Sure, studying Italian through books is excellent, but sometimes you miss something – real-life language!
And fluency will come to you, even more, when you can speak more conversationally – when you know some Italian slang. In real life, people don’t talk like they do in language books or listening exercises.
Learning some Italian slang words and phrases will certainly help you if you’re planning to go to Italy, and it’ll help you sound more authentic to your Italian friends.
In this article, we’ll learn the meaning and pronunciation of some of the most common Italian slang terms so that you can really sound like a local.
Why you need to know Italian slang terms
1. Italian dialects
Sure, Italian has a standard version we all speak… But do we? When I was younger, I found out that a word I was using all the time was not actually Italian. It was an ‘Italianized’ expression from my regional dialect.
In Italy, every region has its own dialect, often even more than one. Even if speaking Italian and speaking a dialect are not the same, many words cross the language border and become part of the slang.
This makes Italian slang terms incredibly varied and rich. Depending on the region you visit, you might find different accents, expressions and words.
This article will look at the main ones used (or at least understood) in the whole peninsula. But there are many more out there, so keep that in mind.
2. Natural language
Most of the time, with our friends and family, the language we use is not as polished as that found in books or language courses. Real language is fluid and varied, and it usually contains a lot of familiar terms, idiomatic expressions and slang.
Knowing it will help you feel more comfortable in every kind of situation that involves the Italian language.
3. It’s fun!
Most of all, learning casual Italian conversation is fun! Many expressions’ literal English translations won’t make sense. They’ll just make you laugh. But they also give you an insight into Italian culture and mindset.
Let’s start looking at some of the most commonly used colloquial words and phrases. In the table below, you will find different columns: one for the slang phrase in Italian, one with the English translation or meaning and one for the pronunciation.
Here we transcribed the Italian pronunciation phonetically so that an English speaker can easily understand how to say the words correctly and practice their Italian aloud.
As we mentioned above, there might be different pronunciations of the same word according to regional accents and dialects. However, these words are mostly understood everywhere in Italy.
When a word is typical of a region or area, you’ll find it specified next to the word or phrase in question in the table below.
Italian slang words
|boh||boh||I don’t know|
|magari||mah-gah-ree||I wish / perhaps|
|tranqui||trahn-kwee||Short for “tranquillo/a”, calm, tranquil. Meaning “don’t worry”.|
|una cifra||ooh-nah chee-frah||A lot|
|un botto||oon boh-toh||A lot|
|figurati||fee-goo-rah-tee||Don’t mention it|
|una paglia / una paia||ooh-nah pah-lliah||A cigarette|
|fes||fehs||Only in Lombardy: a lot|
|coatto||coh-ah-toh||In Rome: rough|
Italian slang phrases
Here are some slang expressions you can use when you’re in a good mood!
|Che figata!||keh fee-gah-tah||How cool!|
|essere in canna||eh-seh-reh een cah-nah||To be full of energy|
|essere gasato||eh-seh-reh gah-sah-toh||To be excited|
|meno male!||meh-noh mah-leh||How lucky!|
|Bella lì!||bell-lah lee||Sweet!|
|Bella storia!||bell-lah stoh-ryah||Way to go! / Cool!|
|Che top!||keh top||Super|
|avoglia||ah-voh-lya||Sure / of course / yes|
|a fagiolo||ah fah-joh-loh||Just right|
|bon / va bon||bon / vah bon||Ok|
|amouninn’||ah-moo-neenn||In Sicily: “Let’s go”|
|‘ndom||ndom||In Northern Italy: “Let’s go”|
|fare un after||fah-reh oon ah-ftehr||To stay up until the morning|
|sbronzarsi||sbrohn-dzar-see||To get drunk|
|cazzeggiare||cats-eh-jah-reh||To do nothing / waste time|
|spaccare||spah-kah-reh||To be cool|
|avere culo||ah-veh-reh coo-loh||To be lucky|
Italian expressions for when you’re not in the best mood
And these are for when you’re not in the mood… In those cases especially, conventional language is never enough!
