Deirdré Straughan has compiled a fantastic dictionary of Italian slang, which I have copy-pasted here so I don’t forget about it. She’s found all the best words.
[ah-chee-DEN-tay] A darn thing, usually used in the negative, as in Non mi ricordo un’accidente – I don’t recall a thing. In normal useage, an accident (as with a car) is un incidente.
QT adds: Ti venisse un accidente – “May you have an accident,” an ill-wish which apparently refers more to serious illness (heart attack, stroke, etc.).
[ah-chee-DEN-ti] A mild expletive, in a league with drat, darn, heck.
[ah-pretz-a-MEN-toe] Not a rude word, this translates roughly as “appreciation” or “comment”, but it’s used most often in apprezzamenti pesanti (pesanti = “heavy”) for the kind of “appreciative” comment made to a woman that would cause her husband, boyfriend, etc., to react angrily. Such comments are often followed, in the news reports, by violence.
[ar-ra-PAR-ray] To become sexually excited.
The graffiti scribbled on this poster says: “Would you get hot (ti arraparesti) if this girl was your daughter? – This is too much. – http://www.cracra.org”
[ah-TAHK-ka-bot-TONE-ee] Literally a “stick-to-buttons”. A long-winded bore. Someone who “grabs you by the lapel” and won’t let go. This term is not particularly rude, except to the person to whom you apply it!
[BAHL-lay] Balls. Usually synonymous with “Bullshit!” Mi ha raccontato un sacco di balle – “He/she told me a whole bunch of lies” (literally, “a bag of balls”). Can also be used like palle. Che due balle/palle – “What two balls” – can also be used like “What a pain in the ass.”
[bar-BONE-ay] “Having a big beard”, but also used for homeless men.
[baht-TONE-ah] Streetwalker, because she “pounds (battere) the pavement”.
“So?” or “So what?” In some parts of Italy, this may be equivalent to boh. Not particularly rude.
[bock-KEE-no] “A little mouthful” – fellatio.
A verbal shrug. This isn’t rude – you can use it any time.
[BOT-ta] A blow, a punch, a coup, but also used to mean a dose of cocaine. Hence in botta is used to mean high (but not necessarily specifically on cocaine).
In Roman slang, botta or bottarella means a fuck. Le ho dato una bottarella – “I fucked her [a little].”
[ca-ca] Means poop, of course. Used with/by children, or ironically.
[KAHK-yo] A mild replacement for cazzo.
[cah-GAR-ay] To shit.
- Si stanno cagando sotto – “They’re shitting themselves below [with fear]”.
- Non mi caga niente – “He/she doesn’t shit me anything,” i.e. “He/she doesn’t give a shit about me. ” In some areas, this means “I don’t give a shit about him/her” while you would need Non mi caga per niente to mean “he/she doesn’t give a shit about me.”
- Mi fa cagare – “It makes me shit” – “It disgusts me.”
- Va a cagare – “Go shit!” Used as an alternative to vaffanculo.
[CAH-ga-CAHZ-zo] Cagare + cazzo = “a shit dick”. (???) A rompiballe.
[CAHN-na] Literally a cane, as in bamboo, but used for a joint/reefer/ doobie – a marijuana cigarette (for which I don’t know the current American slang!).
[cah-ZEE-no] This has two basic meanings: “a lot” or “a mess”.
- Mi piaci un casino is a slangy (but not rude) way to say “I like you a lot.”
- Io ci sono stato un casino di volte = “I’ve been there a ton of times.”
- E’ stato un casino = “It was a huge mess.”
Not to be confused with casino’ (the accent on the final o indicates that the stress is on that syllable, so pronounce it [cah-zee-NO]). This means casino in the American sense – a place where you gamble.
[CAH-voh-low] Literally, cabbage. Used as a mild replacement for cazzo: Non si sa che cavolo vuole (“No one knows what the heck he wants”).
- Col cavolo! – Literally, “With cabbage!” but used as “Like heck!”
[CAHTZ-a-roll-a] Another mild replacement for cazzo, used when you realize in the middle of the phrase that you shouldn’t say cazzo in present company. The Italian equivalent of using “frick” for “fuck”.
[caht-ZAH-tah] Something stupid. Ho fatto/detto una cazzata – I did/said something stupid. As Dario Fo has pointed out, a cazzata is something stupid, whereas a figata is something great. (Thank Alice Twain for that tip!) See also minchiata.
[CAHT-zoh] The quintessential Italian swearword, the one you’ll probably hear most often. A vulgar term for penis, but used in many contexts much as “fuck” is used in English:
- Che cazzo vuoi? – “What dick you want?” – What the fuck do you want?
