Compagnia (com-pah-ñee-ah) is a beautiful word, with a very interesting etymology. It comes from the Latin cum panis (with bread), which can be extended in meaning to “sharing the same bread.” Because this is exactly what people do when they are in compagnia, they share time, fun and, sometimes, even sorrows with others.
Indeed, compagnia is the Italian for “company” and it is used very much in the same way: for instance, essere in compagnia di qualcuno means “to be in someone’s company,” while Sono da solo oggi, vieni a farmi compagnia? means “I’m alone today. Fancy coming to keep me company?”
Certainly, this meaning of compagnia, which implies the idea of sharing time, feelings and emotions with the people you love, is the nicest, but there are others, too, which are just as common in Italian. For instance, compagnia can also be a synonym for “business” or “enterprise,” just like in English, so don’t be surprised if you hear an Italian friend say Lavoro per una compagnia americana (“I work for an American company”).
Because when tu sei in compagnia (“you’re in someone’s company”), you are not alone, the word is also used to indicate a group of people who usually do something together: for instance, we use compagnia teatrale for a theater troupe, but we also say Quando ero ragazzo giravo nella compagnia di tuo fratello (“When I was a teen, I used to go out with your brother’s group of friends”) or Una volta mi piaceva girare in compagnia ora sono più solitario (“I used to love going out in group, now I am more of a loner”).
So, compagnia is always a good word, one that implies being with others and not feeling alone…Hopefully, even when we talk about the place we work at!
Sono stato assunto da una compagnia francese
I got hired by a French company
Mi piace stare in compagnia, mi mette di buon umore
I like being with others, it puts me in a good mood
Si è unito ad una compagnia teatrale di Milano dopo l’università
After university, he joined a theater group in Milan