Today’s word, nemmeno (nehm-mai-noh), is a versatile little word. This adverb and conjunction is employed in various contexts and it can have a variety of meanings, depending on the context.
Tracing the origins of nemmeno we find that it is a univerbation of “né + meno” and it comes from the Latin phrase nē minimum (quidem), which translates to “not even a little”. Others believe the word actually comes from the Latin root nec minus, which means “nor any less, and just as much.” Its rich history provides insight into its multifaceted usage in modern Italian.
When used as an adverb, nemmeno can take on the meanings of “even”, “either”, or “neither”. A prime example of this is the sentence: Nemmeno io sopporto quel programma, non lo guardo mai in TV. In English, this translates to “Even I can’t stand that program, I never watch it on TV.” This usage not only emphasizes agreement or shared sentiment but can also be employed to highlight something unexpected in a statement, as it Nemmeno tu ci sei riuscito! (“Not even you managed to do it!”).
Nemmeno can also be used as a conjunction. An illustrative example of this is: Non lo faccio nemmeno se me lo chiedi in ginocchio, which means, “I won’t do it, not even if you ask me on your knees.” Here, “nemmeno” is used to reinforce a strong refusal or determination, emphasizing the extent to which one is unwilling to change their stance.
Nemmeno is a common little word, whose array of meanings comes directly from its rich etymological roots. Whether we use it as an adverb or a conjunction, it is used in all registers and contexts. Keep “nemmeno” in your linguistic pocket, because it comes in handy very often!
- L’esame era difficile. Non ho nemmeno provato a finirlo!
- The test was very hard. I didn’t even tried to finish it!
- Non mi è piaciuto quel film. Nemmeno io ho capito il finale
- I didn’t like that movie. I didn’t get the ending, either.