Italian Word of the Day: Pendolare (commuter)

Pendolare is an interesting Italian word in that it can be classified as a noun, verb or adjective. Let’s begin by looking at its usage as a verb, as doing so will help us understand the meaning behind the noun and adjective.

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

Pendolare is a regular -are verb that means to oscillate, to swing, or to dangle. It comes from the noun pendolo which means pendulum (of a clock).

Because commuters spend their waking hours travelling between home and work/school, they evoke the image of a pendulum swinging back and forth.

Dal lunedì al venerdì, pendolo tra Torino e Milano.

From Monday to Friday, I commute between Turin and Milan.

People that commute are known as pendolari (singular: pendolare) in Italian – literally ‘the swingers’.

Note that pendolare can be used to describe both males and females, with the gender being revealed by the article (i.e. il pendolare = a male commuter / la pendolare = a female commuter).

The expression fare il / la pendolare means to commute or to be a commuter.

Marta fa la pendolare tra Milano e Genova per motivi lavorativi. Vorrebbe trasferirsi ma suo marito è contrario.

Marta commutes between Milan and Genoa. She would like to move, but her husband is against it.

Commuters on train
Una studentessa che fa la pendolare = A student who commutes

As we mentioned above, pendolare can also function as an adjective. In this sense, it describes the person doing the commuting. For example:

  • un lavoratore / una lavoratrice pendolare = a commuting worker
  • uno studente / una studentessa pendolare = a commuting student

Sometimes this word also translates as pendular, as in pendular motion (moto pendolare), but it is a far less common interpretation than commuter.

Pendolare vs Penzolare

A similar verb to pendolare is penzolare, with the ‘z’ replacing the ‘d’. It refers to something that hangs from above or is suspended in the air. It can also imply that the object is oscillating and is followed by the preposition da. In this sense, you will hear penzolare much more frequently than pendolare.

La lampadina penzolava dal soffitto.

The light bulb was dangling from the ceiling.

Shoes dangling on a street wire
Le scarpe penzolano dal filo elettrico. = The shoes hang from the electric wire.

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