Italian Word of the Day: Speciale (special)

It should be no surprise to learn that the Italian word for special is speciale. Both terms can be traced back to the Latin specialis, which in turn comes from the word species meaning ‘appearance‘. The word stays the same in its feminine form, whereas the plural is speciali.


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

In addition to meaning ‘out of the ordinary’ or ‘different to what is usual’, speciale can also refer to people or things with exceptional qualities or characteristics.

Maria è una persona davvero speciale. Pensa sempre agli altri.

Maria is a truly special person. She always thinks of other people.

It may also denote something intended for a specific person, purpose, or occasion such as un autobus speciale (a special bus) or una trasmissione speciale (a special broadcast).

man giving a present to his wife sitting on a wheelchair
Ti ho comprato un regalo speciale. – I bought you a special gift.

Some common terms in which speciale appears include:

  • effetti speciali = special effects
  • offerta speciale = special offer
  • servizio speciale = special service (or special TV report)
  • inviato speciale = special correspondent

Sometimes speciale can be used in an ironic way to suggest that someone is strange or bizarre.

Giorgio ha memorizzato ogni singola parola del libro “Il Signore degli Anelli”. Come ti ho detto, è un tipo “speciale”!

Giorgio has memorised every single word of The Lord of the Rings. As I told you, he’s a “special” guy!

If you want to say ‘in a special way‘ in Italian, you can use either in modo speciale or in special modo.

As a noun, speciale can mean a TV report or newspaper article about a current topic, event or important person.

Stasera in televisione trasmettono lo speciale su Lady Diana.

Tonight on television they are broadcasting the Lady Diana special.

a young man using a professional camcorder outdoor
Stanno girando uno speciale sul territorio. = They’re making a special report about the area.

Interestingly the English word special, as in a TV or news special, has entered the Italian language, but it can also refer to a short film that aims to make the public aware of the work of an actor or director.

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