A occhio e croce

A occhio e croce in Italian

A occhio e croce
Off the top of my head, more or less, give or take

Literal translationTo eye and cross
MeaningEstimating something approximately without exact measurement
IPA pronunciation/a ˈɔkkjo e ˈkrɔːtʃe/

Where does this come from? This phrase comes from the Latin idiom ad oculum, which literally means “to the eye”. In ancient times, looms (telai) were much less sophisticated than they are today.

Weavers ran the risk of their threads “slipping” from the supporting rods of the machine. When this happened, they had to make do and try to put the threads back as they had been in the characteristic “cross” pattern. This was done without any measurements, and they used their eyes to recreate the pattern, so the work wasn’t very precise. That’s how the idiom was born.

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For example, you can say…

Quante persone pensi che ci siano sull’autobus? – A occhio e croce, direi una ventina.
How many people would you say are on the bus? – Off the top of my head I would say about 20.

A occhio e croce, direi che mancano ancora quaranta minuti.
Off the top of my head, I’d say there are still 40 minutes left.

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