Italian Word of the Day: Pianeta (planet)

The Italian word for planet is pianeta, which comes from the Greek planetes via the Latin planeta.


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It would be logical to assume that it is a feminine noun given that it ends in the letter ‘a‘, but it is actually masculine. This is likely because the archaic version of the word ended in an ‘o‘ (pianeto).

  • un piccolo pianeta = a small planet
  • dei piccoli pianeti = small planets
  • il pianeta rotondo = the round planet
  • i pianeti rotondi = the round planets

Note: The feminine pianeta does exist and has two meanings: chasuble, an ornate vestment worn by a priest during Mass, and the less common horoscope card.

La Terra è il terzo pianeta più vicino al sole.

Earth is the third closest planet to the sun.

3d illustration of solar system planets set. The Sun and planets in a row on universe stars background.
Nel nostro sistema solare ci sono otto pianeti.There are eight planets in our solar system.

There are eight planets in our solar system (sistema solare):

  • Mercurio = Mercury
  • Venere = Venus
  • Terra = Earth
  • Marte = Mars
  • Giove = Jupiter
  • Saturno = Saturn
  • Urano = Uranus
  • Nettuno = Neptune

Pluto (Plutone), which was downgraded from planet status in 2006, is now classified as a pianeta nano (dwarf planet).

Il rover Perseverance è atterrato su Marte il diciotto Febbraio duemilaventuno.

The rover Perseverance landed on Mars on February 18th 2021.

These planets are classified in various ways. For example:

  • the pianeti terrestri are the four rocky planets closest to the sun
  • the pianeti gioviani are the gaseous outer planets
  • the pianeti superiori (or pianeti esterni) are the planets whose orbit is external to that of the Earth (that is, Mars to Neptune)
  • the pianeti inferiori (or pianeti interni) are Mercury and Venus, whose orbit is internal compared to that of the Earth.
planet mars
Mars is known as the red planet. – Marte è conosciuto come il pianeta rosso.

In more recent journalistic jargon, pianeta has come to denote groups comprised of a shared set of people, ideas, activities and so on, much like the word mondo (world). For example:

  • il pianeta calcio = the world of soccer
  • il pianeta della moda = the world of fashion

Essere di un altro pianeta (lit: to be from another planet) means that someone or something has a superior quality or characteristic.

Caspita, questa squadra è di un altro pianeta! Sarà un’impresa sconfiggerla.

Wow, this team is out of this world. It’s going to be a challenge to beat them.

In old literary Italian, pianeta was a synonym for horoscope and destiny, whereas in ancient times, it was also the term for any known celestial body that did not occupy a fixed position in the sky.

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