Italian is a Romance language derived from Latin. It slowly evolved from Latin into many dialects. At the end of the Middle Ages, the Tuscan dialect became the most popular version of Italian, owing to the central location of Florence and its thriving economy. Dante, Petrarca, and Boccaccio, who left a long-lasting mark on the Italian language, all came from Tuscany. Italian then became Italy’s official language when the peninsula was unified in the 19th century.
There are around 85 million Italian speakers across the world, including 65 million native speakers within the European Union. Italian is primarily spoken in Italy, but is also an official language in San Marino, Switzerland and Vatican City. Thanks to a wide diaspora, Italian is also a minority language in various countries across the world, including in the United States, Australia, and Malta.
Italian’s longest word is precipitevolissimevolmente, and stands for “in a way like someone or something that acts very hastily”. Other long Italian words include particolareggiatissimamente (“in an extremely detailed way”) and anticostituzionalissimamente (“in a way that strongly violates the constitution”).
Italian has significantly influenced English and other Western languages. Common English words of Italian origin include broccoli, fiasco, propaganda, flu, quarantine, lottery and zucchini.
With countless occurrences of Italian loanwords such as a cappella, maestro, orchestra, crescendo and soprano, Italian is the universal language of music, especially classic music. With many compositors and musicians being Italian when musical notation appeared during the Renaissance, Italian became the standard language for musicians and music lovers.