|Che palle!||keh pah-leh||How annoying!|
|avere le palle girate||ah-veh-reh leh pah-leh jee-rah-teh||To be annoyed / angry|
|sclerare||scleh-rah-reh||To go crazy|
|sbroccare||sbroh-kah-reh||To go crazy|
|svalvolare||svahl-voh-lah-reh||To go crazy|
|gufare||goo-fah-reh||To bring bad luck|
|farsi le pare||far-see leh pah-reh||To get paranoid|
|Che schifo!||keh skee-foh||Disgusting!|
|Fa cagare!||fah cah-gah-reh||It’s disgusting (literally: It makes you poo)|
|Che menata!||keh meh-nah-tah||What a drag!|
|stare addosso||stah-reh ah-doss-soh||To badger someone|
|Ci fai o ci sei?||chee fah-y oh chee-seh-y||Are you stupid or what?|
|essere fuori||eh-seh-reh foo-oh-ree||To be crazy (lit. to be out)|
|fuori come un balcone||foo-oh-ree coh-meh oon bahl-coh-neh||Crazy (lit. out as a balcony)|
|Non esiste!||non eh-see-steh||No way!|
|non me ne frega niente||non meh neh freh-gah nee-ehn-teh||I don’t care at all|
|tirare un bidone / bidonare||tee-rah-reh oon bee-doh-neh / bee-doh-nah-reh||To stand someone up|
|intortare||een-tohr-tah-reh||Northern Italy: to fool someone|
|toppare||top-pah-reh||To make a mistake|
|essere scazzato||eh-seh-reh ska-tsah-toh||To not be in the mood for anything|
|incazzarsi||een-cah-tsar-see||To get angry|
|essere pesante||eh-seh-reh peh-sahn-teh||To be heavy / oppressive|
|avere il muso||Ah-veh-reh eel moo-soh||To be in a bad mood / sulking|
|rompipalle||rom-pee pahl-leh||An annoying person|
Italian internet slang
The internet often has its own language, and it’s the same in Italy… The only odd thing here is that most Italian Internet slang actually comes from the English language. Look at the words in the table below, they are Italianized English words.
Careful though, you need to pronounce them with an Italian accent, otherwise people won’t understand you.
|Internet slang||Italian pronunciation||English meaning|
Italian slang for money
Every language has its own slang for money. Check out these expressions you can use to talk about your finances.
|La grana||lah grah-nah||Money|
|Il grano||eel grah-noh||Money|
|La pila||lah pee-lah||Money|
|Le palanche||leh pah-lahn-keh||Money|
|Un deca||oon de-ka||10 Euros|
|Un ventino||oon ven-ti-no||20 Euros|
|Un cinquantino||oon chin-kwan-ti-no||50 Euros|
|Una centa||oo-nah chen-tah||100 Euros|
|Costare un botto||cos-tah-reh oon bot-toh||To be expensive|
Italian slang for friend
Let’s now see some expressions you can use to talk with or about your friends. These can vary a lot according to the region you’re in.
Here we tried to keep it simple, most words are understood everywhere in Italy.
|vecchio / vecchia||veh-kyo / veh-kya||Friend|
|vecio / vecia||veh-choh / veh-cha||Friend|
|guaglió||wa-lyoh||Southern Italy: Guy|
|gnaro||nyah-roh||Northern Italy: Guy|
|beccarsi||beh-car-see||To meet up|
|fare bordello||fah-re bohr-dell-loh||To make a mess / party|
Free downloadable guide to Italian slang
We've created a list of popular slang words and phrases so you can start sounding like, and connect with Italian locals. This guide to slang will take your Italian learning to the next level.
Here are some more phrases you might find useful… Even just to better understand everyday conversation.
