Posted by: Nancy | March 4, 2016

“Fiore profumato petaloso”

Did you hear the story of the eight-year-old Italian boy named Matteo who created a new word in an exercise for school?Matteo2

He was tasked with writing words that describe a flower. He wrote “Fiore profumato petaloso.” The first two words translate to “Fragrant flower,” but “petaloso” — that doesn’t exist.

But it should. It comes from the noun “petalo” (petal) and the suffix “oso” (full of). The word means “full of petals.” Petaloso.

His teacher loved the made-up word — it does sound beautiful, doesn’t it?

But, being a good teacher, she marked it wrong. And, being a good person, she wrote on the boy’s paper that it was a beautiful mistake.

The boy decided he would like it to be considered a real word. So his teacher suggested he write a letter to his country’s national language academy — Academia della Crusca, founded in 1583, the oldest linguistic academy in the world —to ask them to include it in the dictionary.

The linguists, remarkably, explained to the boy that while the word was well-formed, people must use the word and understand its meaning before it could be included in the dictionary.

Enter #petaloso.

The teacher posted a photo of the letter and when I last checked, it had been shared more than 99,334 times.

The story has appeared on BBC and NPR, and dozens of websites, including the European Parliament and the online magazine Caffeina (which is where I copied the photo of the boy, Matteo). The Italian Prime Minister tweeted his congratulations to the student, and the Zanichelli publishing house, which publishes one of the most widely referenced Italian dictionaries, hinted in a tweet that the word might make its next edition.

I have hope for the world.

An eight-year-old boy created a beautiful word, and hundreds of thousands of people supported him by using the word, making it real. I love adding to my vocabulary anyway, but using this one gave me joy.

I can’t wait for my springtime garden — perhaps my flowers will be worthy of of the adjective petaloso.


  1. To the moon and back! I did not hear about this beautiful story. Poetry is in every single word, flower, petal, fragrance and childhood. That story should be an example. in France, there is a great debate about the simplification of spelling. our language is deemed to have a difficult grammar and rules to infinity. but its origins come from Latin and from all languages ​​that prevailed in the past. so why simplify? to upgrade to the SMS language, they tell us. how sad. do not cut, multiply, create! Evviva Matteo!

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