glance”).

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