The expression "Italian sounding" is a recent expression used with the following meaning:

  • According to Confagricoltura, “Made in Italy” is now recording a turnover loss of €6 million every hour. These numbers are shocking to say the least, all caused by what is referred to as “Italian sounding”.

  • Italian sounding phenomenon refers to creating images, colors and names of products very similar to their Italian equivalent. This is despite the fact that these imitations have no connection to the Italian originals they have been made to look and sound like. They don’t have the same “Made in Italy” excellence and they have no link to Italy’s traditions and culture, yet they are raking in millions every hour using the Made in Italy imitation.

  • Probably the most famous instance of an "Italian sounding" product is the Parmesan cheese whose pronunciation reminds the original Parmigiano.


Is 'Italian sounding', with the above connotation, an expression used in English speaking countries or is it just another English expression invented by some xenophilous Italian bureaucrat?

If not, what is this phenomenon usually referred to in the U.S or in the U.K. For instance?

N.B. This is not a question about marketing, but on the use of an English expression.


1 Answer 1



An Italian-sounding product is one whose name suggests it was made in Italy. The words in the name when read, sound like Italian words or names to an English speaker even if they aren't genuine Italian words or names.


For a native English speaker, there is no judgement implicit in the phrase. The expression "X-sounding" where X is the name of a language is just normal English, e.g.

"What is the name of your new girlfriend?"
"That's a very Spanish-sounding name. Is she Spanish?"
"Yes, she's from Madrid."

The term is completely neutral.


  1. We don't have to specify the nationality, e.g.
    Did she leave a name?, asked Pereira. It was a foreign-sounding name, replied Celeste, but it's slipped my mind. Pereira Declares: A Testimony By Antonio Tabucchi.

  2. We don't have to talk about a nationality. Here are some examples with 'name', Google ngram: a * sounding name

  3. In the expression, "X-sounding Y" the X does not have to be a language and the Y doesn't have to be a name. We could talk about 'a raucous-sounding orchestra'.

Usage in marketing

In terms of marketing, this refers to a very common phenomenon. For example, in the UK we see many power tools that have 'German-sounding' names. This is because (leaving to one side the Volkswagen debacle) Germany has a reputation for producing high-quality, reliable machinery. The tools themselves might be made in Korea or China.


In Britain, it is common knowledge that Bosch tools are made by a German manufacturer. To a Briton, the name Bosch is very German-sounding: It is about the most German-sounding name you can imagine (for historical reasons concerning WW 1). Britons also think of German tools as being very reliable. A Chinese firm might start selling, Gosch tools. Many English people would see this as German-sounding and so be more likely to buy than if they were called, e.g. Wong tools.


If you are manufacturing food, then your product benefits from having an Italian-sounding name.

If you are manufacturing machinery, then your product benefits from having a German-sounding name.

If you are manufacturing fashion accessories, then your product benefits from having a French-sounding name.

If you are manufacturing electronics, then your product benefits from having a Japanese-sounding name.

There is a whole chapter on the importance of brand names having the right sound in terms of nationality in this book, Great Brand Name By Jacky Tai

  • But generally would an 'Italian sounding' product connote a fake product or an original one?
    – user66974
    Oct 27, 2015 at 11:47
  • An Italian sounding product doesn't have to be 'fake'. That would be illegal. However it is a product that fools people into thinking it is an Italian import whereas it could be made anywhere in the world. As far as I know this isn't prohibited by law and in fact could not be prohibited. I'll add an example to my answer. Oct 27, 2015 at 11:49
  • Note. There is a whole chapter on the importance of brand names having the right sound in terms of nationality in this book, books.google.co.uk/… Oct 27, 2015 at 11:56
  • 2
    In Britain, the expression "X-sounding" where X is the name of a language is just normal English. It is used in a neutral fashion. Example: A: "What is the name of your new colleague at work?",, B. "Darn it, I can't remember! It's an Italian-sounding name though. I think he's probably from Italy." Oct 27, 2015 at 12:03
  • 1
    @Josh61, In the light of your follow-up questions, I have now rewritten the answer. Oct 27, 2015 at 12:45

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