19 Ways to Say “Eat” in Italian (Besides “Mangiare”)

There are those who devour their meals a quattro palmenti (with a hearty appetite) and those who delicately nibble at their plates come un uccellino (like a little bird); there are those known to be una buona forchetta (foodies) and then there are the health-conscious souls who opt for dining lightly and early, striving to vivere sano e lesto (live healthy and agile).

In short, eating is a physiological necessity (and one of life’s pleasures, if I may add), but there are loads of different ways to do it, each with its own expression. So, let’s explore some great ways to say “eat” in Italian that you might come across, from leisurely indulgence to quick refuelling.

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1. Divorare (to devour)

This verb encapsulates the act of eating swiftly, leaving no trace behind. It’s for those moments when hunger strikes with such intensity that you could polish off a whole turkey in one sitting!

Figuratively, divorare describes consuming something rapidly, like: Amo il suo ultimo libro, l’ho letteralmente divorato. (I love his latest book, I literally devoured it.)

2. Trangugiare (to gulp down)

Trangugiare is another verb that paints a picture of swift eating, where you gulp down food so fast that chewing is just a formality.

3. Sbocconcellare (to nibble)

This curious verb denotes the act of eating small bites, usually with your fingers, maybe not because you’re really hungry, but just because. The word comes from sbocconcello, which is the diminutive of boccone, meaning bite or morsel.

4. Piluccare (to nibble)

Similar to sbocconcellare, piluccare is about nibbling away, but maybe with a touch of boredom thrown in. You know, when you’re not really hungry but you’re picking at your food anyway. It comes from the Latin word pilare, which means to peel.

5. Mangiucchiare (to nibble)

This verb is all about eating small amounts, maybe not feeling really hungry or just grabbing a snack between meals.

It’s also used with the meaning of biting something in expressions like mangiucchiarsi le unghie (to bite one’s nails).

6. Spizzicare (to nibble / to snack on something)

Spizzicare is when you enjoy some little treats between meals, savouring tiny bits of food or just tasting a little here and there.

Just a heads-up: If someone asks you this question in southern Italy, get ready for a feast!

Close-up of young happy woman eating pasta at dining table.

7. Pappare (to gobble up)

Pappare is a playful verb that encapsulates the joy of devouring food eagerly and abundantly, like someone who can’t resist a tempting dish. Use it during informal exchanges only.

Its noun equivalent is pappa, which refers to both a thick soup (like the famous pappa al pomodoro in Tuscany) or is used more generally when talking to children about food (è ora della pappa!it’s mealtime!)

8. Rifocillare (to re-energize) / Rifocillarsi (to re-energize oneself) 

This sweet-sounding verb comes from the Latin refocilare, meaning to revive. Basically, it’s like giving yourself or someone else a little energy boost through food or drink.

9. Sfamare (to feed) / Sfamarsi (to feed oneself)

Whether it’s feeding a family or simply satisfying your own hunger, this verb embodies the basic act of nourishment. In other words, it’s about taking away hunger and providing sustenance for yourself or others.

Young woman and her daughter having tasty dessert

10. Abbuffarsi (to stuff oneself)

This way of saying eat in Italian is for when you really pig out. Curiously, it comes from buffa, which means toad in southern Italian dialects, hinting that you might swell up like a toad after a big meal. 

You might also hear the noun abbuffata, like Dopo l’abbuffata di Natale, ho proprio bisogno di mettermi a dieta. (After that Christmas binge, I seriously need to diet.)

11. Strafogarsi (to gorge oneself on)

Strafogarsi is just like abbuffarsi – it means stuffing yourself silly. It comes from affogarsi (to drown), expressing the idea that you’re eating so much you might as well be drowning in food!

12. Rimpinzarsi (to gorge oneself on)

Rimpinzarsi also means eating excessively, to the point of not being able to eat anymore. However, while abbuffarsi conveys the image of throwing oneself onto food (think of a buffet frenzy), rimpinzarsi and strafogarsi have more to do with filling your own body with food. 

Happy couple eating hamburgers and drinking ice cold beers at an outdoor restaurant in a close up view of them smiling in anticipation as they bite into the food

13. Saziarsi (to satisfy one’s appetite)

Saziarsi means eating enough to fill your belly. It comes from the Latin satis, which means enough, precisely conveying the idea of hitting the spot just right to satisfy your hunger or cravings.

You can also use it as a non-reflexive verb to talk about food that’s very nutricious and fills you up, like l’avena sazia a lungo (oats keep you full for ages).

14. Assaggiare (to taste)

Assaggiare can have two meanings. It can mean eating just a bit of food, like La carne l’ha solo assaggiata (He only had a taste of the meat), or trying a little nibble to see if it tastes good or is cooked right, like Hai assaggiato la pasta? Dovrebbe essere cotta ormai. (Did you taste the pasta yet? It should be done by now.)

15. Sgranocchiare (to munch)

Using sgranocchiare to say eat in Italian is perfect to convey the idea of munching on something crispy – not because you’re starving, but just because you feel like it. In other words, it’s like having a snack to chew on although you’re not really hungry.

Couple sitting on the couch and watching TV, the woman is holding the remote control and the man is eating popcorn

16. Ruminare (to chew slowly)

Ruminare is the perfect verb to use when someone’s chewing their food super slowly, like they’re channeling the unhurried grace of a contented cow! The verb refers precisely to the unique way ruminant animals like cows chew their food methodically to stimulate digestion. 

17. Cibarsi (to feed oneself)

Cibarsi simply means to eat, without any special connotations. It’s not super common in everyday Italian, but it’s good to know.

Sometimes, you might hear cibarsi used figuratively, like in the beautiful phrase cibarsi dei sogni (feeding oneself on dreams) by Milanese poet Alda Merini.

18. Alimentarsi (to feed oneself)

This is another generic term for eating, referring to the act of consuming food. Again, not really used in everyday Italian but always good to know. 

You’ll hear it more often used in a figurative sense, like when something keeps going by feeding off of something else. For example: La paura si alimenta con la disinformazione (Fear feeds on misinformation).

19. Nutrirsi (to nourish oneself)

Nutrirsi goes beyond the physiological need to eat; it’s about being mindful of what you eat and making sure your body gets what it needs. 

In a figurative sense, it’s like when certain things thrive because of certain conditions, like Certi siti si nutrono di gossip e fake news (Certain websites thrive on gossip and fake news).

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