How do you say “how are you” informally in Italian?
|Come va?||coh-meh vah||How’s it going?|
|Come va la vita?||coh-meh vah lah vee-tah||How’s life?|
|Come te la passi?||coh-meh teh lah pah-see||How do you do?|
|Com’è?||coh-mèh||How are things?|
|Cosa mi racconti?||coh-sah mee rah-con-tee||What’s up?|
|Che si dice?||keh see dee-cheh||What’s up?|
|Come butta?||coh-meh boo-tah||What’s up?|
|Tutto a posto?||too-to ah poh-stoh||Everything alright?|
What is some Italian slang for dating?
|un figo / una figa||Oon fee-goh / oonah fee-gah||A hot guy / girl|
|una gnocca||Ooh-nah ñoh-kah||A beautiful girl|
|limonare||lee-moh-nah-reh||To give a French kiss|
|trombare||trom-bah-reh||To have sex|
|scopare||scoh-pah-reh||To have sex|
|snobbare||snob-bah-reh||To snob someone|
|ghostare||gos-tah-reh||To ghost someone|
|amo’||ah-moh||Short for “amore”: like calling someone ‘love’|
|inciucio||een-choo-choh||Affair / secret involvement|
|tramino||trah-mee-noh||Relationship / secret involvement|
|fare le corna||fah-reh leh cor-nah||To cheat on someone|
What are some other fun general Italian expressions?
Funnily enough, we have a lot of Italian expressions that have to do with cabbages… Cavoli!
|Cavolo / cavoli!||cah-voh-loh||Crap!|
|Cavoli miei||cah-voh-lee mee-eh-y||My own business|
|Col cavolo!||cohl cah-voh-loh||No way!|
|cavoli amari||cah-vo-lee ah-mah-ree||Problems|
|del cavolo||dell cah-voh-loh||Not good|
|come il cavolo a merenda||coh-meh eel cah-voh-loh ah meh-rehn-dah||Not related at all|
|un cavolo||oon cah-voh-loh||Nothing|
|incavolarsi||een-cah-voh-lahr-see||To get angry|
Slang for telling someone to sod off without being too rude
Well, hopefully you won’t need to use these. But they are always useful!
|Vai a quel paese!||vah-y ah kweh-l pah-eh-seh||Bugger off (Literally: Go to that country)|
|Vai a farti friggere!||vah-y ah far-tee free-jeh-reh||Bugger off (Literally: Go get fried)|
|Vai a farti benedire!||vah-y ah far-tee beh-neh-dee-reh||Bugger off (Literally: Go get blessed)|
|Stammi giù di dosso!||Stah-mee joo dee doh-soh||Leave me alone!|
|Mollami!||moh-lah-mee||Leave me alone!|
|Fatti i cavoli tuoi!||fah-tee ee cah-voh-lee too-oh-ee||Mind your own business!|
Fun hacks for learning Italian colloquialisms
Well, one of our best tips to learn them is to get out there and learn slang as it is meant to be learned – on the streets.
Talk to people!
This doesn’t mean you have to move to Napoli and start hanging out in sketchy neighborhoods, of course, but just try to talk to Italian native speakers as much as you can.
Languages are alive, they change and evolve constantly, and slang does too. The best way to learn it is to get away (for a while) from books, phones and computers, and talk to real people.
And most of all, don’t be afraid of asking questions, making mistakes or not knowing a word!
Make a list
Whenever you hear a phrase that you like (or perhaps don’t understand), write it down in a list. You can then practice using it in sentences or ask for an explanation whenever the occasion arises.
As you probably know, making lists is always a great way of remembering new vocab, so why not do it with casual and informal words as well?
Read blogs, watch videos, follow influencers
Yes, we know we just told you to get out and speak to real people… And it still might be the best way of learning conversational and colloquial Italian. But it’s not always easy (or even possible at all) to do it, right?
So, if you have no way of talking to Italian native speakers in person, use the magic that is the internet! You can follow Italian influencers on Instagram and watch their stories, read Italian personal blogs and posts, watch ‘homemade’ Italian YouTube videos about interesting topics.
So, try to have contact with ‘real people’, even if over the internet. Real people use real language, and real language is full of slang!
Now, get out and practice!
We hope that knowing some slang words will help you understand Italian conversation, whether in-person or while you watch Italian movies.
All that’s left for you to do now is to go out and practice where slang belongs, in real life! Additionally, you can round up your learning by acquainting yourself with the many ways you can greet someone in Italian, casually or formally.
In bocca al lupo!