Italian Word of the Day: Permaloso (touchy / sensitive)

It seems that my young son’s personality is forever changing. At six months, he was an adventurous and confident baby. But then, just a week shy of turning ten months old, he suddenly became extremely clingy and permaloso, crying at the strangest things, from crinkling paper to the sound of me sweeping up his post-dinner mess with the brush and pan. And shame on you if you dared so much as blow your nose in his presence!

As you might have guessed, permaloso (masculine adjective) means touchy, (over)sensitive or cranky in Italian. It is used to describe a person who is easily hurt, upset or offended, even for trivial reasons.

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

Because it is an adjective, the ending changes for the feminine and plural forms:

  • permalosa = feminine, singular
  • permalosi = masculine, plural
  • permalose = feminine, plural

Mica posso dirgli la verità: è troppo permaloso!

There’s no way I can tell him the truth: he’s too sensitive!

High angle view of depressed teenage boy sitting on floor
Ha un carattere permaloso – He has a touchy personality

The diminutive form permalosetto means somewhat sensitive.

Permaloso (and its feminine equivalent permalosa) can also function as a noun meaning touchy / oversensitive person. However, it tends to be used much more frequently as an adjective, barring a few expressions like the one below.

Non fare la permalosa! Ti ho detto che mi dispiace!

Don’t be so sensitive! I said I’m sorry!

It derives from the words per male (lit: for bad) which appeared in the 17th century expression aversene per male (to take offence).

Some related terms include:

  • permalosamente = in a touchy way
  • permalosità = touchiness
  • impermalosirsi = to take offence

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