Girl wishing to be at the beach cartoon

What does Magari mean in Italian?

What does magari mean? Magari has a musical quality that rolls effortlessly off the tongue. Though there is no direct equivalent in English, magari encompasses a unique combination of hope and uncertainty. It can express a desire or wish. It can also imply a highly positive affirmation. Or it can denote a sad minor tone with the “if only” sentiment echoing behind.

Oh, the troublesome word magari. Its multiple meanings may test our patience. But fear not! This post will unveil its secrets!

Girl at school wishing to be at the beach cartoon

1. Magari can be used alone as an answer to express a desire or wish.

A solitary utterance of its syllables suffices to express a desire, an unfulfilled dream.

Italian: Vuoi venire al mare con me?

English: Would you like to come to the sea with me?

Italian: Magari!

English: Of course, I wish to go with you!

2. Magari can be used alone to express regret

In moments of lament, Magari can be invoked to bemoan what could have been, what should have been, but never was.

Beware, for there is a subtler nuance that lies in the inflection of the voice. A mere modulation in tone, and yet it distinguishes the first case from the second one. Heed this warning well, for the difference in intonation is a harbinger of much significance.

Italian: Ma poi hai avuto quella promozione a lavoro?

English: But then, did you get that promotion at work?

Italian: Magari!

English: If only I had, but sadly no, even though I would have liked that!

3. Magari plus a conjunctive can be used to express a wish.

We can also use Magari with the subjunctive mood to express desire.

Italian: Magari facesse freddo!

English: I wish it was cold!

4. Magari can take the meaning of maybe or probably.

At times, Magari may take on a more uncertain tone, a reflection of the ever-shifting tides of fate. In these instances, it may carry with it the meaning of ‘maybe’ or ‘probably’, as if to say that the future is but a mystery, and the outcome of our endeavors remains to be seen.

Italian: È in ritardo di 30 minuti… Magari ha sbagliato strada.

English: He is 30 minute late… Maybe he took the wrong way.

5. Magari can take the meaning of rather or sooner.

And yet, in other moments, Magari may hint at a sense of urgency, something required to be done sooner rather than later. It may be a substitute for ‘rather’, a gentle prod to move forward, to act.

Italian: Magari resterò sveglia tutta la notte, ma non chiederò aiuto a nessuno per finire questo lavoro!

English: I’d rather stay up all night, but I won’t ask anybody’s help to finish this work!

6. Magari can also take the meaning of possibly.

In still other instances, Magari may speak of possibility, of a chance that depends on a specific situation, a particular set of circumstances. It may take on the meaning of ‘possibly’, a reminder that the world is a complex place, and that we must always be ready to seize opportunities as they present themselves.

Italian: Magari prima di partire mandami un sms.

English: Possibly send me sms before you leave

The origin of the word Magari

Interestingly, the origin of magari can be traced back to the Greek word “makàrios” which has a very positive connotation, meaning “a great, blessed, or fortunate event”. 

Here is an example of magari as it would be used in Greek (with a positive connotation).

Italian: Quante volte alla settimana vanno in palestra?

English: How many times a week do they go to the gym?

Italian: Magari, una volta a settimana.

English: Hopefully, once a week.

Wrapping Up

Learning Italian is a beautiful journey, and magari is only one of the many nuances of this rich language. Whether you are a beginner or an advanced learner, there is always more to explore and discover. Would you like to test drive a podcast-style Italian course for free? Click here to check it out!

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  1. Magari is a compelling word. It is one of those words we stumbled across in our initial days learning Italian. There are so many subtle differences. And as you mentioned, even an inflection of the voice gives the word different meanings. I should also say that the examples you mentioned helped me in a couple of cases.

    1. I am glad to read this post helped you with the different meanings of the word magari. Keep tuned for more content.

  2. Hi! Thank you for bringing the Italian word ‘Magari’ to our attention. Language is a beautiful tapestry of culture. And it’s intriguing to explore unique words like this one. I’m eager to delve deeper into its meaning and usage within Italian conversations. Could you share a platform where I could have conversations with Italian speakers? Thanks.

    1. When learning a new language we often encounter versatile words like this one. It can be overwhelming to realize that one word could mean so many different things. How will we know how to distinguish each meaning? I commend your desire to learn more by direct conversation. In this type of environment, you can see firsthand the uses of these words. A few platforms I would recommend are: Babbel and Italki.

  3. This article is very interesting in the explanation of the word “Magari”, but I sort of feel from the explanations that the word has more of a feeling of “I wish” rather than all the other meanings article has explained. Each one of the answers that were used, the word “Magari” sounds like the person is saying “I wish”. The example of “I’d rather stay up all night, but I’m not going to ask anyone”. could be also said “I wish I could stay up all night”.  All the explanations make perfect sense, and isn’t it funny how one word and have so many different meanings.  Very interesting.


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