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I overheard someone use the term "vista" while describing a view. Being a non-native speaker, I would have chosen the simpler form: "It's a nice view." Could some generous soul explain when it's a vista and when it's a view? Are these interchangeable in most circumstances?

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Windows Vista is a clue –  shinynewbike Jul 25 '11 at 9:05
    
@shinynewbike: Is it? –  Urbycoz Jul 25 '11 at 9:17
    
@Urbycoz: Yes, it's just a fancy name ;) –  shinynewbike Jul 25 '11 at 9:28
    
@shinynewbike: lol, you got that right! ;-) –  Urbycoz Jul 25 '11 at 9:51

2 Answers 2

Vista is Italian for view. (Also Spanish, but adopted from Italian: see etymonline.)

It has been adopted into the English language and retains the same (noun) meaning, except that it is generally only applied to picturesque views.

For example:

Hey, lets pull over and take in the vista.

or

You should come out onto the balcony, there is a beautiful vista of the city below.

According to Google NGram, usage in this fashion didn't really take off until after 1900

Google NGram for "take in the vista,enjoy the vista"

however the phrase "beautiful vista" seems to have been around for a long while

Google NGram for "beautiful vista"

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Short answer: yes, they're interchangeable in most circumstances.

Long answer: 'View' is a more generic word. 'Vista' is specifically referring to a physical view (especially one through a long, narrow passage of eg. trees), or a similarly metaphorical long view: a long-term view of the future, for example.

Either that or a dodgy operating system.

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I'd say 'vista' was an expansive rather than restricted view, but it's certainly not different from 'view'. –  TimLymington Jul 25 '11 at 10:05

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