A Facebook user recently contacted us to ask about the difference between the word il gufo and la civetta. This user wanted to know the difference between the two words – were they simply synonyms or did they refer to different owls?
The answer is the second: they refer to different kinds of owls!
The Italian word il gufo is the animal that is the most famous in the ‘family’ of owls; it is the one with the straight feathers on top of its head that look like two ears, and it is the most common word for owl in Italian — in other words, if you don’t know the kind of owl you mean, use il gufo.
Il gufo reale is equivalent to the eagle-owl in English.
La civetta is the smaller owl and is very common in Italy; it is known as the little owl in English.
There is also the word il barbagianni that is equivalent to the barn owl with its feathers and round head.
Lastly, there is also the word l’assiolo, which is the smallest of the owls, the Eurasian scops owl.