Italian Word of the Week: Trucco

This week’s Italian Word of the Week is one of my favorites because it has two distinct but not entirely unrelated meanings:

makeup; trick

Yes, trucco is the makeup that women (and some men) apply to their faces — cosmetics like blush, eye shadow, eyeliner, mascara, etc. It’s the general term that covers everything, though of course each individual member of a makeup bag has its own name as well.

If a woman is wearing makeup, she is truccata (trewk-KAHT-ah), and a makeup artist is a truccatore (trewk-kah-TOHR-eh) if a man and a truccatrice (trewk-kah-TREE-cheh) if a woman. And yes, guys can even trick out their cars using the verb truccare (trewk-KAHR-eh).

But as you can see above, trucco also means trick — as in something that deceives someone else.

And isn’t that an awesome alternate meaning for the same word that means make-up?

As we apply our trucco, ladies, we’re playing the ultimate trucco on the world! You’ll never know what we really look like! Mwahahahahaha!


Trucco also happens to be part of one of my favorite Italian expressions:

“Il trucco c’è ma non si vede.”

There’s a trick there, but you can’t see it.

Think of a magician, and kindly refer back to our discussion of furbo from weeks ago, and perhaps you’ll begin to see a theme.

Note, however, that one of our favorite English expressions that includes “trick” is not translated as trucco; “trick or treat” in Italian is “dolcetto o scherzetto,” so as you can see “trick” isn’t always the literal translation.

Sometimes in Italian, you’ll want the word for joke (scherzo) instead. Scherzetto, of course, is just a little joke, especially when you’re talking about a harmless prank. Trucco can imply something more sinister and scheming than a simple scherzetto, like rigging an election, though it can also be a magic trick (trucco magico) or un trucco con le carte (card trick).

Oh, and it’s also what you use when you want to ask, “What’s the catch?”

Dov’è il trucco?

So yes, it’s safe to say that this can be a tricky word to use in Italian, and for all of the reasons above, absolutely one of my favorites.

Until next time!
Alla prossima!

*Image source: Makeup by Ariel Grimm on Flickr (CC license)


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