Italian Word of the Day: Sbadiglio (yawn)

The Italian word for yawn is sbadiglio (masculine, plural: sbadigli).

/ṣba·dì·glio/
cover image with the word “sbadiglio” and its translation written on a notepad next to a cup of cofee

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Because it starts with s+consonant, the articles il (the – singular), un (a – singular), i (the – plural) and dei (some – plural) become lo, uno, gli and degli respectively.

  • lo sbadiglio = the yawn
  • gli sbadigli = the yawns
  • uno sbadiglio = a yawn
  • degli sbadigli = (some) yawns

Some common verbs used with sbadiglio include:

  • fare uno sbadiglio = to yawn (a synonym of the verb sbadigliare)
  • trattenere uno sbadiglio = to hold back a yawn
  • reprimere uno sbadiglio = to suppress a yawn
  • farsi scappare uno sbadiglio = to let a yawn escape
  • cacciare uno sbadiglio = to let out a yawn

Tratteneva a stento uno sbadiglio mentre ascoltava il discorso.

He barely held back a yawn as he listened to the speech.


A big yawn can be referred to as un grosso sbadiglio or more simply, a sbadiglione with the augmentative ending -one.

Yawning dog
Anche gli animali sbadigliano – Even animals yawn

We all know that yawns are caused by well-known factors such as lack of sleep (mancanza di sonno) or boredom (noia) but they can also be triggered by hunger (fame), digestion issues (problemi di digestione) and the onset of epileptic seizures (l’inizio di una crisi epilettica)!

Quanti sbadigli che fai! – Scusa, non ho chiuso occhio tutta la notte.

You’re yawing a lot! – Sorry, I didn’t sleep all night.


Did you know that…?
No one knows for sure why we yawn. One theory is that it helps us bring more oxygen into the blood and move more carbon dioxide out of the blood (sangue) when we are tired. Another is that it stretches the lung tissue. Some believe that it is a primitive mechanism designed to synchronise the behaviour of social groups so that they go to sleep at the same time, or reboot the brain (cervello) in stressful situations.

The mere sight of a yawn, or even thinking about another person yawning is enough to get the whole room yawning in unison. But why is it that yawns are so contagious (contagiosi)? According to many studies, it may be a form of empathising (empatizzare) with other people, which would explain why this phenomenon does not develop in humans until they are capable of social interaction (relazioni interpersonali).

Il tizio davanti a me si è lasciato scappare uno sbadiglio e, poco dopo, ho cominciato a sbadigliare anch’io!

The guy in front of me let a yawn escape and, soon after, I started to yawn as well!


Man sitting at the table with laptop computer and yawning in cafe
Quell’uomo sta sbadigliando. Gli serve un’altra tazza di caffè! = That man is yawning. He needs another cup of coffee!

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