40+ Italian Slang Terms: From the 19th Century to Today

, Staff Writer
Updated May 12, 2021
Italian slang example of ammazza
    Italian slang example of ammazza
    Florin Cristian Ailenei / EyeEm / Getty Images / modifications made by YourDictionary
    Used under Getty Images license

Whether you're getting ready for a trip to Italy or just looking to learn a few foreign words, slang is a great place to start. Dive into some modern and 19th-century Italian slang to expand your vocabulary.

Modern Italian Slang Terms

Just like English slang, Italian slang can get a little tricky. Why? Because a lot of Italian slang words have a literal and slang meaning. And, these are typically not the same. Explore a few modern Italian slang words and their literal and slang meanings to see the difference. Some Italian words and phrases don't have literal meanings, just slang meanings.

Italian Phrase

Literal Meaning

Slang Meaning

a fagiolo

to the bean

to the t


to murder or kill

wow, amazement

amore a prima vista

love at first view

love at first sight


(no literal meaning)



(no literal meaning)

I have not idea

che figata

what a fig

that’s awesome

che palle

what balls

that sucks; how annoying

che schifo

(no literal meaning)

how disgusting

cogliere in castagna

not just another old chestnut

getting caught red-handed


come on

come on

essere un po’ di fuori

to be a little bit out

out of your mind


imagine that

no worries

in bocca al lupo

in the mouth of wolf

break a leg

ma che sei grullo

But how stupid are you?

Are you joking?



I wish, let’s hope, maybe

mangiare cadaveri

to eat dead bodies

to have bad breath

meno male

less bad

thank goodness

mi fa cagare

it makes me poop

it’s awful

non fai scumbari

(no literal meaning)

stop embarrassing me



afternoon nap

ricco sfondato

endlessly rich

filthy rich


what a cool thing


un guastafeste

(no literal meaning)


Slang in 19th Century Italy

You’ve explored some modern Italian slang terms, now it’s time to take a look at slang with some 19th-century roots. You know what they say, oldies are still goodies. Additionally, many of these slang words are still in use.

Italian Phrase

Literal Meaning

Slang Meaning






jerk, stupid


enormous mouth


chiudere il becco

close to beak

shut up

essere nelle nuvole

to be in the clouds



do nothing

lazy bum

fare il grande

to do the big

show off

inghiottire il rospo

swallow a toad

eat crow

in verità

in truth

as a matter of fact


feet licker

brown noser



night club

mettere paglia al fuoco

put a straw to the fire

tempt fate

nuotare nell’oro

swimming in gold

rolling in money

olio di gomito

elbow oil

work hard

quattro gatti

four cats

barely anyone


to tattle

to gossip



very short man

testona pelata

big peeled head

a bald man

tirare un bidone a qualcuno

throw a trash can at someone

bailing out on someone

tutto sale e pepe

salt and pepper

lively cheerful

volente o nolente

willing or unwilling

like it or not


How to Use Italian Slang Words

Ready to see when you might use some of these words or phrases? Check out a few different scenarios where you might slip in your Italian slang knowledge.

  • When your dad tells you to grab your gloves you could say, “Che palle.” (How annoying)

  • A friend makes the team. Che figata! (Cool!)

  • Someone is worried about paying you back. Figurati! (No worries!)

  • You step in dog poop. Che schifo! (How disgusting!)

  • Your friend is being slow. Dai! (Come on!)

  • You pass your test. Meno male! (Thank goodness!)

  • Your grandma is teasing you at the family reunion. Non fai scumbari! (Stop embarrassing me!)

  • Your brother doesn’t get up until past noon. Call him a “Fannullone.” (Lazy bum!)

  • When your bestie is going out for her big number. In bocca al lupo! (Break a leg!)


Building Up Your Italian Slang

Learning Italian slang can help you sound like a local on your next trip to Italy. But, Italian isn't the only other language you could learn. Once you’ve got these terms mastered, you can move on to Filipino slang.