Home Language HacksExpressions & Idioms 20 Hilarious Everyday Italian Expressions You Should Use

20 Hilarious Everyday Italian Expressions You Should Use

by Michele
20 Funny Italian Expressions
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Mamma mia! Speak like a real Italian with these hilarious Italian expressions and idioms that you’ll hear on the “strada” and in the “piazza”.

One of the best parts of learning a foreign language is laughing at literal translations. These are usually found in idiomatic expressions. For example, to say colloquially in Italian, ‘I like you a lot’ translates to ‘Mi piaci un sacco’ or ‘I like you a sack’. This is one of the most common Italian expressions out there.

Not surprisingly a lot of idiomatic expressions have the same translation in other foreign languages, but the most interesting and telling part is when they are totally different because they offer an insight into the cultural aspect of the people who speak it. Take the exclamation and insult “You’re a bore!”, the Italians, famous for their pizza would saySei una pizza!”, meaning “You’re a pizza”.

A personal favourite of mine (because it mentions my family name) is when Italians want to call someone a butterfingers, ‘Avere le mani di pasta Frolla’ which literally translates ‘To have pastry hands’.

Since I started studying Italian and during my 3 years in Rome, I was always drawn to learning Italian idiomatic expressions. I bought un sacco of books that I would study and then put into practice. Using expressions in any language makes you feel more at ease and comfortable with using the language. It also impresses and surprises the locals when a foreigner has both learnt them and knows when to apply them correctly. Want to know more? Find out how I learned Italian and the best way to learn Italian. 

I’ve compiled a list of my favourite everyday Italian idiomatic expressions that will induce a bit of a giggle when you read their literal translations.

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1. In bocca al lupo

Pronunciation: [In bok-kah al loo-poh]
Literal translation: In the mouth of the wolf
Meaning: Good luck! Break a leg!

Italian Expressions In bocca al lupo

2. Piovere a catinelle

Pronunciation: [Pee-yoh-ver-reh ah ka-ti-nel-leh]
Literal translation: To rain wash basins
Meaning: To rain like cats and dogs

Italian Expressions Piovere a catinelle

3. Ubriaco come una scimmia

Pronunciation: [u-bri-ah-koh koh-meh u-nah shim-mee-yah]
Literal translation: Drunk like a monkey
Meaning: To be wasted

Italian Expressions Ubriaco come una scimmia

4. La goccia che ha fatto traboccare il vaso

Pronunciation: [Lah goh-chah keh ah faht-toh tra-bok-kah-reh eel va-zoh]
Literal translation: The drop that made the vase overflow
Meaning: The straw the broke the camel’s back

Italian Expressions La goccia-che ha fatto traboccare il vaso

5. Avere la Botte Piena e la Moglie Ubriaca

Pronunciation: [Ah-veh-reh lah bot-teh pee-eh-nah eh lah mol-yeh u-bri-ah-kah]
Literal translation: To have a full bottle of wine and a drunk wife
Meaning: to have your cake and eat it too

Italian Expressions Avere-la-Botte Piena e la Moglie Ubriaca

6. Non Avere Peli Sulla Lingua

Pronunciation: [Non Ah-veh-reh peh-li sul-lah ling-gwah]
Literal translation: to not have hairs on the tongue
Meaning: speaks plainly, say it like it is

Italian Expressions Non Avere Peli Sulla Lingua

7. Prendere in giro

Pronunciation: [pren-der-reh in ji-roh]
Literal translation: to take for a spin
Meaning: to tease or take the mickey out of someone

Italian Expressions Prendere in giro

8. Non vedo l’ora

Pronunciation: [Non veh-doh lor-rah]
Literal translation: Can’t see the time
Meaning: I can’t wait (from excitement)

Italian Expressions Non Vedo l'ora

9. Scoprire gli altarini

Pronunciation: [Skoh-pri-reh leh aal-ta-ree-knee]
Literal translation: To discover little altars
Meaning: To let the cat out of the bag

Italian Expressions scoprire gli altarini

10. Arrampicarsi sugli specchi

Pronunciation: [Ah-ramp-pee-kah-si sul-yee spek-key]
Literal translation: To climb on mirrors
Meaning: To clutch at straws

Italian Expressions Arrampicarsi sugli specchi

11. Essere al verde

Pronunciation: [Es-sir-reh al verr-deh]
Literal translation: to be at the green
Meaning: To be flat broke

Italian Expressions Essere al verde

Keep practising!
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Don't let the learning stop here. Download your free PDF guide to Italian idioms.Includes the literal translation, English equivalent and example sentences. Impariamo insieme! (Let's learn together!)

