'Dai': The Italian word with many meanings

BBC Culture asked Italian speakers on the streets of New York to explain the importance of the word ‘dai’ and what it says about the Italian language.

What does the word dai mean? Well, it depends who you ask.

As part of BBC Culture’s Untranslatable Words series, New York-based Italian speakers explain the Italian word’s various uses.

In the context of a football match, you would shout ‘Dai!’ to cheer your team on, says Francesco Ranieri. “It’s as if you’re pushing someone from behind,” agrees DC Cymbalista.

But you might also use dai to hurry your child or dog along, or to express disbelief about a statement someone has made. “When someone says something that is unbelievable, you want to say ‘ma dai’” says Teresa Villi, while making a praying hand gesture.

Unsurprisingly for one of the world’s most expressive and musical of languages, the Italian word changes its meaning based on the tone of voice and body language of the person speaking.

Watch the video to find out more about dai.

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