Word of the Day: Zebra

You know, a lot of the times my Word of the Day series focuses on either obscure or unusual or linguistically interesting words and I realize this may not be of much use to the person who is just beginning to learn Romanian.

If this is you, today you are lucky because the word zebra (zeh-bruh) is not only easy to pronounce but also easy to understand and remember.

Obviously, under normal circumstances, zebra in Romanian refers to the black and white striped African mammal. But in slang or everyday Romanian it refers to a marked pedestrian crossing on a street or roadway.

Oddly enough, very, very few of these marked pedestrian crossings are actually black and white (like a zebra, the animal) and are usually just white squares mixed with unpainted (and therefore gray) squares. Some of these are bordered in red as well. But very rarely are they truly painted black and white.

Not only is the word zebra easy to remember (and pronounce) to describe a pedestrian crossing but it is much shorter than the official term, which is trecere pietonala (literally “pedestrian crossing”).

Or as DEX pithily puts it, zebra is short for marcaj de traversare a străzii pentru pietoni prin dungi paralele vopsite (literally “markings for crossing a street for pedestrians in the form of painted, parallel stripes”). Now say that five times fast! :P

Whether referring to the animal or a pedestrian crossing, zebra follows normal declinations, which means that the plural is zebre, etc.

Although in Romania pedestrians have the right of way at marked pedestrian crossings, be sure to look both ways before crossing the zebre in your town :)


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