Whether you are traveling through Italy or looking to make some Italian friends along the way, picking up a few Italian slang words can work wonders to help you truly sound like a native. Because some of these phrases may be regional or highly informal, you might not find them in Italian dictionaries, textbooks, or even phrase books.
To help you master some popular Italian expressions we’ve listed out some common Italian phrase and slang terms that will get you speaking like a local. Some of these phrases are used for describing people or situations, while others have strange literal translations. And as soon as you start integrating them into your conversations, you’ll see the difference that they can make.
Like Americans, native Italians use slang words and phrases to quickly communicate their emotions. Although they may not be grammatically correct, these words are commonly used to explain many different types of situations in everyday life. Try out some of these Italian slang phrases and you’ll fit right in! 15 Italian Slang Words & Phrases
23 Italian Slang Words & Phrases Everyone Should Know
1. Mettersi insieme
Similar to “seeing someone exclusively” in English, “mettersi insieme” means to begin a serious relationship with someone. You might use this phrase to describe your long-term partner or “fidanzato” (fiance).
2. Mollare qualcuno
Ouch! Use these Italian slang words when dumping a significant other. They’re roughly translated to “letting go” or “releasing someone free.”
3. Essere nelle nuvole
Italians use this phrase to describe someone who has his or her head in the clouds, or someone who’s constantly daydreaming.
4. Ricco sfondato
These Italian slang words are used to describe someone who’s rich. The phrase literally means “rolling in money.”
5. Veloce come un razzo
Similar to the American phrase,”fast as lightning,” “veloce come un razzo” means something or someone that is as fast as a rocket.
6. Amore a prima vista
Was it “love at first sight,” or as they say in Italy “amore a prima vista,” when you met your Italian crush? This is just one example of the dozens of Italian slang words to describe a romantic relationship.
Related: Fun and Interesting Facts About Italy
7. Alito puzzolente
Ew! You may need to use this Italian slang phrase to notify someone who has “bad breath.” It literally means “to eat dead bodies.” If you hear this phrase directed toward you, you might want to grab your toothbrush!
When you hear this phrase, just hope that they’re not using it to describe you! What we know in America as a “Debbie downer,” is the Italian slang word, “Guastafesta.” This is someone who’s a spoiler or ruins the party.
9. Basta, basta
When your friend is annoying you, shout these Italian slang words which mean “enough is enough.” You can even just shorten it to “basta.”
10. I Malano miau
Are you shocked about what happened on last night’s episode of Game of Thrones? Use this Italian phrase to express shock or amazement.
11. Non fai scumbari
When your Italian grandmother won’t stop embarrassing you, simply say “Non fai scumbari” or “Stop embarrassing me.”
This Italian slang word means “afternoon nap,” which is very common in Italy. Plan on a nice “pisolino” before getting ready for dinner.
If you or someone else is experiencing bad luck, use the Italian slang word, “gufare.”
Similar to the American saying “Come on,” “Dai” is used when you want someone to tag along or do something. It can also be used to say “stop it.”
See Also: Learn the Italian Alphabet
The equivalent of the American phrase “I don’t know,” “Boh” is a quick phrase to say when you’re being indecisive. You might use this expression when you can’t decide what to order at a restaurant–the lasagna or the risotto?
Walk around the streets of Italy, and there’s a good chance you will hear someone shout, “Ahó,” at some point or another. This Italian slang term is simply an informal way to say, “Hey!” Use it with your new buddies and drag out the “oh” sound to fit right in.
17. Come il cacio sui maccheroni
This Italian slang phrase literally translates to mean “like sheep’s milk for the macaroni,” but it’s used to exclaim that two things go perfectly together. Some Italian speakers liken it to the English phrase, “Just what the doctor ordered.”
Did someone accidentally bump into you? Use this phrase to express that it’s “no big deal” or “don’t worry about it.” Some might use “figurati” as a way to say, “no worries.”
20. Che figata
This is one Italian slang phrase that will certainly come in handy. It means “how cool!” Use it when your new friends invite you to a night out on the town or when you set your sights on the Colosseum for the first time.
21. Vivere alla giornata
This expression literally translates to “live during the day,” but the English equivalent might be more closely linked to the phrase “live in the moment.” Use this Italian slang if you want to encourage someone to slow down and take things one day at a time.
22. Tutto pepe
Even if you just know basic Italian, you might realize this phrase translates to “all pepper.” But what exactly does that mean? Many Italians use this slang phrase to describe someone as fun and lively, and in some cases, even spicy or spunky. If you’ve been described as “tutto pepe,” you can certainly consider it a compliment.
This phrase has a few meanings, but they all loosely mean “I wish” or “I hope.” In some cases, you can even use it to mean “maybe.” If someone asks if you plan on visiting Italy again, you can reply with a hopeful, “Magari!”
Practice using these phrases when you’re speaking with your neighbors, enjoying a meal with friends, or shopping in Italy. The more you use them, the more comfortable you’ll get with them. And if you want to make sure you’re using these Italian slang words appropriately, practice speaking with a native or a private Italian tutor. Through one-on-one instruction, you will learn all the slang words you need to know to sound like a native in no time. And the best part? They’ll correct you if you use them incorrectly!
The more you use these Italian slang words and phrases in conversation, the better you will become at speaking Italian. Sign up for our in-person or online Italian lessons today!
Liz T. teaches Italian lessons in Brooklyn, NY. She is a graduate of the Berklee College of Music with a B.M. in vocal performance and has a graduate certificate in Arts Administration from New York University. Learn more about Liz here!
6 thoughts on “23 Italian Slang Words & Phrases Everyone Should Know”
The article is funny and interesting. However, #10 and 11 are dialect expressions and they are not well known in every part of Italy. I grew up in Italy and, personally, I never heard of either one. The #12 is not “pizzolino”, but pisolino and in the central part of Italy it is also called “pennichella”.
Hi Maria-We’re glad you found the article funny and thank you for your insight into #10 and #11!
Scumbare? Gufare? Dialect or actual verbs? Could not find them anywhere.
Scumbare must be dialect but I have no clue what it means, gufare is a very informal word (verb) which approximately translates to “to wish bad luck on someone”
The word is pisolino, not pizzolino. YIKES
#10…is mamma mia! #11 i cannot understand it, #12 pisolino.