Italian words with different stress

Every Italian word has a stress that falls on one of its syllables. For a few of these words, however, the stress can fall on different syllables, changing the meaning of the word entirely.

Ancòra, àncora
Anchor, again

blue anchor

In this lesson, we’ll see the most common Italian words with different stress intonations, along with native audio recordings so you can listen to the correct stress.

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Italian words with different stress

These words are basically homographs: a homograph is a word that has the same written form as another word, but has a different meaning.

A homograph can be pronounced the same (for example: porta which can mean door and bring!, depending on the context). A homograph can also be pronounced differently, and that’s our case.

In order to distinguish Italian words that are stressed on different syllables in the written language, Italian publishing houses and agencies use accent marks to avoid confusion. For example, sùbito (immediately) and subìto (past participle of to suffer) are homographs.

Ho sùbito aperto la porta.
I immediately opened the door.

Ho subìto una tremenda sconfitta.
I suffered a tremendous defeat.

man with a parcel opening a door

That said, let’s take a look at the most common Italian words with different stress.


List of common Italian words with different stress

Note: This list doesn’t include homographs that end in a stressed syllable, such as sputo, spit, and sputò, he spat. Since stress is always noted in the final position, these words never cause confusion in the written language.

Italian words with different stress

abbaìnoabbàinoattic / that they bark
ambìtoàmbitocoveted / setting
ancòraàncoraagain /anchor
bacìnobàcinobasin / that they kiss
bàliabalìananny / mercy
benefìcibenèficibenefits / healthy
calzìnocàlzinosock / that they put on
capitànocàpitanocaptain / they happen
circùitocircuìtocircuit / swindled
còmpitocompìtotask / courteous
condomìnicondòminiflats / co-owners
desidèridesìderidesires / you desire
destìnodèstinodestiny / that they destine
dimenticàtidimènticatiforgotten / forget!
fermàtifèrmatistopped / stop!
ìmpariimpàriunequal / you learn
intùitointuìtointuition / perceived
isolànoìsolanoislander / they isolate
lèggereleggèreto read / light (adj)
màrtirimartìrimartyrs / martyrdoms
mondànomòndanomundane / they clean
nèttarenettàrenectar / to clean
nòcciolonocciòlokernel / hazelnut tree
occupàtiòccupatibusy / take care of…!
pagànopàganopagan / they pay
perdònopèrdonoforgiveness / they lose
portàlepòrtaleportal / bring her!
prèsidipresìdiprincipals / presidia
prìncipiprincìpiprinces / principles
provìnopròvinoaudition / that they try
rassegnàtirassègnatiresigned / give up!
rètinaretìnaretina / small net
rubìnorùbinoruby / that they steal
sèguitoseguìtofollow-up / followed
sùbitosubìtoat once / suffered
trattìnotràttinohyphen / that they treat
tèndinetendìnetendon / window curtains
tùrbineturbìnewhirl / turbines
valùtavàlutacurrency / he values
volànovòlanobadminton / they fly

Let’s make some example sentences using these Italian words with different stress.

Ancòra, àncora

Non ho ancora fatto i compiti.
I haven’t done my homework yet.

Levate l’ancora! Stiamo per salpare.
Weigh anchor! We are about to set sail.

pirate ship with torn sails

Bàlia, balìa

Sto cercando una balia per mio figlio.
I am looking for a nanny for my son.

Le foglie erano in balia del vento.
The leaves were at the mercy of the wind.

Capitàno, càpitano

Il capitano della nave ha 65 anni.
The ship’s captain is 65 years old.

Queste cose non capitano tutti i giorni.
Such things don’t happen every day.

Perdòno, pèrdono

Ti chiedo umilmente perdono.
I humbly ask for your forgiveness.

Le tue scarpe perdono fango sul pavimento.
Your shoes are dropping mud on the floor.

And that’s it for our guide to the Italian words with different stress! If you still have any doubts about them, feel free to leave a comment.


What next?

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Now that you’ve seen the Italian words with different stress, you might want to keep learning Italian online with these free Italian resources:

Or you might also want an excellent offline Italian grammar resource to take with you at all times (Amazon).

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

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