Italian Word of the Day: Stravolto (twisted / upset / exhausted)

Stravolto is an adjective you can expect to hear fairly often in daily Italian conversation, but what does it mean? Let’s take a look now!

/stra·vòl·to/ – [straˈvɔlto]
italian word stravolto

Stravolto comes from the verb stravolgere which means “to turn something on its head” “to distort” or “to upset”, or in a more positive sense, “to revolutionise”. It is the combination of the verb travolgere (to crush, swamp, devastate) and the intensive prefix s-.

I Queen hanno stravolto le regole della musica.

Queen turned the rules of music on their head.

The adjective stravolto presents a bit more of a challenge when attempting to provide an exact definition in English: it generally refers a state of upset or shock, or the appearance of being twisted, disturbed or deranged. Yes, I am aware that this definition is quite broad and abstract, but these examples should help you to understand its meaning a bit better:

  • un viso stravolto dal dolore = a face twisted with pain
  • essere stravolto dalla notizia = to be upset by the news
  • avere gli occhi stravolti = with one’s eyes popping out of one’s head
  • una verità stravolta = a distorted truth
Unhappy businesswoman hiding her face in hands
Era stravolta dalle sue parole. = His words upset her.

However, none of these definitions accurately reflect the most common usage of this word among Italians. In everyday speech, the most frequent meaning of stravolto is exhausted.

Sono stravolto…vado a dormire.

I’m exhausted…I’m going to bed.

Some adjectives that have a similar meaning include esausto, sfinito, spossato and stanco morto.

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