Italian Language/biscotti

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Question
Dear Maria,

My question is about the word “biscotti”.

In America, we use the term “biscotti” as a name of a particular type of Italian cookie that is twice baked. We say “biscotti” for both the singular and plural.  

Can you please tell me if “biscotti” is in fact a particular type of Italian cookie?

I am confused because my Italian/English dictionary states that “biscotto” is a masculine singular noun that means “biscuit” or “cookie” in a general sense – not as a specific type of cookie.

To remove my confusion, can you please tell me what the words  “biscotto” and “biscotti” are used for in Italy.

Can you also please tell me how to say “cookie” in Italian when one wants to refer to cookies in general.

Thank you very much.

Sincerely,

Rich

Answer
Dear Rich,

the word “biscotto” (plural “biscotti”) is  just a masculine singular noun that means “biscuit” (chiefly British)  or “cookie” in a general sense, not as a specific type of cookies,as you have read in your Italian/English dictionary.

For example, we say:“Vuoi mangiare un biscotto?”, if we want to refer to only one cookie, but “Devo comprare dei biscotti” when we refer to cookies in general.

In Italian however the words “biscotto” and ”biscotti”, that derive from  Latin “ bis  coctus” meaning “cooked twice”, are used not “as a name of a particular type of cookie that is twice baked”, but as a term that refers to any dry, baked pastry, made from white flour, sugar, eggs,milk and butter.

Moreover we have many different types of cookies such as “caporali” (aka “savoiardi”) , “amaretti”, “wafer”, “pavesini”, “lingue di gatto”, “frollini”, “canestrelli”, “cantuccini”, “quaresimali”, “madeleinettes”, “baci di dama”, etc., as you can see at:
https://www.google.it/search?q=biscotti&hl=it&tbo=u&tbm=isch&source=univ&sa=X&ei=KqHLUJ-iDZGK4gSqu4CwDg&ved=0CEYQsAQ&biw=1280&bih=720

To sum up, the “biscotti”, that are always dry, are  not  a particular type of Italian cookie, but refer to any baked pastry, made from white flour , sugar, eggs,  milk and  butter.

As for  how to say “cookie” in Italian when one wants to refer to cookies in general, we usually say “biscotti” in the plural as in e.g.:“I biscotti mi piacciono molto, ma tra di loro preferisco i pavesini perché sono molto leggeri”, where we use “biscotti” in general, and “pavesini“ in particular.

Lastly, in Italy we usually eat  the biscotti (caporali, pavesini, canestrelli, etc.) when we have breakfast with "caffé" or "cappuccino" and when we  have tea at five.

Hope this can help you.
Best regards,
Maria

Italian Language

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Maria

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Italian is my mother tongue and I'll be glad to answer any questions concerning Italian Language.

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Over 25 years teaching experience.

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I received my Ph.D.in Classics (summa cum laude) from Genova University (Italy).

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