- Che cazzo! “What dick!” – WTF!
- Non rompermi il cazzo – “Don’t bust my dick” – Don’t hassle me.
- Testa di cazzo – dickhead
- Cazzo! – Shit!
- Non fa un cazzo – He/she/it doesn’t do shit. Hence, fancazzista – one who does nothing.
- Stare sul cazzo – “To stay on one’s dick” – to annoy terribly.
- Sono cazzi tuoi – “Those are your dicks” – That’s your problem.
- Fa i cazzi tuoi – “Do your own dicks” – mind your own business. If you want to be a little politer, say Fa i cavoli tuoi.
- Cazzi amari – “bitter dicks” – bad stuff.
[… doro] “The golden prick.” Said of a man who marries money by dint of his sexual prowess, at which point he can attaccare il cappello.
[KYAHP-pay] Butt cheeks. Often used in muovere le chiappe – move your butt, get a move on. Or alzare le chiappe – lift your butt up (out of that chair and do something). Chiappe can be used as a politer substitution for culo. It can also be a surname!
[CHESS-oh] A rude word for toilet, but also used to describe a very disgusting place or a very ugly woman.
[kya-VA-ray] To fuck.
[chih-TROOL-oh] Derived from cetriolo (cucumber) – used of somone large, lumpy, and rather flavorless/dense. You can use this in polite company – just don’t let the person you’re referring to hear you!
[coal-YONE-ar-ay] To make a fool of, see coglione below.
[coal-YONE-ay] A vulgar term for testicle, but also used to mean idiot (Che coglione! – “What an idiot!”). Apr 5, 2006 – Used in this sense by Berlusconi to define people who intended to vote against him in the recent election (which he lost, barely). Il Corriere della Sera translates coglione as “dickhead.”
- Fuori dai coglioni – “Get out of my balls” (“stop bugging me,” but on the rudeness scale equivalent to “fuck off”). As in the political cartoon shown above, worn by people intending to vote against Berlusconi: “Us morons, him out of our hair.” For a milder version, use fuori dalle palle.
- Non rompermi i coglioni – “Don’t bust my balls.” (Don’t hassle me.) For a slightly politer version, substitute palle or scatole, milder terms for balls.
- Bisogna avere i coglioni quadrati – “You need to have square balls” (a lot of nerve/guts).
[CON-tro-CAHT-zi] “Counter-dicks”. Used in the phrase Con i controcazzi, meaning “with every possible accessory, fail-safe, feature, etc.”
[cor-NOO-toh] “Horned” – literally, “cuckolded, betrayed.” Used similarly to the American “loser” – but MUCH more offensive. More used in southern Italy than northern, with the accompanying “Hook ’em Horns” hand gesture.
[KOTZ-ah] Literally, “mussel” (shellfish), but used for an ugly woman. Funny that there’s no equivalent for a really ugly guy…
[AHL-lay KOTZ-ay] Literally “at the mussels” (as in the mollusk you eat), but used to mean exhausted, done in, or in a mess. (This phrase is not particularly rude – nobody’s shocked by shellfish. Unless maybe it means “only ugly women are left at this party” or something to that effect.)
[KROOK-kee] A nasty word for Germans, exactly like “Krauts” in English. (I’m sure they have their own nasty words for Italians…)
[KOOK-kar-ay] To rimorchiare successfully. This is a Lombard/Milanese useage.
[cool-laht-TONE-ay] Derived from culo, roughly translates as ass bandit. A rude word for a gay man.
[COOL-oh] Ass or asshole, but also used to mean luck. Che culo! therefore does not mean “What an ass!” but “What luck!” or “You’re so lucky!”
Also used in Gli faremo un culo cosi’ – “We’ll make them an asshole this big” (with hands held apart to show just how big): “We’ll rip them a new one.”
Mettilo nel culo – “Put it in your ass”, similar to vaffanculo, is equivalent to the American “Shove it”.
[AIR-ba] Grass, as in your lawn, but also used for marijuana, exactly as in English.
[fahn-cahz-ZEES-tah] Someone who doesn’t do shit; derived from cazzo.
[FAR-a-boot-toe] Sly person.
[FAR-see] Reflexive form of fare, “to do”, in slang used as “to make out with” or “hook up with”: Si e’ fatto la Giulia = “He hooked up with Giulia”.
Can also be used with reference to doing drugs.
[FAHT-tone-ay] Stoner. Probably derived from the fact that fatto (literally, “done”) is used to mean “stoned”. The female equivalent is fattona.
[FEE-ca] Cunt. Of course, there are many other words for it. Not to be confused with fico – fig.
