How would you like to win a billion dollars? Magari! any Italian would certainly answer.
“Magari” (pronounced: mah-gah-ree) is a little popular word Italians use in a huge amount of occasions, but it’s not always easy to translate it literally. It shows desire, wishful thinking, the need of something precise in our daily routine or, even more seriously, life. It can also, more simply, introduce a suggestion or a piece of advice.
Seems complex? It really isn’t, but it’s better to take it one step at the time.
Let’s start with its etymology, because it’s pretty curious indeed, and many Italians who use “magari” a million times a day probably ignore it, too.
So, it seems that our little, beloved “magari” comes from the Greek makarios, which means “happy.” It was attested for the first time in the Italian language in 1303 and it never left center stage since.
Put two and two together and the way “magari” came to be used as it is today becomes clear: basically, it’s an expression that wants to tell us “lucky you” or “lucky us” if specific circumstances happen. Take the example above, for example, and substitute that “magari” with “lucky me:” it works perfectly!
Or check this out: avrei voglia di andare in vacanza domani: magari non dovessi lavorare! (I’d love to go on holiday tomorrow: I wish I didn’t have to work!): simple enough, right? Well, now see what happens if we change “magari” with “fortunato me”: avrei voglia di andare in vacanza domani: fortunato me, se non dovessi lavorare! (I’d love to go on holiday tomorrow: lucky me, if I didn’t have to work!).
Basically, the two expressions are interchangeable, proof of how those Ancient Greeks are behind yet another famous piece of Italy’s lexicon (oops, here’s another!).
Magari vivessi al mare, immagina che abbronzatura d’Estate.
I wish I lived by the sea, imagine the suntan I’d get in the Summer
Magari potessimo trovare un appartamento da condividere!
It’d be great if we could find an apartment to share.
Che bel posto! magari potessi vivere li.
What a place: I wish I could live there.