Beyond Textbooks: Italian Slang You Need to Know

Elly Kim9 min
Created: Feb 23, 2024Last updated: Mar 29, 2024
Italian Slang

Have you ever eavesdropped on a conversation in Italy and found yourself lost? Perhaps you witnessed locals sharing laughs over words unheard in your language course. It’s no secret: mastering a tongue goes beyond textbooks. Spice up your vocabulary skills by diving into the world of Italian slang! Welcome to the informal side, where language takes a playful spin with common, everyday terms, throwing you right into local conversations.

Why Learn Italian Slang Terms?

Slang is an integral part of any language. It offers a look at the dynamic, fluid nature of speech that transcends formal education. In Italian, such colloquial words are not just common expressions. They add color and personality to conversations, which makes them lively and engaging.

Italian slang implies a sense of the country’s culture, humor, and worldview. It offers insights into regional life, societal trends, or attitudes that are often missed in structured language learning courses. To truly blend in with locals and carry on natural conversations, knowledge of these informal words can be invaluable.

Furthermore, gaining fluency in a foreign tongue entails understanding its many nuances. Grasping slang is one of the best ways to learn Italian, as it encompasses those subtleties, bridging the gap between textbook learning and actual spoken language. Gaining command over these expressions will make you feel more comfortable conversing with native speakers.

Of course, learning Italian slang phrases makes mastering a new language more enjoyable! It does not only provide you with practical vocabulary but can also give you a few laughs along the way. After all, some expressions are humorous and quirky – once you start using them, you might fall further in love with the beautiful Italian tongue!

Italian Slang Words for Everyday Situations

Now that you understand the importance of slang, let’s dive into a handful of terms. Brighten your everyday conversations with Italians by introducing these delightfully authentic expressions, perfect for casual chats, friendly exchanges, and day-to-day situations:

  • Figurati [fiɡuˈraːti] – Don’t mention it/You’re welcome

Ti ringrazio tantissimo per avermi accompagnato all’aeroporto ieri sera. – Figurati, non è stato un problema! (I really appreciate you taking me to the airport last night. – Don’t mention it, it was no problem!)

  • Che figata! [ke fiˈɡaːta] – That’s cool!

Hai già ascoltato l’ultimo album che è uscito ieri? – Sì, l’ho ascoltato, che figata! (Have you listened to the latest album that was released yesterday? – Yes, I’ve listened to it, it’s so cool!)

  • In bocca al lupo [in ˈbokka al ˈluːpo] – Good luck

Domani affronterò la mia prima maratona dopo mesi di allenamento intenso. – Wow, in bocca al lupo! (Tomorrow I’ll face my first marathon after months of intense training. – Wow, good luck!)

  • Cavolo! [ˈkaːvolo] – Damn!

Cavolo, mi sono appena reso conto di aver lasciato il portafoglio al ristorante dove abbiamo cenato! (Damn, I just realized I left my wallet at the restaurant where we had dinner!)

  • Fare il ponte [ˈfare il ˈponte] – To take a long weekend

Stavo pensando di prendere un giorno di ferie lunedì prossimo per fare il ponte e passare quattro giorni in montagna. (I was thinking of taking a day off next Monday to make it a long weekend and spend four days in the mountains.)

  • Boh [bo] – I don’t know

Sai mica dove mia sorella ha messo la macchina fotografica che volevo usare oggi? – Boh, non l’ho vista da giorni. (Do you happen to know where my sister put the camera I wanted to use today? – I don’t know, I haven’t seen it for days.)

  • Una roba da matti [ˈuna ˈrɔːba da ˈmatti] – Something crazy

Non ci crederai mai: ieri ho incontrato per caso un famoso cantante mentre facevo jogging al parco! – Davvero? Una roba da matti! (You’ll never believe it: yesterday, I randomly met a famous singer while jogging in the park! – Really? That’s something crazy!)

Common Italian Slang Words for Friends and Family

Moving ahead, let’s explore some words that revolve around friends and family. These expressions make your interactions with loved ones feel more personal, affectionate, and genuine, just like an Italian! Here are our top slang names for Italians:

  • Amico/a [aˈmiːko/a] – Friend (male/female)

Marco è più di un amico per me; è come un fratello che mi supporta in ogni decisione importante della mia vita. (Marco is more than a friend to me; he’s like a brother who supports me in every important decision of my life.)

  • Fratello/Sorella [fraˈtɛllo/soˈrɛlla] – Brother/Sister

Non vedo mia sorella da mesi, da quando si è trasferita all’estero per lavoro, e mi manca tantissimo ogni giorno. (I haven’t seen my sister for months, since she moved abroad for work, and I miss her very much every day.)

  • Tesoro [teˈzoro] – Treasure, used as a term of endearment

Come stai, tesoro? Non ci vediamo da un’eternità, e ho così tante cose da raccontarti. (How are you, my treasure? We haven’t seen each other in an eternity, and I have so many things to tell you.)

  • Cuore [ˈkwore] – Heart, another term of endearment

Ciao, cuore mio, come è andata la giornata oggi? Spero che tu abbia trovato un momento per rilassarti nonostante il lavoro. (Hi, my heart, how was your day today? I hope you found a moment to relax despite the work.)

