Italian Word of the Day: Soprammobile (knick-knack / ornament)

A blanket term for any decorative or artistic object kept on a shelf or piece of furniture, regardless of its value, is soprammobile (masculine, plural: soprammobili) in Italian. Some possible translations in English are knick-knack, shelf ornament or decorative piece.

italian word soprammobile

It is a combination of two words: sopra meaning on top of or above and mobile meaning furniture or piece of furniture. The ‘m‘ is doubled due to a linguistic phenomenon called syntactic gemination (raddoppiamento fonosintattico).

Some specific kinds of soprammobili include:

  • soprammobile in vetro = glass ornament
  • soprammobile d’argento = silver ornament
  • soprammobile di porcellana = porcelain ornament
  • soprammobile in legno = wooden ornament

Hanno una casa piena di soprammobili. Spolverarla dev’essere un incubo!

They have a house full of knick-knacks. It must be a nightmare to dust!

modern yellow shelf covered in knick knacks
Uno scaffale con diversi soprammobili – A shelf with various knick knacks

A small soprammobile can also be called a ninnolo (masculine, plural: ninnoli).

Although not mentioned in most dictionaries, soprammobile can also be used in a figurative way to say that a person feels excluded, ignored, neglected or is not allowed to do much. It’s not an extremely popular usage but my Italian husband has heard it, albeit only in situations that allow for some poetic license. According to La Repubblica, it can also refer to a person who is nice but lacks intelligence.

La ragazza è andata via. Era stufa di sentirsi un soprammobile.

The girl left. She was tired of feeling useless.

Ethics statement: Below you will find affiliate links. If you buy something after clicking the link, we will receive a small commission. To know more about our ethics, you can visit our full disclosure page. Thank you!

Lingopie (affiliate link) is the Netflix of language learning application that uses real TV shows and movies to help you learn a new language. You can choose a show to watch based on your fluency level, and use the interactive subtitles to get instant translations to help you learn quickly.

Are you interested in improving your Italian in a fun and stress-free manner? Then we highly recommend Serena Capilli's short stories in Italian (affiliate link), designed for beginners, advanced beginners, and lower intermediate learners (A1-B1 CEFR). These stories have been optimised for English speakers in search of a fun, laid-back learning experience! Read our full review here.