Bravo! at the theatre.

Giordano Bruno

Senior Member
English, England
I have viewed some posts on this forum which go some way to answering my question, but leave some doubts.

In England a good performance at the theatre will sometimes provoke a "bravo!", as an exclamation, from the audience. I presume the same is true in Italy.

My question concerns the use of the word in this context. Does it refer always to the actors or can it be used generally for the perfomance. If only for the actors, does it become "Bravi!", or perhaps "Brave!" when the leading lady takes her bow?

In England it is universally "Bravo!" so perhaps we have claimed this word for our own now.

I guess that's enough questions for one post.
  • TimLA

    Member Emeritus
    English - US
    A man gets a "bravo"
    A woman gets a "brava"
    Two or more men get a "bravi"
    Two or more women get a "brave"
    One or more men + one or more women get a "bravi".

    If you smile and yell "hooray" or "bravo" - everyone will understand.:D


    Senior Member
    Dear friend,

    "Bravo" - an adjective for "good", "clever", "skillful" etcetera - is usually referred to persons, and NOT things. Therefore, we would say that of a good actor, but never of a good performance.

    Being an adjective, it varies in order to agree with the noun, as you correctly guessed, both in gender and in number.
    So we have

    Brav-O - masculine singular
    Brav-A - feminine singular
    Brav-E - feminine plural
    Brav-I - masculine plural

    A universal "Bravo!" could never be an option in Italy! :)

    Hope I have answered your question.

    Take care,


    Giordano Bruno

    Senior Member
    English, England
    Many thanks, TimLA and vincenzochiaravalle and thanks for the correction of "Brave!". I should have been more careful. Your answers confirm what I thought was probably the case, but it is much better to be absolutely certain. I would however feel quite uncomfortable using these forms in England however where "Bravo!" alone is used.


    New Member
    About bravo...
    I've heard in several occasion using such term. In italy we use it as an adjective. But they also use it in english, arabic, maldivian...not only at the theatre, but playing sport, speaking between others and in normal occasion during a day...Like to highlight the moment, not only referring to a man.
    I got no idea on the spreading of the word around the world...but I find it a little curious...Any idea if there's some other people in the word using "bravo!"?


    usa, english
    Bravo! at the theatre is an interjection; this braVO ! is the same as applause. It is not part of the ensuing phrase. It's an "absolute construction". Here braVO ! is to be dubbed, not translated) as hooray, encore, bis etc. Historically this form is a French borrowing from the bullfight. Un toro bravo, from taurus pravus, was a fierce, untamed, unbroken bull, therefore a good one in the bull fight. This blood sport was still practiced in Italy in the days of Kaiser Josef and Napoleon, at the Arena di Verona, for example. The accent is on the end syllable: braVO ! -- because it was adopted in France, then re-exported all over the world . In fact the truncation VO ! is found in old texts in Italian. But non-Italians and Italians alike have created a new usage, being unaware of the etymology. Hearing the final -o Italian children are discomfited to hear the likes of "bravo! Maria or "bravo! ragazzi /ragazze". Hence the inflected bravi brava bravi! Increasingly used, these are painful to the ears of the older and wiser. There is still a problem. The interjection often loses its French ultimate accent in many languages, if not in the traditional opera house. Still, another complication is this: when a child is addressed with bravo/brava the accented syllable is long and falling in tone -- the "Italian drawl". When you say bravo ~ brava to a kid you mean 'good boy / girl, nice girl boy", a docile child, not a fiery performer. -- A research tip: when dictionaries fail you, use "GOOGLE books" and do your own search...
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    usa, english
    Translators must work with social variables, not just standard usages, with newer and older texts. No matter how puristic you are, you can't not use "incorrect" English in citing the phrase "Agatha Christie wrote who-dunnits...". "Who did-its" would get a laugh. The increasing use of bravo -a today to refer to performers, instead of to performances, is an innovation based on innovators' unfamiliarity with the question of Gallicisms in Italian. But the usage is there. Yell bravo!" for a bravura performance by a woman, and the whipper-snappers will look at you aghast. Yell brava! and the fan in the know will look down the nose at you. Use Amazon Books "Look inside" feature to search out words and phrases. Ditto Google Books. Examples:

    --“Bravo, bravo, tutti quanti. .. We’re doing very well, you know… “. Phillips, Harvey E. 1973. The Carmen Chronicle: the Making of an Opera. --Rivista contemporanea nazionale italiana. Volume 15 . 1858. p. 178. Google eBook
    In mezzo al frastuono di tanti sì e di tanti bravo....”
    --one must generally accept admiration and bravos as payment.” Anderson, Emily. Volume I. p. 80 The Letters of Leopold Mozart and His Family; Mozart to his wife.1938. To check these loci, copy and paste in your browser.

    Shifted forms in English are pluralized; not so in Italian: The Sopranos/ i Soprano; the why's.. i perchè... The Italian articles carry number (and gender) ...


    usa, english
    Traditori esploratori! To boot: Unlike the Italian, English articles, you all know, but we seldom make explicit, are invariable: no singular v. plural...