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Part of the fun of learning languages is learning new and interesting words that you may not have in your native language.
Italian is a particularly interesting language to learn because of the sheer number of fun and funny Italian words and phrases that native speakers use with ease!
One reason that the Italian language is so rich is because of the history behind it. As a Romance language, it evolved from Latin in the third century. It is still the living language that it the closest to Latin.
Including native speakers and those who speak Italian as an additional language, there are about 85 million people who converse in Italian almost daily.
Italians are known for being expressive and the Italian language has around 2 million words that they can use to express themselves!
Does that sound intimidate? Well, take heart, a lot of those words are not necessarily in common usage anymore.
The most comprehensive dictionary of the current Italian language, the Grande Dizionario dell’Uso lists only 260,000 words. Of these 260,000 words of Italian in the dictionary, there are only about 7,000 words that an average Italian speaker uses constantly.
What does this mean? Well, basically as long as you learn the most common words and phrases in Italian, you are on your way to being able to have daily conversations with native speakers.
Memorizing vocabulary lists can be a bit dull so it’s important you spice things up a little. One great way to make things a little more interesting is to focus on learning the funny Italian words alongside the common ones.
Look through this list of funny Italian words we’ve compiled below. It will give you a good idea of how rich and interesting the Italian language is, and who knows, maybe you will experience “riderella”.
English meaning: The giggles
This is a cute Italian word that is used to describe what happens when you find something very funny. When something is so funny that you get the giggles, in Italian you are having “ridarella”.
This word comes from “riso” a noun that means laughter and “ridere” which is the verb “to laugh”.
English meaning: Verbose
This is a funny Italian adjective that is used to describe someone who is a big talker. Not a braggart but rather a bore. This is someone who talks a lot but doesn’t say anything of real importance or takes too long to get to the point.
English meaning: Chatterbox
Important usage notes: Chicchierona – for a female
Technically, someone who an Italian speaker describes as this also talks a lot but this term isn’t always negative.
A “chiccierone” could be a precocious child or a bubbly tour guide, basically, someone who talks a lot but is not necessarily boring – you don’t mind listening to them prattle.
English meaning: Medicine information packet
Some Italian words are funny because of how they sound or what they mean; this Italian word is funny because of its history.
A “bugiardino” is that small leaflet or brochure that comes folded up into your medication packet. It is supposed to contain important information such as what is in your medication, dosage recommendations, side effects, etc.
However, it’s more literal translation is “little liar”. It was doctors who began using this term derisively as it used to be that they contained unconfirmed claims or just the benefits without the possible side effects.
Nowadays the pharmaceutical industry needs to divulge more than just “good” information about their medications, but the name “bugiardion” has stuck.
English meaning: Grumpy
Important usage note: Brontolona – for a female; brontoloni – the plural form
This is what Italian speakers use to describe someone who is in a bad mood or who is known for being grumpy.
This word comes from the Italian verb “brontolare” which means “to complain”.
English meaning: Noisy
“Cagarna” was originally used to refer to the din caused by a barking pack of dogs. Now, it’s basically used to refer to a noisy group of people or a chaotic and noisy situation.
It is possible that experiencing “cagarna” can make you “brontolone”.
English meaning: Whim
This is a cute Italian word that describes doing something impulsive on a “whim”. If you do something for the “fun” of it, then you did it on a “sfizio”.
English meaning: Lazybones
Important usage note: Fannullona – for a female; fannulloni – the masculine plural form; fannullone – the feminine plural form
This Italian word is used to describe someone who is lazy. It’s actually a compound noun, which means that it is made up of two words.
“Fare” is an Italian word that translates to “to do”, while “nulla” means “nothing” and “one” is a modifying suffix that denotes something is big. So, the translation is basically “big do-nothing”.
English meaning: Lazy bum
Important usage note: Pelandrona – for a female; Pelandroni – the masculine plural form; Pelandrone – the feminine plural
This is another funny Italian word for someone who is lazy or a loafer. If you know someone who tries to avoid physical exertion of any type or will always take the easy way out of any task, they are a “peladrone”.
English meaning: Couch potato
Important usage note: Pantofolaia – for a female; pantofolai – the masculine plural; pantofolaie – the feminine plural
This is a funny word for a specific type of “pelandrone”, basically someone who in English would be a couch potato.
“Pantofolaio” is derived from “pantofola” which translates to the slipper. So, “panatfola” basically means someone “who is always in slippers”. In other words, this is someone who would rather stay home in their slippers, watching TV.