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12. Reggere la candela

Pronunciation: [Rej-jer-reh lah can-del-lah]
Literal translation: to hold the candle
Meaning: To be the third wheel

Italian Expressions Reggere la candela

13. Rompere le scatole

Pronunciation: [Romp-peh-reh leh ska-toh-leh]
Literal translation: to break boxes
Meaning: to get on someone’s nerves

Italian Expressions Rompere le scatole

14. Avere culo

Pronunciation: [Ah-veh-reh ku-loh]
Literal translation: To have arse
Meaning: To be very lucky, to fall on one’s feet

Italian Expressions Avere culo

15. Essere alla frutta

Pronunciation: [es-sir-reh al-lah froot-tah]
Literal translation: To be at the fruit
Meaning: To hit rock-bottom

Italian Expressions Essere alla frutta

17. Porca miseria!

Pronunciation: [Por-kah mi-zer-ree-ah]
Literal translation: Pigs misery
Meaning: Damn it!

Italian Expressions Porca miseria

18. Fa un Freddo Cane

Pronunciation: [Fah-reh oon fred-doh ka-neh]
Literal translation: It’s dog cold
Meaning: It’s freezing cold

Italian Expressions Fa un freddo-cane

19. Avere le Braccine Corte

Pronunciation: [Ah-veh-reh leh bratch-chee-neh kor-teh]
Literal translation: To Have Short Arms
Meaning: To be stingy, because your arms are so short that they can’t reach your pockets.

Italian Expressions Avere le Braccine Corte

20. Girare la frittata

Pronunciation: [Jee-rah-reh lah frit-tah-tah]
Literal translation: to turn the omelette
Meaning: Turn the tables in one’s favour

Italian Expressions Girare la frittata

Keep practising!
Italian Idioms Cheat-Sheet! (Free PDF Download)

Don't let the learning stop here. Download your free PDF guide to Italian idioms.Includes the literal translation, English equivalent and example sentences. Impariamo insieme! (Let's learn together!)

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Want more? Watch these 10 Hilarious Italian Expressions

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20 Hilarious Italian Expressions

Over to you!

Which of these Italian expressions is your favourite? What others do you know? Leave a comment, in bocca al lupo! Let me know using the comments section below or join me on social media to start a conversation.

Thanks for reading and I hope you enjoyed this post.

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Jeff Butler June 14, 2021 - 18:00

mille grazie molto interesante

Michele June 20, 2021 - 02:39

Grazie Jeff :)

Michele August 20, 2021 - 17:43

Prego! My pleasure :)

Stu June 2, 2018 - 15:44

A very nice set of expressions, thanks.

Muniza Tariq February 25, 2016 - 19:47

My favourite Italian expression is: Testa d’ asino….literal meaning: head of an ass/donkey. Figurative meaning: stupid person.

Michele February 25, 2016 - 20:57

Haha that’s brilliant! Thanks for sharing :)

krystle_bignold February 6, 2016 - 15:29

This blog was… how do I say it? Relevant!! Finally I’ve found something which helped me. Cheers!

Non Viaggio Abbastanza February 3, 2016 - 08:59

Love it! Very funny :-)

Michele February 3, 2016 - 09:03

There are so many funny ones! It’s hard to pick just a few. I might post more in the future :)

Arvind Pandit January 22, 2016 - 00:31

I appreciate, cause I discovered just what I used to be taking a look for. You’ve ended my four day lengthy hunt! God Bless you man. Have a great day. Bye

Michele January 22, 2016 - 11:26

You’re very welcome, I’m glad I was able to help :)

Meems January 14, 2016 - 23:35

Number 6 should be translated to NOT have hairs on the tongue. “NON avere” is to “NOT have”.

Michele January 15, 2016 - 14:18

Thank you Meems! I’ve updated this :)

Martina December 15, 2015 - 16:25

Just a few corrections:
Scoprire GLI altarini
Reggere la candela (two R)
Nice article, by the way

Michele December 15, 2015 - 17:02

Grazie mille, Martina :) I just corrected the spelling. Glad you enjoyed the article.

Tyler December 7, 2015 - 23:12

Hilarious post! I love the crazy expressions from around the world and their literal translations. Keep up the good work!

Michele December 14, 2015 - 22:17

Thanks for the feedback, Tyler. I’m glad you enjoyed the post. I’ll be post more of this kind in the future :)


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