Italian slang: 10 expressions to spice up your conversations

April 30, 2024

Italian is often associated with romance and lyrical beauty. But did you know that beneath the surface lies a vibrant world of slang? These words will help you to truly connect to locals and navigate the informal side of the language while adding a unique flavor to the communication.

So, forget the textbook phrases – here, we'll delve into the colorful expressions that bring Italian conversations to life!

Deep dive in 10 common Italian slang expressions

While textbooks might focus on formal grammar and vocabulary, true fluency comes alive in everyday conversations peppered with slang. Here's a closer look at 10 Italian slang expressions that will elevate your Italian from textbook-correct to truly conversational.

1. Boh

This seemingly simple word packs a punch of indifference or uncertainty. It translates to "I don't know," "Whatever," or "Who knows." Imagine your friend asks for your opinion on a movie, a shoulder shrug and a nonchalant "Boh" expresses your lack of strong feelings. It can also be used playfully to show you're not taking something too seriously.

2. Che schifo

Translating to “That’s disgusting!”, "Che schifo!" is your go-to phrase for expressing disgust or revulsion. Imagine you see a spilled plate of food on the sidewalk, a disgusted "Che schifo!" perfectly captures your reaction. But remember to be mindful of the context and only use it when something is truly unpleasant.

3. Rompere le scatole

This literally translates to "To break the boxes," but figuratively means "To be annoying" or "To bother someone." This phrase is a clear way to tell someone their behavior is unwelcome. To make an example, imagine your sibling keeps pestering you, you might say in exasperation  "Mi stai rompendo le scatole!" – "You're getting on my nerves!"  

4. Morire di noia

This dramatic phrase describes the feeling of being extremely bored. It translates to "To die of boredom," adding a touch of humor to express the feeling. Imagine you're stuck in a long line with nothing to do, you might sigh and say "Sto morendo di noia" – "I'm dying of boredom."

5. Col cavolo

This colorful expression is a strong way to disagree or refuse something. It literally translates to "With the cabbage!" but means "No way!" or "Not a chance!" Imagine your friend asks to borrow your car for a risky adventure, a firm "Col cavolo!" will leave no room for negotiation.  Since the phrase is quite forceful, remember to use it sparingly and only with close friends.

6. Che culo

While "Culo" can translate to a less polite word in English, here it's used to express envy or admiration for someone's good fortune, translating to "That luck!" Imagine your friend wins a surprise trip to Italy, an envious "Che culo!" acknowledges their lucky break.

7. Meno male

This phrase comes in handy when you're relieved about a positive outcome. It translates to "Thank goodness!" or "Luckily!" just as if you were worried about an exam but in the end managed to pass it.

8. In bocca al lupo! Crepi!

Despite literally translating to “In the mouth of the wolf,” which may sound odd in English, “In bocca al lupo” is used to wish someone good luck before an important event. Despite the unusual imagery, it's a common way to say "Good luck!" to someone. Traditionally, the response is “Crepi!”, which literally translates to "May you burst!" but, in this context, it means "Thank you!"

9. Che figata

"Che figata!" is your enthusiastic way to express admiration or excitement for something, transcending a simple "cool" or "awesome."  Imagine spotting your friend rocking a killer new outfit, "Che figata il tuo vestito!" goes beyond cool, emphasizing how stylish they look.  

10. Che sfiga

This is your go-to expression for sympathizing with someone's bad luck.  Literally translating to "What a bad fig!" it conveys a sense of pity or misfortune. Imagine your friend tells you they missed their flight, a sympathetic "Che sfiga! Mi dispiace tanto!" expresses  both  "That's too bad!" and "I'm so sorry!" 

Regional variations in Italian slang

Italian slang isn't uniform. Just like the diverse landscapes of Italy, slang expressions vary greatly across the country. Here's a glimpse into this regional treasure trove.

  • Northern Italy: in Milan, you might hear "Gasato/a" to describe someone excited or enthusiastic while Venetians might use "Ocio!" as a playful warning, meaning "Watch out!"
  • Central Italy: Florentines often use "Ma dai!" which translates to "Come on!" but with a stronger tone of disbelief. Romans, on the other hand, have their own way of saying "Hello" with "Bella lì!" which literally means "Beautiful there!"
  • Southern Italy: head south and you might encounter "Aumm aumm!" in Naples, used to talk about something shady that shouldn’t be talked about, or “Amunì” in Sicily to say “Let’s go!”

Understanding these regional variations will add another layer to your appreciation of Italian culture. It shows you're interested in going beyond the textbook and embracing the language as it's spoken in everyday life. So, the next time you travel to Italy, keep an ear out for these hidden gems!

Looking to learn Italian but don't know where to start?

Interested in learning more or have specific questions? Join our vibrant community where you can interact directly with IFA experts. Here, you can find support, share your experiences, and learn all there is to know about Italian language and our programs. Visit IFA community to get started.

Ready for a life-changing experience in Italy?

Take your chance and shape your future in the “Bel Paese”!

Explore our programs!