Italian Word of the Day: Spuntino (snack / bite to eat)

A spuntino in Italian can be defined as a quick, light snack eaten either between main meals or in place of one of them. According to Treccani, its etymology is unknown, whereas Il Devoto–Oli maintains that it derives from the word spunto.

cover image with the word “spuntino” and its translation written on a notepad next to a cup of coffee

Spuntino is a masculine noun, and the plural is spuntini.

lo spuntino
uno spuntino

gli spuntini
degli spuntini

To have a snack translates as fare uno spuntino.

Sto morendo di fame! A pranzo ho fatto solo uno spuntino.

I’m starving! I only had a snack for lunch.

Smiling young woman eating healthy food and using mobile phone in the kitchen.
Fa uno spuntino sano = She’s having a healthy snack

What is the difference between a spuntino and the classic merenda, you might ask?

Well, merenda is a more substantial afternoon snack, usually consumed between 4pm and 5pm, whereas a spuntino is lighter and may be consumed at any time of the day. For example, you can have uno spuntino di metà mattina (a mid-morning snack) or uno spuntino di mezzanotte (a midnight snack).

Ho ancora fame. Quasi quasi mi faccio uno spuntino di mezzanotte!

I’m still hungry. I might just have a midnight snack!

You may also have encountered the word stuzzichino, a light and salty snack whose purpose is to whet the appetite before a meal. They are generally served in bars as a side dish to an aperitivo (aperitif) or eaten at home as an antipasto (starter).

Oh, and you may also hear Italians use the English word snack, but pronounced /znɛk/ instead of /snæk/!

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