The next article in our series on slang in foreign languages is all about Italian slang expressions and Italian idioms. As a North American writer, I understand how hard it can be to find great resources for learning Italian fast. Since your possibilities for full-fledged immersion may be few and far between, there’s a real need for resources that prepare you for when you finally do get to travel to an Italian-speaking region. So to get you started, here are a few key Italian slang expressions.

Last Updated: 07/27/2020

Italian slang expressions mosalingua

10 Essential Italian Slang Words & Expressions

If the only Italian expression you know is “mamma mia,” you’re not going to get very far in Italy! This article is all about the Italian slang and idioms that Italians actually use. You definitely won’t find them in textbooks, and you might not even find them in most Italian books. But if you ever travel to Italy, you’ll hear them all the time.

Before we get started, you might be wondering how to talk about this kind of informal language. “Slang” in Italian is “gergo.” So, ready to learn some more gergo? Andiamo!

1. Che figo! | How awesome!

Click play to hear it pronounced:

little kid smiling slang expressions in italian mosalingua

“Stasera andiamo al concerto finalmente, che figo!” |
“We’re finally going to the concert tonight, how awesome?!”

Use “che figo” to show how surprised, happy, or excited you are about something in one quick expression, like in the example above. “How awesome!”

2. Che schifo! | That’s gross!

Click play to hear it pronounced:

boot stepping in gum che schifo italian

“Non toccare quella roba per terra, che schifo!” |
“Don’t touch that stuff on the floor, that’s gross!”

And at the other end of the spectrum, we have “che schifo,” an interjection for showing disgust or utter unhappiness.

Literal translation: Schifo as a single word more or less means “disgust.” But it’s found in a lot of other famous Italian expressions, such as “fa schifo,” which, when used right, can be a little more abrasive.

3. In bocca al lupo | Good luck, Break a leg

Click play to hear it pronounced:

dandelion being blown

“Oggi hai l’esame, vero? In bocca al lupo!” |
“You have your test today, right? Good luck!”

To me, “break a leg” was never the kind of encouragement I was looking for. So when I learned that Italian has a much more exciting way to wish someone good luck, I put it at the top of my list. Literally, “in bocca al lupo” means “into the mouth of the wolf.” Invigorating!

4. Fregatura | Rip off

Click play to hear it pronounced:

credit card

“Che fregatura! 80$ per una camicia da 30$?!  |
“What a rip off! $80 for a $30 shirt?!”

As we mentioned in our article on French slang, “rip-off” may be your go-to word if you visit the more tourist-heavy cities in Italy. Definitely don’t call the person selling you the shirt a “fregatura” to their face, but it may be the best term for expressing your thoughts to your shopping partner. If you want to learn to express just how badly you were ripped off, make sure you learn the numbers in Italian with our handy study guide.

Related words: Fregatura comes for the verb fregare, which, literally, means to rub. It’s a colloquial way of saying cheat or steal. Click here to learn some other important Italian verbs.

5. Figurati! | Don’t worry about it!

Click play to hear it pronounced:

person holding up sad face sign

“Figurati, non c’è bisogno che mi ridai subito la sciarpa!” |
“No need to give my scarf back right away, don’t worry about it!”

If you’re lucky, your friend might say, “Figurati! I’ll buy the shirt for you.” The term “figurati” is an Italian expression for “don’t worry.”

6. I vecchi | Parents

Click play to hear it pronounced:

italian parents kissing baby

“I vecchi non sono a casa, quindi do una festa” |
“My ‘rents aren’t home, so I’m having a party”

Here’s a great Italian slang expression for our younger readers. Simply put, your “vecchi” are your parents.

Literal translation: You could translate “i vecchi” as “the olds” or “the old ones” for a slightly more epic tone.

7. Mannaggia | Damn!

Click play to hear it pronounced:

upset man head in hands

“Mannaggia, ho rotto il bicchiere!” | “Damn! I broke the glass!”

Next, “mannaggia” is a pretty common expletive. Just like “Che figo!“, “Mannaggia!” is most often used alone, with another phrase tacked on to it to explain why you’re upset.

8. Devo filare | I gotta run/jet

Click play to hear it pronounced:

woman looking at airplanes on tarmac

“Scusate ragazzi, devo filare. Lezione presto domani mattina” |
“Sorry, guys. I gotta jet, early class tomorrow”

Similar to the English slang term “I gotta jet” or the more informal “I gotta bounce,” “deve filare” gives that meaning of having to leave suddenly.

Let’s rewind to the beginning of your conversation… to greet someone informally and ask how are you in Italian, you can say “Come te la passi?” or “Che si dice?” Click here for more ways to say goodbye in Italian, hello in Italian, and other important greetings.

Origin: Almost unchanged from the millenniums-old Latin word filāre, the Italian word filare means to spin a thread, such as yarn or rope.

9. Che cavolo | Geez, What the hell

Click play to hear it pronounced:

angry woman

“Che cavolo, non puoi fare più attenzione?” |
“Geez, can’t you pay more attention?”

This is considered a “light” curse word, and is often replaced by more vulgar expressions. If you want communicate your anger in a polite way you can say, “Che cavolo mi è caduto il gelato!”

More Italian slang: If you recognized the word “cavolo” (cabbage) congratulations! In addition to being a vegetable, it also forms the root of some pretty basic slang phrases. In addition to this one, there’s:

  • “sono cavoli miei,” which means “sono affari miei” or “that’s my business”/”none of your business.”
  • On the other hand, “cavoli tuoi” means that you don’t care to get involved with someone else’s problems!
  • “Col cavolo” means no way, you don’t have the slightest desire to do something.
  • Literally, “Cavoli amari” means “bitter cabbage,” but as a slang expression it means you’re going to have trouble. For example, “Devo dire a mia madre che ho preso una multa, saranno cavoli amari.(I have to tell my mom that I got a ticket. I’m going to be dead meat.)
  • And last but not least, “del cavolo” is a simple slang term for bad.

Italians seem to have a weird obsession with this crispy veggie… Actually, lots of Italian expressions have to do with food. If a pub is jam-packed, it is “un carnaio. (An expression that comes from “carne” (meat) and refers to many people in one place.) Or, Che pizza!” No, it’s not time to eat: “che pizza” means something annoying or boring.

10. Cascasse il mondo | No matter what

Click play to hear it pronounced:

two people kissing on tiptoes in forest only see lower body mosalingua

“Cascasse il mondo, stasera vado al concerto!” |
“No matter what, I am going to that concert tonight!”

And to end on an easy note, “casscasse il mondo” is a popular Italian slang expression for “no matter what.” English has “even if the sky comes crashing down,” and the Italians have their own expression that’s equally horrifying.

Bonus: Learn How to Pronounce Italian Slang

There’s more! Our awesome Italian teacher Mara will teach you how to pronounce Italian slang with real Italian flair! Watch her video right here or on our YouTube channel. It includes some of the expressions above, and some new ones. She recorded the video in Italian, so it’s great listening comprehension practice. But you can always turn on subtitles (in Italian, English, or one of 4 other languages) if you need them, or slow the video down by clicking the gear icon to change the playback speed.

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There you have it! We hope this article on Italian slang expressions has encouraged you to either start learning Italian or to introduce some new vocab into your current language study. If you’re having problems finding the right tools, be sure to check out our list of the best resources for learning Italian and our Learn Italian app, where you can learn slang terms like these and many others. Ci becchiamo presto!

Now that you know some Italian slang…

To learn popular slang in other languages, check out these articles: