Need help for correct translation of two words from English to Italian.
March 12, 2015 8:41 PM   Subscribe

What is the proper translation of the words balance and autonomy?

I am male with Calabrian heritage. I would like to get the words balance and autonomy tattooed on either side of my chest. What would be the proper translation of the words from English to Italian? From my limited grasp of the language I know there are gender specific translations and want to get this right. So far I see il bilancio or le armonia seems OK for balance. For autonomy la autonomia is the only word I get back from Google. So is there not a male specific word for autonomy? Please advise so I don't become a tattooed moron with the wrong translation permanently inked on my body. And yes have thought about this for years and am in no doubt that I want to be tattooed. I have no other tattoos FWIW. Also lastly, can I safely drop the il or la from the translation and the words will still make sense? Thank you. Nice to be back on AskMe!
posted by sjvilla79 to Writing & Language (14 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
The English word balance has many meetings. Off the top of my head it's 1. A device for comparing masses 2. The result of an accounting calculation 3. A sense that allows one to tell where one's center of mass is and how it's moving 4. The ability to control the position and momentum of one's body 5. An aesthetic judgement that various elements of a work of art are integrated in such a way that no single element dominates.

Which meaning do you intend?
posted by mr_roboto at 8:55 PM on March 12, 2015 [1 favorite]

Also, it's not exactly correct to say that there are "gender specific translations". Italian nouns are gendered, which means that the forms of adjectives used with them depends on a property called "gender". But a female-gendered noun can be used to name a property or characteristic of a male individual.
posted by mr_roboto at 9:04 PM on March 12, 2015 [2 favorites]

I'm going to ask my Italian friends, but while we are in the topic, are you sure you want it in standard Italian and not in Calabrese dialect?
posted by feets at 9:21 PM on March 12, 2015

Best answer: "Il balancio" is "balance" like an invoice or bank account.

"Le armonia" is not in any way proper Italian for "balance." ("Le" is a plural feminine article.) "L'armonia" would be "harmony."

"Autonomia" is probably right, but it's "l'autonomia" or just "autonomia." Balance is probably "equilibrio" or "l'equilibrio." You should wait for further answers to confirm or refute that.

Don't worry about genders in terms of whether they apply to you; as mr_roboto said, the gender of a noun has nothing to do with the gender of a person.
posted by jaguar at 9:35 PM on March 12, 2015

Best answer: My Italian friend's translation jibes with jaguar's. She says you can get EQUILIBRIO and AUTONOMIA tattooed on your chest. She also says you don't need the articles "because those words have iconic wouldn't be wrong but it would look weird."

She also thirds the idea that a noun's gender doesn't inflect for a person. It would if you wanted to put adjectives on your body (if you wanted to tattoo "balanced" and "autonomous" on your body referring to yourself, those adjectives would reflect your gender). But a noun has its own gender that doesn't have anything to do with you.

Happy tattooing!
posted by feets at 12:14 AM on March 13, 2015

Best answer: I'm italian, you want l'equilibrio e l'autonomia. Equilibrio is masculine and autonomia is feminine.

But you should just use EQUILIBRIO and AUTONOMIA unless you specifically want to reference THE balance and THE autonomy.
posted by lydhre at 12:28 AM on March 13, 2015

Best answer: The number one best place to get a solid range of answer for this or any similar Italian-English interpretation questions is the forums on There's an Italian-English forum.

I *think* that you want EQUILIBRIO and AUTONOMIA, without the articles, as others have said, but you could clarify what you intend.

If you want a gender specific word that describes the person, you want an adjective rather than a noun, i.e. "Balanced" and "Autonomous".

I can't think of any immediately unfortunate interpretations of this but you might enjoy/bear in mind this article that highlights a pitfall of getting a tattoo from in language or from a culture you love, but are not fluent in.
posted by bimbam at 12:33 AM on March 13, 2015 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Yes makes sense I would want the Calabrese dialect. How would that differ from EQUILIBRIO and AUTONOMIA in traditional Italian? My father might be able to tell me. With balance, I am after the meaning of the word with reference to a balanced life, thoughts, and so on. Thanks for the links and thoughts everyone!
posted by sjvilla79 at 3:13 AM on March 13, 2015

Best answer: I can't translate that to Calabrese, but I came to warn you to check it with like ten people before getting it under your skin. I've been told Calabrese is difficult, so I can imagine someone who left the country 50 years ago making spelling mistakes. Probably even someone who still lives there could spell it wrong.
posted by Promethea at 5:36 AM on March 13, 2015

seconding bimbam's suggestion to check out the Word Reference I/E forum!
posted by bitteroldman at 5:41 AM on March 13, 2015

Can't help you with the calabrese, sorry. Dialect is, traditionally, something that is hardly ever written down so be careful with that. It can be transcribed phonetically but it'll be tricky.
posted by lydhre at 7:12 AM on March 13, 2015

Best answer: You may look into translating some variant of "moderation" for the balance concept you're after. A Latin etymologist can explain this better than me, but "balance" is more of an economic term that's been applied metaphorically to the philosophical/psychological/moral concept of moderation (or striving for the mean).
posted by resurrexit at 8:04 AM on March 13, 2015

Best answer: "Calabrese dialect" is not a simple thing.
posted by bimbam at 8:42 AM on March 13, 2015 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks again everyone for the responses and links. Will check out that language forum and go from there.
posted by sjvilla79 at 9:26 PM on March 14, 2015

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