The meaning of Tesoro: one word, many translations

tesoro meaning
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Today we are going to talk about the meaning of tesoro, an Italian word that you can use to talk about pirates, bureaucracy, and love.

I know, those are enough topics to write a juicy story on Wattpad – how do they all fit into one word?!

Bear with me for a minute and you’ll know.

translate tesoro to english

Translation and uses of the Italian word Tesoro

If you are somewhat familiar with Italian, you may have already noticed that this word is very similar to our term “treasure”. And you’d be on the right track.

Tesoro is in fact the Italian word for treasure.

Hai mai letto “L’Isola del Tesoro”? Adoro quel libro!

Have you ever read “Treasure Island”? I love that book!

Both words, like their Spanish and French counterparts, derive from the Latin word thesaurus. Which in turn comes from the Greek word “thesauros”.

In ancient times, this Greek term could both mean “storehouse” or designate something valuable to hoard or keep safe. This ambivalence has made it possible for tesoro to have another meaning.


Tesoro can also indicate the funds or wealth of an institution, be it a bank or an entire nation.

Until 1997, Italy used to have a Ministry called Ministero del Tesoro (Ministry of the Treasury), who was responsible for controlling government spending and revenue as well as for overseeing economic and financial policy.

Now the Ministry is called “Ministero dell’Economia e delle Finanze”, but its ministers keep being called ministro del Tesoro.

Ieri sera, il Ministro del Tesoro ha rassegnato le dimissioni.

Last night, the Minister of Treasury resigned.

Literature Trivia: In the Italian translation of The Lord of the Rings, the creature Sméagol calls the One Ring “tesssoro” (“preciousss” in the original language)

italian translation of precious in lord of the rings

What does it mean when someone calls you Tesoro?

Tesoro is also a very common term of endearment that Italians use to call their loved ones or children.

The reason for this use is quite intuitive: calling someone tesoro means telling them that they’re the most precious thing in your life.

In this case, the right English translation would be something like: “darling“, “sweetheart“, or “honey“.

Tesoro, sono a casa.

Honey, I’m home.

Now, since this is a masculine name, many new learners often wonder if they can call a woman tesoro

The answer is simple: yes, you can – you don’t have to decline it according to the other person’s gender, as it doesn’t identify them, but your feelings towards them.

It is very common for mums and grandmas to cal their kids and grandkids tesoro della mamma / tesoro della nonna – or tesoro di mamma / di nonna.

Tesoro della nonna, vuoi andare un po’ al parco?

Grandma’s sweetheart, do you want to go to the park?

Similarly, uncles and aunts can sometimes call their nephews or nieces tesoro di zio / tesoro di zia.

Can you call your friend tesoro?

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You can also use it without romantic implications to say that someone is really nice. For instance, it is common to thank friends after they do you a big favor by telling them:

Sei proprio un tesoro!

You’re such a sweetheart!

This use of tesoro as a term of endearment has also been appropriated as a self-ironic expression by the Italian LGBTQIA community, much like its English equivalents “honey” and “sweetheart“.

Trivia: Tesoro can also be used to mean “honey” with a sarcastic or paternalistic tone. I.e.: in one episode from the popular sitcom “How I Met Your Mother” titled “Oh, Honey”, the protagonists call Tesoro a clueless character played by Katy Perry.

what does it mean when someone calls you tesoro

A treasure box full of Italian words

So, let’s do a recap.

Tesoro means “treasure”, but it can also be used to say many things we would normally express with other words.

It can be used in bureaucracy to mean “treasury“, and it is also a very common term of endearment.

If you are looking for a treasure box full of Italian words, keep reading this blog every week.

We explain lots of common phrases and expressions that are part of the everyday life of an Italian, and we also offer courses and free tests.

See you soon!

Still translating in your head? Wanna speak Italian for real? Check out Stefano's courses to think directly in Italian and become fluent fast!


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