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Foreign words of Venetian origin

Foreign words of Venetian origin

Foreign words of Venetian origin

In recent months I’ve been immersed in all things Venetian, from art to architecture, cuisine to customs, music to elements of language, as I prepared my book The Echoes of Love for publication on 6th December.

Did you know that the Venetians have their own language? Venetian is a Romance language (literally) spoken by more than two million people. It’s commonly seen as an Italian dialect, but in fact it is a separate language, and Venice has its own variant, called venexiàn/venesiàn or veneziano. Recently, the Regional Council of Vèneto officially recognized the language with the Law on the Protection and Valorisation of the Venetian Language and Culture.

I was fascinated to discover how many words in modern parlance originated in Venice. Today, I’m sharing with you some of the most interesting:

  • arsenal: from arsenàl, house of work/skills, factory.
  • ciao: from ciao (‘hello, goodbye; your (humble) servant’), from Venetian s-ciao (servant, slave) or s-ciavo (servant, slave).
  • gazette (meaning newspaper): from the Venetian word gazeta (newspaper), and the name of a small copper coin, gazza; a monthly newspaper (gazeta de la novità) was published in Venice by the government, and gazette may come from its price.
  • ghetto: from Geto, a small area of Venice where the city’s Jews  once lived.
  • gondola: may be related to dondolare, meaning to rock.
  • lagoon: from laguna, meaning lake.
  • lido: from Lido, a long, sandy island in the Venice lagoon.
  • quarantine: from quarantina giorni (forty days), the period for which Venetians  kept ships from plague-ridden countries waiting outside the port.
  • regatta: from regata, meaning contention for mastery.
  • sequin: from zechin, meaning Venetian gold ducat.
  • zany: from Zanni, a character in Commedia dell’arte.

Of course, we also have the Venetians to thank for:

  • Venetian window blinds, invented way back in 1791.
  • Venetian red, a gloroiously rouge artist’s pigment.
  • Venetian style shoe, a plain kind of loafer.
  • Venetian masks, traditionally worn in the Venetian carnival (I will write more on this another day – such a fascinating subject!).

The very word Venetian or Venetia stirs up such feelings – of history, of culture, of intelligence, of drama, of romance, of grandeur. Little wonder, then, that I chose to name my heroine in The Echoes of LoveVenetia!

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