Italian Word of the Day: Piatto (flat / plate / dish)

Today we are going to be looking at a useful everyday word that can be classified as both an adjective and a noun: piatto.

/piàt·to/ – [ˈpjatto]
piatto italian word

‘Piatto’ the adjective

Used as an adjective, this word translates to flat or level. It is derived from the Latin *plattum, which in turn comes from the Greek platýs meaning ‘broad.’

The ending changes in accordance with the gender and plurality of the subject. For example:

  • lo schermo piatto = the flat screen > gli schermi piatti = the flat screens
  • la pietra piatta = the flat stone > le pietre piatte = the flat stones
  • il tavolo piatto = the flat table > i tavoli piatti = the flat tables
  • la superficie piatta = a flat surface > le superfici piatte = the flat surfaces

Piatto can also describe a calm body of water (e.g. il mare piatto = the calm sea) that lacks waves, as still water can appear flat and level.

In geometry, it can also refer to a straight angle (angolo piatto).

Technology meeting at cyber space table
Lo schermo è piatto = The screen is flat

Figuratively speaking, it may also denote something that is boring, dull or dreary, such as a book or movie that lacks an interesting plot.

Young boy looking bored with books on the table.
Questa storia è così piatta. = This story is so dreary.

‘Piatto’ the noun

Derived from this adjective, we get the noun piatto which refers to a plate, such as the kind we use to serve or eat food on. Unlike the adjective, the noun piatto only exists in its masculine form, with the plural being piatti.

A piatto fondo (literally “deep plate”) refers to a plate with a raised rim, used for soups and pasta dishes, while a piatto piano is the word for a standard flat dinner plate. A sottopiatto (literally “under plate”) is a charger plate or service plate.

Round empty plate on a gray concrete background.

By extension, piatto can also refer to the food on the plate itself. When this is the meaning, some possible translations in English include dish, platter, plate, meal and course.

  • piatto caldo = hot dish
  • piatto freddo = cold dish / platter
  • piatto del giorno = special of the day
  • piatto tipico = typical dish
  • piatto unico = single course
  • primo piatto = first course
  • piatto di pasta = plate of pasta / pasta dish
  • piatto forte = main course / specialty
  • piatto principale = main dish
  • secondo piatto = main meal / main course

Italian tupe of pasta calamarata with vegetarian sauce.
Un piatto di pasta = A plate of pasta

In music, piatto is the word for a cymbal owing to its plate-like appearance, and the word for platter, where you place the record on a turntable.

Finally, in gambling, it refers to a pot, pool or kitty.

Idioms and proverbs containing ‘piatto’

Il piatto piange

Literal translation: the pot cries
English meaning: the kitty is short (an expression used in poker)

Vendersi per un piatto di lenticchie

Literal translation: to sell oneself for a plate of lentils
English meaning: the act of giving something of great value to someone for very little compensation

This is a Biblical expression that derives from the Bereishit story of Esau who sells his birthright to Yaacov for a bowl of lentil stew.

Piatto ricco, mi ci ficco

Literal translation: rich dish, I dive into it
English meaning: there is an inviting meal in front of me, and I’m more than happy to dig in

Sputare nel piatto dove si mangia

Literal translation: to spit in the plate where you eat
English meaning: to fail to appreciate one’s fortunate circumstances or those who provide for you, to bite the hand that feeds you

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