Italian Word of the Day: Tonfo (thud / clunk / plop)

When something large and heavy falls on the ground or into the water, it’s likely to produce a thudding sound, a phenomenon that in Italian can be described using the noun tonfo.

/tón·fo/ – [ˈtonfo]
italian word tonfo

It is derived from the Lombardic *tumpf meaning the sound of a fall, and has an onomatopoeic origin.

Tonfo is a masculine noun, so it takes the following definite and indefinte articles:

  • il tonfo = the thud
  • i tonfi = the thuds
  • un tonfo = a thud
  • dei tonfi = (some thuds)

The diminutive forms of tonfo are tonfetto / tonfettino (little thump), or less commonly, tonfino.

Fare un tonfo is how you would say to make a thud.

The construction work in a building in progress

Figuratively speaking, tonfo can mean a big failure, fiasco or flop, especially in the business of theatre or cinema. To note that “fiasco” and “flop” are also used in the Italian language.

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