Italian Word of the Day: Zerbino (doormat)

Today’s word is zerbino which, as exotic as it sounds, actually refers to the humblest of household objects: the doormat. It comes from the Arabic zirbiy which translates as either rug or cushion.

/ẓer·bì·no/
cover image with the word “zerbino” and its translation written on a notepad next to a cup of coffee

Zerbino is a masculine noun whose plural form is zerbini. Any masculine noun that starts with the letter z in Italian must take the following definite and indefinite articles:

lo zerbino
the doormat

uno zerbino
a doormat

gli zerbini
the doormats

degli zerbini
(some) doormats

Chiedo sempre a tutti di pulire le scarpe sullo zerbino prima di entrare in casa.

I always ask everyone to wipe their shoes on the doormat before entering the house.


Express delivery, e-commerce online purchase concept. Parcel box on mat near front door. 3d illustration
Il corriere ha lasciato il pacco sullo zerbino = The courier left the package on the doormat

As in English, zerbino can also be used figuratively to refer to a submissive person who allows others to dominate them.

Ti fai trattare come uno zerbino dal tuo capo.

You get treated like a doormat by your boss.


Did you know…?

Zerbino is also the name of a character in Ludovico Ariosto’s 16th-century epic poem Orlando Furioso. Despite Ariosto painting an extremely positive picture of the character in the poem itself, the name has since become synonymous with a young gallant, who despite being well-groomed, dresses and acts ostentatiously, and lacks elegance and good taste.When this is the meaning, Italians tend to use the diminutive zerbinotto instead of zerbino.


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