Italian WORDS that change their MEANING because of one single LETTER!

Did you know that one single letter can make the difference when it comes to Italian words? In fact, it happens very often that, if you change one single letter in a word, this word becomes a different one with a different meaning! Don’t you believe that? Keep reading! It’s worth it!

Change the letter and change the meaning – STRANGE ITALIAN WORDS


When we have to make a choice or a decision, we use the verb “decidere” in Italian, but pay attention not to mistake it for the verb “decedere”, that is – on the contrary – the formal synonym for “morire” (to die).

For those of you who don’t know, “deciso” is the past participle for “decidere”, while “deceduto/a” is the past participle for “decedere”.


Pay attention: otherwise you might mistake these two verbs and someone might be offended! So, “supportare” means “to support”, “to back up”; therefore it is a verb with a positive meaning!

For example, you could support your friend that has to take an exam or a surgery by saying something like: “Dai! Andrà tutto bene! Ci sono io qui a supportarti! Vedrai che ce la farai!” (Everything will be fine! I’m here to support you! You can do it!)

But pay attention not to say: “Ci sono io qui a sopportarti!”, otherwise you might end up arguing! In fact, “sopportare” someone means “to stand”, “to bear”, often with courage and resignation.


Probably you think everybody knows that “guardare” means “to watch”, “to look at”… but what does “guadare” mean? Yes… It does exist! “Guadare” means “to ford”, “to cross a river by touching its bottom”.


The word “onore” is definitely the best known between the two: it refers to the “good reputation” of a person (honor). For example, in the past, during the Middle Ages, the knights wanted to be considered “men of honor”.

But what’s “onere”? “Onere” is basically a synonym for “duty”, “obligation”, something you have to do necessarily. It is often associated to legal questions: for example, the so-called “oneri fiscali” are the taxes every citizen has to pay.

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We all know what “testo” means: “text”. Then, we are all supposed to have a “testa” (head) on our shoulders…

But what does “teste” mean? Well, first of all “teste” is the plural of “testa”, but not only! In fact, in the legal language “teste” refers to a witness, “someone who takes part in an event” and therefore, since they have direct knowledge of the facts, they can provide further information about what they saw. The plural is “testi”.


Giocare” is one of the first verbs students learn at the beginning of their Italian language learning pathway. It means “to play”.

What about “giovare”? Many think it doesn’t exist, but it does exist. Do you remember the video about the Italian tricky words TEST in which we explained the meaning of the word “nuocere”? Well, “giovare” is the opposite of “nuocere”, and it means e cioè significa “to benefit”, “to be useful”.

For example:

Una passeggiata al mare giova a chiunque sia nervoso o stressato. (A walk to the seashore benefits everyone who is nervous or stressed)


Pasta” doesn’t need any explanation, since all the other languages in the world borrowed this word!

And “pasto”? Of course it is not the husband of pasta… For “pasto” we mean “meal”, the act of eating that we make every day at fixed times. During one day, we usually have 3 different meals: breakfast, lunch and dinner.

What about “paste”? This is not the plural of “pasta”, given that “pasta” is uncountable… The “paste” are, instead, small pastries. In Italy, they are usually eaten after the Sunday family lunch. “Paste” is a synonym for “pasticcini”.


These two verbs have something to do with movement, but they have completely different meanings. “Saltare” means “to jump”.

Salpare”, instead, is said for boats and it means “set sail”, “to raise anchor”.

9 – DATA or DATO?

This is a common mistake among Italian students… Probably because of their mother tongue… Anyway, let us be clear once and for all!

Data” (feminine, singular) means “date”, that is the time coordinates (day, month and year) in which happened or will happen an event.

For example:

La data dello sbarco in Normandia è 6 giugno 1944. (The date of the Normandy landings is June 6, 1944)

The plural of “data” is “date”.

What’s “dato”, instead? It is a “figure”.

For example:

Una recente indagine pubblicata in Italia rende noto un dato allarmante, ovvero che all’incirca il 35 % dell’intera popolazione italiana compresa tra i 18 ed i 64 anni non mangia né pasta né pizza! (A recent survey published in Italy shows alarming figures: around 35% of the entire Italian population that is between 18 and 64 years don’t eat pasta nor pizza!)

The plural is “dati” (data, figures).

Per esempio:

I dati emersi da questa indagine sono davvero preoccupanti. (Data coming from this survey are really worrying)

*today’s nugget*

È UN DATO DI FATTO: This expression refers to something certain, something that cannot be proved wrong.

For example:

Che sia in atto una crisi economica è un dato di fatto. (It’s a matter of fact that we are living an economic crisis)


Il tuo essere costantemente in ritardo è ormai un dato di fatto. (It’s a matter of fact that you’re always late)

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2 thoughts to “Italian WORDS that change their MEANING because of one single LETTER!”

  1. Grazie mille per la buona spiegazione, ma credo che voi abbiate commesso uno sbaglio. Al numero 4 avete scritto la parola “onore” due volte!

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