  • Vecchio/a [ˈvɛkkjo/a] – Old man/woman, used affectionately for friends

Ehi vecchio, è da tanto che non facciamo una serata insieme; dobbiamo assolutamente rimediare e organizzare qualcosa il prossimo weekend. (Hey old man, it’s been a while since we had a night out together; we absolutely must make up for it and organize something next weekend.)

  • Zio/Zia [ˈdzio/ˈdzia] – Uncle/Aunt, can be used for close family friends 

Zio, hai sentito le ultime novità sulla mia promozione al lavoro? Sono così eccitato di raccontarti tutto! (Uncle, have you heard the latest news about my promotion at work? I’m so excited to tell you all about it!)

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Funny Italian Slang Terms You Need to Know

Ready for some laughter? Let’s advance to amusing colloquial terms! These phrases will surely tickle your funny bone and add humor to your chats. Have fun embracing the playful side of the language with the following slang for Italian conversations:

  • Attaccabottoni [atˌtakkaˈbotːoni] – bigmouth

It’s used to describe someone who talks too much, often trapping people into long, unwanted conversations.

Ogni festa ha il suo attaccabottoni, pronto a raccontarti la sua vita mentre cerchi di scappare. (Every party has its bigmouth, ready to tell you their life story while you try to escape.)

  • Mangiare la foglia [manˈdʒaːre la ˈfɔʎʎa] – smell a rat

Literally translated as ‘to eat the leaf,’ this phrase means to catch on or become wise to something.

Non sono stupido, ho mangiato la foglia appena ho visto quelle due insieme. (I’m not stupid, I caught on as soon as I saw those two together.)

  • Tosta [ˈtosta] – tough

It’s used to describe someone who is particularly tough, resilient, or formidable. This slang for an Italian woman or man represents respect and admiration for her strength and tenacity.

Quella nuova collega è proprio tosta, ha gestito la situazione meglio di chiunque altro. (That new colleague is really tough; she handled the situation better than anyone else.)

  • Avere le braccine corte [aˈvɛːre le braˈtʃiːne ˈkorte] – to have short arms

Having ‘short arms’ humorously describes someone stingy or reluctant to pay.

Quando si tratta di pagare il conto, Giovanni ha sempre le braccine corte! (When it’s time to pay the bill, Giovanni always has ‘short arms’!)

  • Acqua in bocca! [ˈakkwa in ˈbɔkka] – water in your mouth! 

It is a colorful way to tell someone to keep a secret, as speaking with water in your mouth would be quite difficult!

Ricorda, riguardo la festa a sorpresa per Luca, acqua in bocca! (Remember, regarding Luca’s surprise party, keep it a secret!)

  • Non vedo l’ora! [non ˈvɛːdo ˈlɔːra] – I can’t wait!

Literally, ‘I don’t see the hour,’ it expresses eager anticipation. The humor can come from the dramatic way it’s often said about even minor events.

Non vedo l’ora di assaggiare il tuo famoso tiramisù! (I can’t wait to try your famous tiramisu!)

  • Fare il furbo [ˈfaːre il ˈfurbo] – be clever

This phrase paints the picture of someone attempting to be sly or cunning, typically in a lighthearted or subtle manner.

Ah, vuoi fare il furbo con me? Vediamo chi la spunta! (Ah, trying to be clever with me? Let’s see who wins this!)

  • Compare [komˈpaːre] – Godfather or close family friend

A Neapolitan term traditionally used to refer to a godfather or godparent but widely used in slang to refer to a close friend, almost like a brother in spirit. Such slang for an Italian friend signifies a deep bond and mutual respect, often used with strong, fraternal connections.

Luigi è il mio compare; siamo cresciuti insieme e condividiamo tutto. (Luigi is my bro; we grew up together and share everything.)

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To top it all off, stay inspired between language lessons by exploring informative posts on our blog. From understanding complex grammar rules to exploring beautiful Italian words – we have got it all covered!

Conclusion

Mastering slang for Italians paves the way for authentic interactions and opens doors to camaraderie and heartwarming connections. Conquer these playful phrases today – and become more than just a casual speaker. Italian slang can turn you into an insider, bridging cultural gaps and turning dialogues into rich experiences. So go ahead – start learning these phrases today, and add a sprinkle of ‘la dolce vita’ to your conversations!

FAQ

Can learning Italian slang help with my overall language proficiency?

Yes, it can play a huge role in developing your language skills. It will help you grasp the cultural subtleties and the way people talk on a daily basis, thus making your Italian more flowing and native-like. Slang acts as a link between the textbook language and the tongue used by natives.

How can I practice Italian slang effectively?

Practicing is about participation and engagement. Watching Italian movies, listening to music, or interacting with native speakers are some of the great things you can do. These strategies expose you to such colloquial terms in their natural settings. Remember, with each slang word for Italian you learn, practice by using it in sentences or phrases. 

What’s the best way to remember Italian terms?

Link these words to particular events or emotions. Forming flashcards with phrases and their contexts and using mnemonic devices is also effective. Repeating them in sentences or conversation practice helps you memorize these terms better.

Where can I learn more Italian slang and phrases?

Resources like Reverso Context and WordReference are excellent tools. They offer vast collections of words and phrases. The Italian language learning app by Promova provides guided courses, complete with slang commonly used in Italy.

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