/co·prì·re/ [koˈprire] “co-pree-reh”

Words by Bianca Pirrelli


Like most words in Italian, this verb comes from Latin, more specifically from cooperire: the latter is, in turn, a compound of the preposition cum – meaning with, indicating therefore means, tools – and operire – which means to close. We also have an archaic variation, which was used in poetry, that is covrire. We can find similar Latin derivations in other Romance languages (couvrir in French, cubrir in Spanish, etc).


Among the several meanings of the word coprire, the most immediate and literal definition is surely the one that refers to protecting, sheltering. If you cover an object, for example, you put something over or in front of it, in order to avoid harm in some way. You can cover something in order to conceal it from view as well. With this specific connotation, a recurrent image is covering your eyes with your hands – coprirsi gli occhi – to be surprised or to avert scary images. Moreover, in Italian, this verb is used as in to hold a role, a task, to hold office.

The verb coprire can relate to the covering of a bigger surface, such as fields or mountains, seas or skies. Imagine when a fresh snow cover coats a city, or when fog falls on an entire valley. Thinking smaller and cozier, we can picture someone dear covering us with a soft and warm blanket, while we doze off by the fireplace. During long winters, a fuzzy blanket is needed – both a literal and figurative one. When used in its past participle form, this verb becomes coperto or coperta. The latter literally means blanket. A coperto is the fee added to the bill for the meal at restaurants, per person: it usually varies from 1 to 3 euros and it covers the cost of bread and breadsticks, and the use of cutlery and tablecloths. This is a generally accepted norm in Italy, since tipping is not common.

Another figurative meaning of our word, is to fill, to shower with. (Ri)coprire di baci is something many Italian grandparents do, for instance: they smother us with kisses and they never fail to make us feel their affection. When love is involved, there is nothing to be done. We are literally filled with joy and covered in love – siamo coperti d’amore!


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