[feek-KAR-ay] To put something into something. You can use this in polite company in this way, however:
- In Sicily, it’s slang for fuck (as a verb).
- Everywhere, ficcare il naso – to stick one’s nose in – is to fail to mind one’s own business. Hence ficcanaso, a busybody, someone who interferes where not welcome.
[FEE-ga] Noun – variant of fica.
Figa di Legno / d’Oro
[FEE-ga di LAIN-yo / doro] “Cunt of wood/gold.” Used of a woman who gives herself airs, as if Pensa di averla solo lei – “She thinks she’s the only woman to have one.”
[FEE-go] Adjective – Used to mean good-looking, like the American “hot,” hence also figone – a male hottie. (I guess the female equivalent would be figona, but that doesn’t seem to be used, probably because it would also mean “big cunt”. Use, instead, bella figa – “beautiful cunt”.) Figo is also used in the American sense of “cool” – Che figo! “That’s so cool!” Also strafigo – way hot. Also farsi fighe/i – to make oneself hot, get dressed up, act cool.
Here’s a whole song about being figo.
[fee-GAH-ta] Something great or wonderful. Questa nuova macchina e’ una vera figata – “This new car is great!” Contrast with cazzata.
[fin-NOCK-yo] Literally, fennel (the vegetable, very commonly eaten in Italy), but also slang for a gay man. Sometimes also a surname.
Fondelli, preso per i
[fon-DEL-li, pray-zo pair ee] Grabbed/held by the short hairs. While in English this used metaphorically to mean you are in a situation you have no control over, in Italian it means you’ve been (metaphorically) screwed.
[FOT-ter-ray] To fuck. Most often used in Siamo fottuti – “We’re fucked,” which exactly reflects the American sense of that phrase. You can also use Non me ne fotte niente, just like Non me ne frega niente, or, ruder still, Non me ne fotte un cazzo.
[freh-GAR-ay] To cheat (somebody). One of the most commonly-used words in the Italian language – which tells you something. Not rude – you can use this anytime.
- L’ho fregato – “I cheated him”, also used in the sense of “I fooled him.”
- Ho preso una fregatura – “I took a cheating” – that is, “I was cheated.”
- Also used in Non me ne frega niente – “I don’t give a damn.” For a politer version, use Non m’importa niente (“It has no importance to me”). For a ruder version, use Non mi caga niente (“I don’t give a shit”). For a still ruder version, say Non me ne frega un cazzo (“I don’t care a dick” – which seems odd: men usually care a lot about their dicks!).
- You can use the apparent opposite – me ne frego – to obtain exactly the same sense (just as in English “I couldn’t care less” and “I could care less” both mean that you don’t care at all). Hence menefreghista.
[FRAYN-ya] = figa
[FRESS-co] Adjective meaning “fresh” or “cool”, e.g. una bibita fresca – “a cool drink.” This usage is not slang. However, al fresco is slang for “in prison” – similar to the somewhat antique English usage “in the cooler.” So Italians do NOT speak of “dining al fresco,” and might wonder what you mean by it.
[FRIK-ket-TONE-ay] A term dating back to the 1960s (and no longer in popular use) for a long-haired hippie freak, probably derived from the English freak plus the Italian ending -one meaning “great big”.
[FROH-cho] Rude term for a gay man. July 18, 2006 – The Italian Court of Cassation has ruled it a crime to use this term pejoratively. (I don’t know how else you would use it. While in the US “queer” is acceptable when used by one gay person of or to another, this is not true of frocio in Italy.)
A degenerate American form of vaffanculo.
[FOOR-boh] As an adjective, “clever” or “sly,” or used as a noun applied to a person or action having those qualities. This word is not particularly rude, in fact, many Italians pride themselves on their furbizia (slyness, knack for getting away with things) and, when not the direct victims of a ripoff, may admiringly state that someone else has been furbo. Plural is furbi.
[jeh-ZOO] Jesus, sometimes used as an exclamation of shock.
[NYOCK-ah] Cute slang for vagina, but also used to indicate a hot female.
top photo: Laila sei la + gnocca
+ is pronounced piu’ [PYOO] – “plus” (as in addition) but the word also means “more” or “most”, so: “Laila, you’re the hottest”.
[go-DARE-ay] To enjoy, but most often used for orgasm.
Photo below: Io godo (“I enjoy/I’m coming” implies that the woman is feeling orgasmic over the whiskey. (From an exhibition of advertising that was banned as too rude or provocative in its day, which was on show at Milan’s Central Station.)
