Italian word of the day: “Guaio”

Italian word of the day Guaio

All of these vowels at once are enough to get any new Italian speaker in trouble – and that’s quite apt, as il guaio means difficulty, a catch, a predicament, a pickle.

The problem is, it is already late.
The problem is, it is already late.

We are in big trouble!
A beautiful mess we are in!


One way to remember this is to think of it as the English word “misfortune”: both are believed to come from the same root, the Old Germanic term “wai”, an exclamation of pain or suffering.

Today you will often see it in its plural form, guai.

He’s in a lot of trouble.
She’s in a lot of trouble.

Sometimes you are looking for trouble, especially if you are una cast di guai (a troublemaker) …

The is always chasing trouble.
He’s always looking for trouble.

… And sometimes it just finds you.

I had problems with the neighbors.
I ended up having problems with the neighbors.

You can also use the term as a warning to others – the same way you can say “woe to you…” in English.

Woe to those who touch him!
Woe to him who touches it!
(It is a replica of Puccini Manon Lescaut’s opera)

Woe to you if you do it again!
If you do it again, you will regret it!

Easiest of all, you can just exclaim “Guai!” towards someone who is behaving badly to let them know they had better watch themselves.

Do you have a favorite Italian word that you would like us to feature? If so, please email us with your suggestion.

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