The Internet Just Discovered the Singular for Spaghetti

July 17, 2017

Here’s something fun and mildly pointless. Spaghetti's having quite a field day on Twitter—first, when a moviegoer admitted that she brings bagfuls of spaghetti with her to movie theaters, a move so brash and subversive that it's become the stuff of Refinery29 articles.

And last Thursday, one Boston resident, tweeting under the handle @caroramsey, discovered the singular word for spaghetti: “spaghetto.” It sent Twitter into overdrive—look at those metrics, likes and favorites in the tens of thousands, climbing as I type!

(Language, caro!)

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This isn't a doctored image. It's indeed right there in Wiktionary, explaining this word's Italian origins. It upends common usage of the word spaghetto. “Spaghetti made with ramen noodles and ketchup,” according to Urban Dictionary. Wrong, Urban Dictionary, as you often are. Spaghetto is a solitary, stringy strand of spaghetti, just as a panino is a lone panini.

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Top Comment:
“A little while ago, in the most wanna-be cool eateries in Italy, you might have been offered a "spaghetto" or -even worse- a "spaghettino" instead of the -apparently- more plebeian spaghetti. And yes, in the same places you would have found also some "raviolo" and "tortellino" on the menu. This fad ended, lucky us.”
— marcella F.

Meaningless fact? Sure, I guess, you miser. Chide us for devoting a whole blog post to this quirk of language, unbeknownst to a good chunk of Twitter—and, perhaps, to you. There’s a red, squiggly line forming beneath the word "spaghetto" each time I type it, a prompt from my computer to make sure I don’t mean "spaghetti." Nope! I mean spaghetto.

At the very least, maybe you’ve learned something new today. So go ahead: Amend your recipe instructions. Lessen your character counts. “A single strand of spaghetti” eats up way more real estate than the word “spaghetto.” Gently ease it into your lexicon: spaghetto. It’s a good word.

Any other food words you didn't know? Let us know in the comments.

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Mayukh Sen is a James Beard Award-winning food and culture writer in New York. His writing has appeared in the New York Times, the New Yorker, Bon Appetit, and elsewhere. He won a 2018 James Beard Award in Journalism for his profile of Princess Pamela published on Food52.


AI July 20, 2017
as if uno spaghetto was served?
marcella F. July 20, 2017
Of course not :) I guess those waiters were unconsciously using the "part for the whole" rethorical trick, but still, it sounded so tacky. And unnecessary.
marcella F. July 20, 2017
A little while ago, in the most wanna-be cool eateries in Italy, you might have been offered a "spaghetto" or -even worse- a "spaghettino" instead of the -apparently- more plebeian spaghetti. And yes, in the same places you would have found also some "raviolo" and "tortellino" on the menu. This fad ended, lucky us.
D N. July 20, 2017
My gf looks great in her bikino
One piece of fermented cabbage please... a kimcho
One leg of that 8tentacled sea creature is an octopo
Just one of those flavor tasting receptacles on my tongue -- its umamo
And a little pancake for my caviar? A blino
bahalana July 20, 2017
Lest we forget: raviolo, cannolo, etc... Not that it matters anyway, I'm Italian-American (I don't speak the language at all) and we are famous for inventing our own words for stuff that would probably make a real Italian cringe. Like "brajiole" and "motz" (or "motzarell") or good grief "gravy" for sauce. I have no problem walking into an Italian bakery and asking for a single "cannoli."
Mary-Elizabeth T. July 22, 2017
If you're only ordering *one* cannoli, you're doing it wrong. :)
D N. July 20, 2017
One mid-Pacific tropical Island is a Hawai-o
Relaxing outside in my Jacuzz-o munching on just one shrimp scampo
Is one little potato dumpling a gnoccho?

Cooking japanese style on my hibacho
My one friend from Kabul is an Afghano
Dont want a lot of that Indian rice, just a biryano
just one little Italian pastry please... a cannolo
calbo July 19, 2017
One more? Here it is. It's very uncommon (more common probably in Tuscany, where it comes from) or may sound obsolete, but spaghetto also means "scare" (noun).

Mi hai fatto prendere uno spaghetto! You scared me!

And remember that spaghetti should be pronounced with hard g (like in golf or gorilla, not jet or jolly).
geegee July 21, 2017
Well, in Rome we say (slang): "fámose 'no spaghetto", meaning "let's have some spaghetti"!
Hollis R. July 18, 2017
so what's the big deal? it's well known that the singular of graffiti is graffito. it stands to reason that spaghetto would be the singular of spaghetti. interesting faux fact -- i have the squiggly red line under spaghetto but not under graffito.
Margaret L. July 17, 2017
But wait! I love that Urban Dictionary definition -- it's hilarious!
Margaret L. July 17, 2017
And from a plate of biscotti one takes just one biscotto at a time.
Judi C. July 17, 2017
You should've seen my face in Italian class when I learned the singular for gnocchi was gnocco.
Joseph S. July 20, 2017
as in gnocco ono?
Sharlenie R. July 17, 2017
Similarly, gelati is the plural of gelato, linguine the plural of linguina, and manicotto the plural of manicotti.
Anna T. July 17, 2017
Manicotti is the plural of manicotto, not the other way around. Same goes for graffiti, biscotti, calimari, etc.
susan G. July 17, 2017
O before I except after .... ?
702551 July 17, 2017
@susan g:

In Italian, nouns are masculine or feminine.

If the singular form of a noun ends in 'o', then it is masculine and the pluralized form ends in 'i'.

If the singular form ends in 'a', then the noun is feminine and the pluralized form ends in 'e'.

Some singular nouns end in 'e'. These are typically pluralized with the letter 'i' but there is no way to tell if noun is masculine or feminine. For example, 'ponte' is singular for 'bridge' and the plural is 'ponti'. 'Parte' is singular for 'part' and the plural is 'parti'. However, 'ponte' is masculine and 'parte' is feminine. One simply needs to memorize these or recall a usage with a mnemonic, like an adjective which also varies based on gender and singular/plural.

Let's say you're a beginner Italian student and you're trying to figure out if 'ponte' is masculine or feminine. You can look it up in a dictionary or maybe you remember the name 'Ponte Vecchio' ('Old Bridge') which is clearly masculine based on the 'o' at the end of 'vecchio'.

There are a handful of exceptions, but by in large, Italian follows very consistent rules, far more reliably than some related languages like French.
calbo July 19, 2017
Not to be pedant, but it's calamaro/calamari; just FYI!
Bob O. July 20, 2017
And don't forget "raviolo."