Che notte formidabile!

English Translation

What a wonderful night!

To be honest, this translation was unexpected. A case of a “false friend”?

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Just the opposite eh!

This is interesting, I wasn’t really aware that a word that is derived from the same Latin root has a different meaning in Italian and and English. I think the most common meaning of “formidabile” nowadays is “exceptional”, “out of the ordinary”, “inducing admiration or awe”, but it may mean “extremely powerful”, and “dreadful” too.

I checked three online dictionaries, and each listed as the first meaning a different definition: dreadful, exceptional or powerful. One of them[3] lists the “dreadful” meaning as obsolete.

Anyway, i noticed that in many languages there are words that literally mean “scary” or something like that, and end up having a positive meaning. In Italian, we have “tremendo” and “mostruoso” (thanks to Paolo Villaggio’s Fantozzi movies).

“formidabile” woudn’t be my first choice of word to translate “wonderful”. I would use “fantastica” or “meravigliosa”. I would use “formidabile” if I wanted to say that something extremely significant happened during said night.


[2] formidàbile in Vocabolario - Treccani

[3] Formidabile > significato - Dizionario italiano De Mauro


In French “formidable” means fantastic - so I see nothing much odd about this.


Esatto! Famously French.

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That’s interesting, and now that you say that, I knew it! :smiley:
What’s useful to note is that in English, the main meaning of “formidable” is “arousing fear”, which may be difficult to realize when you learn the language on your own – I am sure I have seen the word used a few times, finding the collocation a bit odd, but understanding it as “awe inspiring” or “powerful” -which kind of made sense- when the author meant it as “scary”.