The Soft Z is usually written   as “long z” in phonetical dictionaries. It comes from latin, of course.

Here are some examples: prandium – pranzo (lunch); radius – razzo (rocket).

Here the Z with a soft sound:

1) when it is  followed by two vowels, but the first one is not an  “I”:

zoo, zuavo (zuave), zaino (backpack), Zeus, Zaira.

2) When It is at the beginning of a word and the second syllable has a voiced consonant as a first letter:

B: zabaione, zibibbo, zibaldone, zebra. (eggnog, raisins, medley, zebra).

D: zodiac (zodiac).

G: zigrino, zigomo, zigote (shagreen, cheekbone, zygote). Exception: zigano  (gypsy)

L: zelo, zulù, zelante(zeal, Zulu, zealous).

M: zimarra, zumare (zimarra, to zoom)

N: zona (zone) , Zeno

R: zero, Zara

V: zavorra (ballast)

Z: zan-zara, zen-zero, Zan-zibar, zuz-zurellone (mosquito, ginger, Zanzibar, playful idler)

3) Between 2 vowels:

nazareno, ozono, azalea, azoto, Azeglio (Nazarene, ozone, azalea, nitrogen, Azeglio).

Exception: nazismo (Nazism)

4) verbs end in  “izzare” :

organizzare, armonizzare, penalizzare, concretizzare, sintetizzare (organize, harmonize, penalize, realize, synthesize).

Exception: rizzare (to raise)

The Z with a hard sound

Again, latin plays an important role. Here some examples: facetia – facezia (pleasantry); pretium – prezzo (price); tertium – terzo (third);

1) When is followed by  “I” within a diphthong:

zio, pazzia, dizione, razzia, agenzia, polizia, polizia, vizio, tizio, razionale, anziano, divorzio, grazia, grazie, dazio, strazio, malizia, Lucrezia, ozio, astuzia.(uncle, madness, diction, pillaging, agency, police, police, vice, dude, rational, older, divorce, grace, thank you, duty, torment, malice, Lucrezia, leisure, cunning).

2) When it is at the beginning of a word and the second syllable is an unvoiced consonant:

C: zucchero, zucca, zucchina, zuccotto, zinco, zoccolo, zecca (sugar, pumpkin, zucchini, skullcap, zinc, windowsill, brand)

F: zuffa, zaffata, zufolo, zolfo (scuffle, whiff, whistle, sulfur )exceptions: zafferano, zefiro, zaffiro (saffron, zephyr, sapphire)

P: zampa, zappa, zuppa, zampogna, zampina, zoppo, zeppo.(paw, hoe, soup, bagpipes, paw, lame, chock).

T: zitto, zittire, zattera (silent, silence, raft) ; exceptions: zeta, zotico (zed, lout)

3) When the Z is immediately after  “l”:

alzare, calza, scalzo, calzolaio, milza, infilzare, mascalzone, filza, sfilza.(raise, stocking, barefoot shoemaker, spleen, spearing, scoundrel, string, string)

Exceptions: elzeviro, belzebù (elzeviro, Beelzebub)

4) words end in  “zione”:

terminazione, direzione, colazione, addizione, frazione, posizione. (termination, management, breakfast, addition, fraction, location).

5) When there are two following Z:

pizza, pazzo, pozzo, strozzare, strozzino, struzzo, carrozza, spruzzo, bellezza, carezza, prezzemolo, durezza, purezza, prezzo, pezzo, nozze, piccozza (pizza, crazy, well, choke, loan shark, ostrich, carriage, spray, beauty, caress, parsley, hardness, purity, price, piece, wedding, ice ax)

Exceptions: azzardo, azzurro, brezza (gambling, blue, breeze)

6) verbs end in  “azzare” :

ammazzare, scorazzare, stramazzare, strapazzare, starnazzare. (kill, run around, collapsing, scramble, quacking)

7) words end in  in “anza”, “enza” :

assenza, senza, risonanza, costanza, mancanza, stanza, coerenza, apparenza, divergenza, violenza, partenza.

(absence, without, resonance, perseverance, lack room, consistency, appearance, divergence, violence, starting)

8) words end in    “orzo”, “orza”, “erzo”:

forza, sforzo, scorza, sfarzo, sterzo. (force, strain, peel, glitz, steering)

9) words end in  “onzolo” :

Frónzolo, pretónzolo, medicónzolo, girónzolo (embellishment, poor little priest, medicónzolo, wander).

 

Zzz….zzz… don’t fall asleep with too many Z…

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