Italian Word of the Day: Snello (slender / slim)

Snello is an adjective in Italian that means slender or slim. It usually refers to a person’s body or certain parts of the body.

Interestingly, according to Treccani, it derives, not from Latin, but from the Germanic “snell” meaning nimble or quick. (“Schnell” means “fast” in German.) Indeed, this is how the word was originally used in literary Italian. Other dictionaries also mention the French “snël” as a possible origin.

/ṣnèl·lo/
cover image with the word “snello” and its translation written on a notepad next to a cup of cofee

Because snello is an adjective, the ending of the word changes in accordance with the gender and/or plurality of the subject. For example:

  • fisico snello = slender physique (masculine, singular)
  • gamba snella = slender leg (feminine, singular)
  • fisici snelli = slender physiques (masculine, plural)
  • gambe snelle = slender legs (feminine, plural)

A synonym for snello you might already know is magro. Whereas magro is almost always used in a neutral or negative sense to mean (too) thin, snello is a complimentary term. If you call a person snello/snella, you are implying that they have a slender build and a healthy, attractive physical appearance.

Dopo aver seguito una dieta ferrea, Luigi è di nuovo snello.

After following a strict diet, Luigi is once again slim.


Slim sporty young woman in yoga pose, dressed sport wears
È snella perché fa yoga. = She’s slim because she does yoga.

Finally, snello is used to describe things that are simple, functional, unembellished or unhindered by pointless obstacles. A few common examples include:

  • stile snello = simple style
  • processo snello = simplified process
  • traffico snello = free-moving traffic
  • prosa snella = plain prose
  • architettura snella = plain architecture

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