Italian Word of the Day: Squillo (ring)

The Italian word squillo is a masculine noun that generally translates as ring (or “ringing sound”) but also buzz or jingle depending on the device producing the sound. It derives from the verb squillare which means, you guessed it, “to ring”. It is normally used in reference to the sound made by a telephone (telefono), doorbell (campanello) or trumpet (tromba).

italian word squillo

Squillo is a masculine noun but because it begins with sq-, it must take the following definite and indefinite articles:

  • lo squillo = the ring
  • gli squilli = the rings
  • uno squillo = a ring
  • (degli) squilli = (some) rings

The expression “fare uno squillo”

I want to take a moment to talk about the very common expression fare uno squillo. Literally, it means “to give (someone) a call/ring” but since the advent of cellphones, it has come to mean “I’ll let the phone ring once or twice and I don’t expect you to pick up or for us to talk”. It’s almost like saying “I’ll give you a missed call”.

Back when cellphones first arrived on the scene, making calls could be expensive, so the handy squillo became the perfect way to ask a friend to call you back or to let them know you are “on your way”. I would often do this with my husband, as he had a fixed monthly plan that never ran out of minutes whereas I was on a pricey pay-as-you-go plan.

Ti faccio uno squillo quando arrivo!

I’ll give you a ring (and then hang up) when I arrive!

Man looking at his smartphone

And what about the word for a call girl in Italian? You guessed it: it’s ragazza squillo!

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