The Meaning of Prego: What It Is and How To Use It

Do you know the definition of the word prego? This guide will give you all of the information you need on the Italian word prego, including its meaning, usage, origin, example sentences, and more!

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What does the Italian word prego mean?

According to The Local, the word prego is an Italian word that means “you’re welcome.” It can also be used to mean “that’s quite alright” if someone is thanking you or asking your forgiveness. It can also be used to mean please when someone is encouraging someone to do something. In this context, it would mean that the person being encouraged to do something is “welcome” to do that thing. Finally, the word prego can be used to say yes when someone asks for permission to do something. The word prego can also be used as an interjection to mean pardon, or to beg for something. This versatile word is extremely common in Italiano, and if one travels to Italy, they will hear it frequently. It is essential to know the meaning of the word prego if one wants to travel in Italy and communicate with the locals.

If you are from America, you might recognize Prego as a brand of pasta sauce. According to Campbells, Prego is their brand of Italian pizza and pasta sauces. This sauce brand sells many different varieties of Italian sauces, from pestos, to red sauces, to alfredos. They currently sell nearly 40 different types of Prego sauces across the nation. The Italian word prego should not be confused with the English slang term preggo, which is short for pregnant.

What is the origin of the Italian word prego?

The word prego comes from the Italian verb pregare, which means “to pray.” It is used similarly to the English phrase “pray tell,” though the Italian usage of the word prego is much more frequent than the English “pray tell.” Prego is the first person present tense form of the verb pregare, which means that it directly translates to the word “I pray.”

According to Etymonline, the word pray has been in usage since the early 13th century to mean “to ask earnestly” or “to beg.” This word comes from the Old French premier meaning to pray, which has the same root in Vulgar Latin precare as the Italian pregare. The Vulgar Latin precare comes from the Latin precari, meaning “to ask earnestly.” 

What are English synonyms for the word prego?

There are many different synonyms one can use in English to mean you’re welcome if one is speaking to a non-Italian speaker. This list below is from Thesaurus!

  • no problem
  • forget it
  • you’re welcome
  • don’t mention it
  • you are welcome
  • it’s nothing
  • my pleasure
  • not at all
  • no worries

How can the word prego be used in a sentence?

Since the word prego has so many different meanings, this means that it can be used in many different ways. In this first example, the word prego will be used to mean “you’re welcome.” Sofia and her mother Aria are having dinner.

Sofia: Mamma, puoi passare il parmigiano? 

(English – Sofia: Mom, can you pass the parmesan?)

Aria: Sì, ecco qua. Non usarne troppo. 

(English – Aria: Yes, here you go.)

Sofia: Non lo farò. Grazie! 

(English – Sofia: I won’t. Thank you!)

Aria: Prego, tesoro.

(English – Aria: You’re welcome, honey.)

Here, Aria uses the word prego to tell Sofia “you’re welcome” for passing the cheese. In this next circumstance, the word prego will be used to mean “that’s alright.” Here, Aria is late to pick Sofia up from school.

Aria: Sofia, tesoro. Mi dispiace tanto per il ritardo. Ho dimenticato che non hai fatto pratica oggi.

(English – Aria: Sofia, honey. I’m so sorry I’m late. I forgot you didn’t have practice today.)

Sofia: Prego, mamma. Non ti preoccupare. Ho solo lavorato sui compiti.

(English – Sofia: It’s quite alright, mom. Don’t worry. I just worked on homework.)

Aria: Brava ragazza.

(English – Aria: Good girl.)

Here, Sofia uses prego to tell her mother that it is alright that she is late to pick her up. In this next example, the word prego will be used similarly to the word please when encouraging someone to do something. Here, Aria calls Sofia into her office to talk about her grades.

Aria: Sofia, prego, si accomodi.

(English – Aria: Sofia, please, sit down.)

Sofia: Cosa sta succedendo?

(English – Sofia: What’s going on?)

Aria: Dobbiamo parlare dei tuoi voti. Un C + in matematica?

(English – Aria: We need to talk about your grades. A C+ in math?)

Sofia: Questi sono solo i voti di medio termine. Prometto di aumentarlo entro la fine del semestre.

(English – Sofia: Those are just the midterm grades. I promise I will raise it by the end of the semester.)

Aria: Faresti meglio.

(English – Aria: You had better.)

Finally, in the below example, the word prego will be used to show assent when someone is asking for permission. Here, Sofia asks Aria’s permission to go out with her friends.

Sofia: Mamma, posso uscire con i miei amici stasera al bowling? Ho ottenuto un A al mio test di matematica e voglio davvero andare. Per favore?

(English – Sofia: Mom, can I please go out with my friends tonight to the bowling alley? I got an A on my math test and I really want to go. Please?)

Aria: Prego. Hai lavorato sodo.

(English – Aria: Sure. You’ve been working hard.)

Sofia: Grazie mille, mamma!

(English – Sofia: Thank you, mom!)

Overall, the Italian word prego most often means “you’re welcome” and directly translates to “I pray” in English. The word prego can also mean please, that’s alright, or as a word of assent when someone is asking for permission. This versatile word is extremely common in the Italian language, and one could hear it dozens of times a day when traveling in Italy.

Sources:

  1. https://www.thelocal.it/20190621/italian-word-of-the-day-prego
  2. https://www.campbells.com/prego/products/
  3. https://www.etymonline.com/word/pray#:~:text=900%2C%20Modern%20French%20prier)%2C,From%20early%2014c.