What’s the meaning of “Essere in alto mare”?

In this short lesson, we will learn the meaning of the Italian idiom Essere in alto mare along with its pronunciation. If you are struggling to solve a problem, this expression is for you!

Let’s get started! Iniziamo!

Essere in alto mare

Meaning of the idiom

Essere in alto mare can be literally translated as “to be on the high seas”. Its meaning is the same as the English expressions to be at a loss and to have a long way to go, so it’s used to describe a problem or a mystery you are having trouble solving.

Linguistically speaking, it can be broken down into…

  • essere, to be
  • in, preposition in
  • alto, high
  • sea, mare
woman on a surf board

For example, you could say…

Devo consegnare il saggio questo venerdì, ma sono ancora in alto mare.
I have to turn in the essay this Friday, but I still at a loss.

Cosa c’è stasera per cena? Hamburger e patatine? – Sei in alto mare, ritenta!
What’s for dinner tonight? Burgers and fries? – You have a long way to go, try again!

Pronunciation of Essere in alto mare in Italian

Now let’s hear how this idiom is pronounced.

Essere in alto mare.
To be at a loss, to have a long way to go.
Literally: To be on the high seas.

If you need help with Italian pronunciation, check out the lesson on the Italian alphabet and pronunciation.

Where does Essere in alto mare come from?

Imagine yourself on a raft (zattera) floating in the middle of the ocean.

stranded man on a raft

When you’re literally at sea, you can’t tell where you are. The horizon is an endless expanse of water touching the sky, and there are no lands in sight, no landmarks to guide you. You are basically lost. This is why essere in alto mare means “to be at a loss”.

And that’s the end of our lesson on the Italian idiom Essere in alto mare!

What next?

See all the other Italian idioms!

Now that you’ve seen what the meaning of the idiom Essere in alto mare is in Italian, you might want to keep learning Italian online with these free Italian resources:

Title: Italian All-in-One For Dummies
Language: English / Italian
Publisher: For Dummies
Pages: 672

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Italian All-in-One For Dummies appeals to those readers looking for a comprehensive, all-encompassing guide to mastering the Italian language. It contains content from all For Dummies Italian language instruction titles, including Italian For Dummies, Intermediate Italian For Dummies, Italian Verbs For Dummies, Italian Phrases For Dummies, Italian Grammar For Dummies, and Italian For Dummies Audio Set.

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