/dól·ce/ [ˈdoltʃe] “dol-tcheh”
Words by Bianca Pirrelli
Dolce is a word derived from its Latin form dulcis, which is an adjective mostly describing a sweet taste. Its Greek root glu-kýs is the prefix that we use commonly for every compound word involving sugar – glucose, glycaemia, etc.
It is a short, disyllabic word which pertains to various semantic areas and it can be applied to distinct discourses.
Dolce means literally sweet; if you think about it, this word encompasses – amongst all its meanings – two of the most popular distinguishing marks for Italians, food and warmth.
Short and crisp sounding, the word dolce can refer, first and foremost, to food: anything tasting sweet basically. It is one of the four fundamental taste sensations, together with bitter, salty and acid; sugar is obviously the prototypical sweet taste. It is its own adjective and noun. The most effective way to represent this word, though, is giving practical examples: Nutella, tiramisu, cappuccino, cannoli, gelato, Pandoro, Panettone, etc… Are you hungry yet?
One of the interpretations for the word dolce involves anything mild, sweet, delicate. A mild spring. A sweet violin sound. Music does, in fact, use this word to indicate a piece that must be performed slowly and gently. Usually anything moderate, in a good way, is dolce.
Furthermore, you can think of dolce and imagine a warm hug from a friend, a heartfelt letter from a sibling, a sweet caress of a mother. It is also a clear and windless night. It is the joy of doing nothing and enjoying the moment – dolce far niente (literally sweet doing nothing). It is your puppy that gently wakes you up for cuddles. It is a smile, a look, a kiss. It is all that gives pleasure to our soul. It is all those little things that we appreciate in life.
How fascinating it is to think that such a brief and seemingly uncomplicated word can bring about so many complex emotions. Plenty of meanings, attitudes, events, material things, sensations can be described by this word, which is simple and, at the same time, effective and incredibly nuanced.
Original photo by Tim Mossholder