News Italian word of the day: ‘Ottimo’ July 31, 2019 9 One of the things I love about speaking Italian is that you can use words whose direct English equivalents rarely get an airing. Ottimo is a perfect example: while its closest English relative is ‘optimum’, I could count on the fingers of one hand the number of times I’ve ever said that word aloud. Ottimo, however, I say – and hear – just about every day. Italians use it much like we say ‘great’. La cena è stata ottima, grazie. Dinner was great, thank you. Ottimo lavoro! Great work! In fact, ottimo is not just ‘great’ but, well, ‘optimum’: it means that something is the very best it could be. Be careful not to confuse it with the words meglio or migliore, though: those are the ones you should reach for when you’re making a comparison, whereas ottimo is more general. You use it to say not that something is ‘better’ or ‘best’ out of two specific examples, but that it’s best of all: ‘the best possible’ or even ‘perfect’. Ho un’ottima salute. I’m in perfect health. Esige l’ottimo da tutti i suoi dipendenti. She demands the best from all her employees. That’s why, when you’re talking about exams, un’ottimo is another way of saying ‘top marks’ or ‘A+’ – it’s the best grade you can get. Merita un’ottimo. He deserves an A+. More often, though, you’ll hear ottimo as a simple expression of approval: like ‘Great!’ or ‘Wonderful!’ – Allora siamo tutti d’accordo. – Ottimo! – So we all agree. – Great! And that is, quite frankly, optimum. Do you have a favourite Italian word you’d like us to feature? If so, please email our editor Jessica Phelan with your suggestion.