Aspetta! What do you really know about the word aspetta?
Well, we certainly know that aspetta (ah-speht-tah) comes from a mix of two Latin words, expectare, which means to wait (the same meaning of aspetta in Italian) and aspectare or looking carefully.
Of course we use the verb aspettare all the time, because it means “to wait,” and god only knows how much of our days is made of waiting for something to happen or someone to come, right?
But aspetta, usually uttered with surprise, or a sense of necessity and immediacy perfectly portrayed in writing by an exclamation mark, is possibly even more common. We use it when we want to bring people’s attention to something, or to communicate a sense of urgency to others.
For instance, how many times have you heard an Italian saying “aspetta! Non abbiamo ancora finito!,” (hang on! We haven’t finished yet!), or “aspetta un momento, ho dimenticato le chiavi” (hold on, I forgot my keys!)? Many, I am sure. Of course, you can also use aspetti, at the third person singular, if you are talking with someone you do not know well, or if you are in a particular situation, for instance, when you are at school:
Professore, aspetti: può ripetere l’ultima frase?
Wait, professor! Could you please repeat the last sentence?
The verb aspettare has an interesting synonym in Italian, attendere. It means the exact same thing, to wait for, but belongs to a slightly higher register. Well, when it wants to be fancier, our word aspetta! changes into its attenda! suit: same meaning, slightly fancier look.
So you’ll come across the ubiquitous “Attenda in linea, per cortesia,” (please, hold the line), or “attenda un momento” (could you wait a moment, please).
And don’t forget one of Italy’s most popular pearls of wisdom, also involving the verb aspettare: chi la fa, l’aspetti, which corresponds to the English “what goes around comes around,” or “turnabout is fair play.” Just another way to talk about karma, that is.
Aspetta! Non andare via così!
Hang on! Don’t leave me like this!
Aspetti signora! Ha dimenticato la giacca!
Wait, madame! You forgot your jacket!
Aspetta un po’…questo non lo sapevo.
Hang on! I didn’t know that.