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Unico: What does it really mean?

Now that we have talked about uno, here's another related word that's handy to know. It's a word you can guess one meaning of because it looks similar to an English word you know.

 

Oggi Matera è un sito unico al mondo...

Today, Matera is a site that's unique in the world...

Caption 46, Alberto Angela - Meraviglie EP. 1 - Part 11

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UNIQUE

So when you want to say something is unique, now you know how. Don't forget that the adjective unico has to agree with its noun. You have 4 possible endings to choose from: unico, unica, unici, uniche.

 

One way Italians like to use unico is to give someone a certain kind of compliment (which can be ironic, too). 

 

Augusto, sei unico.

Augusto, you're one of a kind.

Caption 34, La Ladra Ep. 6 - Nero di rabbia - Part 6

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Again, if you are saying this to a girl or woman, you will want to use unica

Maria, sei unica!

Maria, you're special!

 

MOST COMMON

But the main way Italians use the word unico is to mean "only."  

È l'unico modo che ho per sdebitarmi.

It's the only way I have to settle my debt.

Caption 25, La Ladra EP. 8 - Il momento giusto - Part 6

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Questa scuola è l'unica cosa che ho.

This school is the only thing I have.

Caption 5, Il Commissario Manara S2EP5 - Mondo sommerso - Part 3

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E saremo gli unici al mondo ad avere qualcosa di simile.

And we'll be the only ones in the world to have something like this.

Caption 18, Adriano Olivetti La forza di un sogno Ep.2 - Part 19

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Tutte le volte che veniva a pregare per le uniche persone che amava.

Every time she came to pray for the only people she loved.

Caption 17, Il Commissario Manara S1EP10 - Un morto di troppo - Part 10

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SPECIAL MEANINGS

If you travel to Italy and go clothes shopping, here's something you will definitely see on the racks or on a label.

taglia unica (one size fits all).

The noun La taglia comes from the verb tagliare (to cut).  

 

The other very important expression with unico is what you might see while driving your macchina a noleggio (rental car).

una strada a senso unico (a one way street)

 

People also just call a one way street: 

un senso unico (a one way street)

 

In these last two examples, we could say that unico stands for "one." The important thing is to understand what it means in the situation. You don't want to drive the wrong way down a road!

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