A more formal word for condom, e.g. if you want to buy one at the pharmacy, is preservativo. This is fraught with peril for foreigners when discussing packaged foods. In such a context, a native English-speaker might instinctively reach for a word for “preservatives,” and make a very embarassing mistake: such foods do not contain preservativi, but conservanti. (Although, come to think of it, finding a preservativo in your cereal box could be interesting or disgusting, depending how it’s presented…)
BTW, you can usually buy condoms at the supermarket as well – look in the stands near the checkout. And no one will be embarassed if you buy them. They come in all sorts of styles and flavors, there are even brands marketed specifically to youth. Result? Very low rates of teenage pregnancy.
[in-caht-ZAH-toh / ah] Derived from cazzo, used to mean extremely pissed off (masculine/feminine).
- Incazzato nero / incazzata nera – “Pissed off black” (masc./fem.). (No, this has nothing to do with race. Maybe when you’re really pissed off you’re black in the face?)
[in-coo-LAHR-ay] To put into (someone’s ass) . Used like to (figuratively) screw someone (to cheat, trick, get the better of in a nasty way). See culo (ass) and fare un culo cosi’.
[lee-mon-AR-ay tee] To make out with you; to French kiss. I suggest the etymology might be related to the face one makes when eating a lemon being someone akin to the face one makes while making out—ELP.
[loo-MAR-ray] To ogle. (Northern/Lombard/Milanese.)
[makh-kair-RON-ikko] “Maccaroni-ish”. This is the term Italians themselves use for heavily Italianized and very poor English. Not rude, except to the person/discourse to whom you are applying it.
Madonna, Madonna Mia
[mah-DON-na MEE-a] My Madonna! A general exclamation of shock, can be used in polite company.
[MAHM-ma MEE-a] My mom! General exclamation of shock or consternation, similar to Madonna mia. Yes, it’s cliché, but it really is used in Italy.
Mandare all’inferno, a quel paese
[mahn-DAH-ray ahl in-FAIR-no, ah quell pah-AY-zay] To send to hell or to that place – to tell someone to go to hell. Inferno wouldn’t be considered particularly rude today, but mandare a quel paese survives as an alternative, a relic of when wishing someone to hell was very rude indeed.
[mahn-NAHJ-jah] The word itself is very mild, equivalent to drat or darn. But it can be quite satisfying if you really spit it out.
[NOY-ah] Boredom or irritation. Che noia – “What a bore”, “what a pain”. Can be used in polite company.
[pahk-ko] Literally “package,” but also used in the sense shown here (“Your package is in good hands”), just as it is in English.
[PALL-lay] Balls. Che palle! – “What bullshit!” or “What a pain in the ass!” Or, simply Palle! “Bullshit!”
Stare tra le palle – “to stay between the balls” is to be a pain in the butt or to be in the way or generally bothersome.
Palle Girate (Avere Le)
[PALL-lay jee-RAH-tay] “To have one’s balls turned or twisted” – to be extremely irritated, either specifically or just a general bad mood.
Palle Piene (Avere Le)
[PALL-lay PYAY-nay] “To have one’s balls full [of x],” to be completely fed up with, sick of, unable to stand any longer.
[pah-tah-TEEN-ah] Literally, “little potato.” In gastronomy, refers to French fries or potato chips (chips and crisps, if you’re British). In anatomy, refers to the female sexual organs (patata – potato – is also used). Hence a TV ad featuring Rocco Siffredi, a porno star, talking about his vast experience with patate – “but my favorites are Amica Chips.” (These ads were later banned for rudeness by some seldom-heard-from censorship authority, which the public thought ridiculous.)
[ALL-a PAY-cor-ah] “Like a sheep” – doggy style.
^ image top: “A woman is like a washing machine: she gives her best at 90 degrees!”
[pair DEE-oh] By God. Not often used, at least not where I live. An old-fashioned way to make an exclamation without blaspheming is to swear by some outdated god: perdiana, perbacco, pergiove (Diana, Bacchus, Jove). Or take it to a level of abstraction with Per tutti i dindiridin!
Pera, farsi una
[FAR-see OO-na PAIR-a] To take an injection of heroin.
Pippa – Farsi Una Pippa
[FAR-see OOna PEEP-pa] Literally, to jerk (oneself) off, but also used to denigrate others: Ci fa una pippa – “[We’re so much better that] he/she can just jerk us off.”
[PEER-la] Lombard/Milanese dialect for penis, but used more like “dickhead”.
[pee-ZELL-oh] Literally pea (the kind you eat), but used as cutesy slang for penis. Often used with small children, especially in the diminutive form, pisellino (little pea). Not to be confused with pisolino.
