Translated by Alanna Quintyne

In today’s article, I want to talk about an Italian verb that has several meanings, and, since the beginning of the pandemic, has become even more common. I am talking about the verb Tamponare.

If you are curious and want to know more about this verb, keep reading this article called “Tamponare in Italiano”.

Two years have passed since the World Health Organization officially declared the status of pandemic, and in this period many things have changed in our daily lives, lifestyles and last but not least, in our everyday language.

Today, I want to talk to you about an Italian verb, both to remember this important anniversary, and also because a few days ago, I was struck by a sentence said by a student: “Devo tamponare mia figlia”.

Now I can’t say that this sentence is illogical, but knowing that in Italian the verb tamponare has other meanings, I was surprised to find that some time ago no one would have thought to build a sentence in this way.

1. Tamponare as in crashing into a vehicle

The first meaning that comes to mind when I hear the verb tamponare is to crash, i.e., to inadvertently hit the back of a vehicle, such as a car in front of you. 

Knowing this, you can now understand why my student’s sentence seemed a little bizarre to me, but let’s now show some examples:

  • La macchina davanti a me ha frenato bruscamente e non volendo l’ho tamponata. (The car in front of me braked sharply and I unwillingly crashed into it).

It is very common to use this verb in its passive form.

  • Mentre ero in fila al semaforo sono stata tamponata da qualcuno. (While in line at the traffic light, I was rear-ended by someone).

2. Tamponare as in to press on a wound

Here is another use of the verb tamponare: that of applying pressure on a wound. For example, if your child falls from a bicycle and gets a cut, you could say:

  • Tamponiamo un po’ per bloccare la fuoriuscita del sangue. (Let’s apply a bit of pressure to stop the blood from spilling over).


3. Tamponare as in to remedy a situation

In this third case, the use of tamponare is a bit less concrete and more figurative and with this we are indicating trying to remedy, at less worst, a difficult situation. 

For example:

  • C’è stata una falla nel sistema. Mettiamoci a lavorare per cercare di tamponare questa situazione incresciosa. (There has been a flaw in this system. Let’s get to work on trying to remedy this unfortunate situation).

4. Tamponare as in to swab

Let’s get to the fourth and ‘final’ meaning: tamponare as in to perform a swab, which is basically the example with which we stated at the beginning and it’s the phrase my student used to talk about the covid test performed on his daughter.

Now I would like to note that even if the verb tamponare, with the meaning of swabbing, has now been widespread thanks to the media, journalists, or television presents, in reality, dictionaries of the Italian language have not yet accepted its definition. For this reason, I recommend that you favor the expression “fare il tampone” in place of just the verb “tamponare”.


In this article, I discussed a verb with multiple meanings which you can often use in your everyday life.

As often happens, it is my students, with their questions, their doubts and, why not, also with their mistakes, who give me many ideas to continue writing articles that I hope will be useful to all of you and that will also help you take a leap forward in learning Italian.

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