English meaning: Scaredy-cat
Important usage note: Fifoni – the plural form
This funny Italian word is basically the equivalent of the childish taunt of “scaredy-cat”. It comes from “fifa” which is the Italian word for fear.
English meaning: Daring
This is another Italian adjective that is often used to describe someone admirable. Someone who is daring and who successfully pulls off a scheme or plan that many might consider risky.
A “fifone” will never be described as “rocambolesco”.
English meaning: Clever
This is an Italian adjective that translates to “clever” but means a little more than just “smart”. This is used to describe someone who did something that combined brains with daring.
So, someone who was “rocambolesco” can also be “furbo”.
English meaning: Breathtaking
This is a beautiful Italian word that means to be amazed or awestruck by something. It is a combination of the verb “mozzare” which means to cut or chop off and “fiato” which means breath. So, technically, something is “breath-chopping” so you gasped.
English meaning: Big eater
Important usage note: Mangiona – for a female; Mangioni – the plural form
Given as Italian love to eat (and have such a rich food culture!) it is full of people who can be called “mangione”. It might actually be a compliment!
This phrase comes from the Italian verb “mangiare”, which means to eat.
English meaning: Chubby
Important usage note: Pafutta – for a female; paffuti – the masculine plural form; paffute – the feminine plural form
In a culture where there are a lot of people who can be described as “mangioni”, it is not so surprising that there is also a funny word to describe someone who is a little chubby.
This is usually used to mean chubby cute, not necessarily fat or obese.
English meaning: Tight-fisted
Important usage note: Pidocchiosa – for a female; pidocchiosi – the masculine plural form’ pidocchiose – the feminine plural
This funny-sounding Italian word comes from a not-so-funny source. “Pidocchio” is the Italian word for head-lice.
Given as no one wants head-lice, no one really wants to know someone who is “piddochioso” either. It is meant to describe someone who doesn’t want to spend money, not because they are prudent with money but because they are stingy and ungenerous.
Take note that this is actually an expression that is only commonly used in Rome. If you use it elsewhere, someone might actually think you are referring to head-lice.
English meaning: Woman with a mustache
This is a funny Italian word that is, admittedly, slightly insulting. So, be careful about using this word. If you must, make sure you say it in a whisper to a friend.
English meaning: Disgusting
This funny Italian word is a short exclamation of disgust. Basically, the equivalent of saying something is “gross”. Take note that it is a “light” exclamation so it is not really appropriate to describe a serious situation.
English meaning: To waste time
This is a funny Italian word that basically means to waste time, not in a bad way but in a “so young” sort of way. This can be used for a group of friends horsing around and having fun.
Be careful how you use this, however; because it comes from the word “cazzo” which is technically an Italian swear word. It is a slang term for male genitals, so don’t use it around older people!
English meaning: Cat lady
Important usage notes: Gattare – the plural form
It is a bit difficult for me to understand what’s wrong with being a “cat lady”, whether it is in English or Italian. Cats are cute!
However, in English and Italian culture, the idea of being a single woman with a bunch of cats is considered undesirable. The implication is that you were “unmarriageable” and as such are “old and crazy”.
English meaning: Short sock
This is a funny Italian word that is also really cute! And it refers to something that can be really cute as well.
“Fantasmini” literally translates to “little ghosts” but what they refer to are those short socks that are meant to be unseen or “hidden” in your shoes.
The more boring English term for these is probably ankle socks.
English meaning: Lipstick
Some people might think this is a funny Italian word, but I actually think it’s kind of beautifully descriptive as well.
This word basically translates to “quite red” and refers to lipstick. While lipstick comes in many different colors now, originally they mostly came in various shades of red, hence the Italians coining the word “rosette” to mean the red coloring stick that women used on their lips.
English meaning: I don’t know
This funny-sounding Italian word may be short, but Italian speakers find it useful and so will you. Be a bit careful when you use it though as it may be a simple expression of ignorance but it is also slightly dismissive as it also implies that you “don’t care”.
An Italian may say “boh” if they want a conversation or a line of inquiry to end.
In order to develop fluency in Italian, you need to develop a mental database of Italian words. One of the best ways to do so is to download lists of common Italian words and phrases and memorize them.
It is also important to work with a native Italian speaking tutor. We recommend that you go through lists of Italian vocabulary words with your tutor. They can help you with the proper pronunciation of the words and allow you to practice using those words properly in actual conversations.
To help you learn and have fun at the same time, we’ve provided a downloadable file of these 25 funny Italian words. Download them so you can go through them at your leisure. You should also show them to your tutor who can provide you with more context as to the meaning of the words and help you understand when and how to properly use them.
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