[pee-zoh-LEE-no] A nap. Often used in the phrase schiacciare un pisolino, but schiacciare means to squash – why would you squash a nap? (This is not a rude word.)
[por-CAH-tah] A swinish, disgusting act, or a big mess.
[POR-chee COM-moh-dee] Literally “comfortable pigs,” but used as “disgusting acts performed at will and at leisure.”
[POR-coh] Pig, swine. Can be used of a person of disgusting habits (usually with specific reference to sexual habits), but more often used in conjunction with another word, as an exclamation: Porco cane! Porco dio! Porca madonna! Porca puttana! Porco Giuda! Porca vacca! (dog, god, Madonna, whore, Judas, cow). Roughly equals “Holy shit!” Porca miseria – “pig poverty” – is very commonly used.
A polite version of some common phrases can be constructed by substituting Ella or Ulla (both meaningless) for Porca: – Ella miseria!
A semi-polite substition for porca Madonna is porca Madosca – if Madosca has a meaning (someone’s name?), I don’t know what it is.
[por-CONE-ah] Literally a big (female) pig, used to mean “slut”.
[por-CONE-ay] Male equivalent of porcona.
Preso in Giro
[PRAY-zo in GEE-ro] To be “grabbed around,” to be made fun of, made a fool of, fooled. Can be used in polite company.
[poot-TAHN-ah] Prostitute. Used in exclamations such as Porca puttana! and Puttana Eva! (“Eve prostitute” – that is, it’s Eve’s fault that women induce men to sin.). Pasta alla puttanesca is supposed to be a recipe developed by Rome’s streetwalkers. Figlio di puttana [FEEL-yo dee…] = son of a bitch.
[ri-mor-KYA-ray] Literally, to pull a trailer (rimorchio), but used to mean to go hunting for someone to seduce. “Da giovane, ho imparato l’inglese rimorchiando le turiste Americane.” – “When I was young, I learned English while attempting to seduce American tourists.” (Yes, this is a direct quote.)
[ROM-pee] Rompi = buster, breaker. Anyone busting your balls, ass, or penis is… a pain in the ass.
Mi sono rotto il cazzo (“I’ve busted my dick”) means “I’m fed up.”
[ROT-too-rah] Literally “breakage”, but used as polite shorthand for rottura di balle– ball-breakage, e.g. hassle or pain in the ass.
top: “Life is like a Christmas tree – there’s always someone who busts your balls.”
“A bag, a sackful” – used for “a lot.” Slangy but not rude. Mi piace un sacco – “I like him/her/it a lot.” Carlo Verdone made a film some years ago in which a stoner character (played by himself) constantly referred to everything as un sacco bello – “really great!” or “really gorgeous!” – but I’ve never heard anyone in real life say this.
[ZBALL-oh] A state of being high, whether on drugs or alcohol.
[zBOR-oh] Used in Iesolo (Veneto) to describe something boring. Does not seem to be related to sborra.
[zBOR-ra, zBOR-rar-ray] Sperm, to come (usually for a man).
[TAHK-kee-NA-ray] To hit on, attempt to seduce. What the young people use today instead of rimorchiare.
[TET-tay] Tits. Not to be confused with tetto, roof.
Tirare un Pacco
[tee-RAHR-ay oon PAHK-ko] “To throw a package”- to stand up, e.g. not show up for a date. The phrase is not rude – the action certainly is!
[tih-RAR-seh-la] Literally a reflexive form of “to pull”, but used as “to give oneself airs.” Se la tira tanto – S/he really gives him/herself airs (really thinks he/she is something). Not particularly rude.
[TEER-o mahn-CHEE-no] “A left-handed throw”.
[TROY-ah] Prostitute. The name derives from Troy, the city, because Helen betrayed her husband with a Trojan, and therefore became a slut. The movie of that name did not get an Italianized title.
[trom-bah-MEE-ko/ka] (Male/female) Fuck buddy. (This seems to be a new coinage among the young; older people are telling me – rather wistfully – that they’ve never heard it.)
[trom-BAHR-ay] To fuck.
[vahk-CONE-ah] Big cow. Used similarly to porcona.
[vah-fahn-BAHN-yo] “Go do it in the bathroom” – polite paraphrase for vaffanculo.
[vah-fahng-COOL-oh] Va a far[lo] in culo – “Go do it in the ass,” but used like “fuck off.” Survives in the US (sort of) as “fungoo” or “fungo”.
[vee-ah-DOSS] From a Brazilian term meaning “two ways” or “two-way street”, this term is used for transgender prostitutes.
[zit-TEAR-ay, ZEET-toh] To shut (someone else) up, adjective for shut up. Fairly rude when used as a command.