Have you ever wondered how to say idiot in the Italian language? My guess is that you have – after all, it’s one of the most searched for translations on the internet!
As it turns out, there are as many ways to say idiot in Italian as there are in English. Some are used throughout Italy by almost every age group and demographic, whereas others are limited to certain regions or groups of people. Just be aware – Italians can get quite colourful once they start insulting one another!
Important: For each word, we’ve added an offensiveness rating. Bear in mind, however, that a word’s offensiveness can vary depending on the situation and the speaker’s tone of voice. Even the mildest of insults have the potential to hurt someone’s feelings, so use them with caution. ⚠️
In a nutshell: This is the most literal translation. Note that the ending ‘a‘ remains the same in the singular form regardless of whether you are describing a man or woman. For the plural however, the ending varies between -i (masculine) and -e (feminine).
Noun / adjective (plural: idioti/e)
Oggi quell’idiota di mio fratello mi ha versato il caffè sulla giacca!
Today that idiot brother of mine poured coffee on my jacket!
In a nutshell: The meaning is identical to the English stupid. It can be used in a joking manner between friends or siblings, whereas the diminutive stupidotto is a more mild version whose meaning is closer to naive or sucker.
Noun / adj. (f. stupida; pl stupidi/e)
C’è uno stupido nella mia classe che mi prende sempre in giro.
There is an idiot in my class who always makes fun of me.
In a nutshell: This word describes someone with very little intelligence. It is often used in a joking manner between friends or siblings.
Noun / adj. (f. scema; pl. scemi/e)
Hai lasciato il motore della macchina acceso! Ma sei scemo?!
You left the car engine running! What’s wrong with you?!
In a nutshell: This word originates from Lombardy, in particular Milan and the neighbouring areas, but it is now used throughout Italy. It indicates a stupid or inept person. Originally it meant spinning top, and later it came to indicate the male sex organ. Note that it is a masculine noun in spite of the final ‘a‘.
Masc. noun (invariable)
Ma guarda quel pirla che attraversa la strada senza guardare!
Look at that idiot crossing the street without looking!
In a nutshell: Here we have yet another word that simply means stupid. If you already know the English insult cretin, it should be easy to remember.
Noun / adj. (f. cretina; pl. cretini/e)
Ma di che cavolo sta parlando sto cretino?!
What the hell is that idiot talking about?!
In a nutshell: In medical language, it used to refer to a person who had not reached the intellectual level expected for his or her chronological age. It remains in common use, mostly as an offensive or abusive epithet. The ending -e is used for the masculine and feminine forms.
Noun / adj. (pl. deficienti)
Sì è vero, sei stato proprio un deficiente ad accettare quell’affare.
Yes it’s true, you were a real idiot to accept that deal!
In a nutshell: This word denotes someone lacking intelligence, shrewdness and common sense. You can use it in a more affectionate way with children, especially with the diminutives scioccherellino and scioccherello. It can also be used to denote something of very little importance (uno sciocco contrattempo = a silly setback).
Noun / adj. (f. sciocca; pl. sciocchi/e)
Sei più sciocco di quanto credessi.
You’re more of an idiot than I thought.
In a nutshell: This is the equivalent of imbecile in English and it comes from the Latin imbecillis meaning physically or mentally weak. It is both masculine and feminine. There is also the derivative rimbecillito which means confused, senile or gaga.
Noun / adj. (pl. imbecilli)
Fai sempre la figura dell’imbecille!
You always come across as an imbecile!
In a nutshell: Asino is one way of saying donkey in Italian. It describes a person of little intelligence or ability, particularly young people who don’t study. Note that somaro, a synonym for donkey, can also be used figuratively in a similar way.
Noun (f. asina; pl. asini/e)
Sei proprio un asino, non hai imparato nulla!
You’re a real idiot, you haven’t learned anything!
In a nutshell: This was originally a term for those affected with dementia but it has since come to mean idiot. As you may have guessed, it has the same ending for its masculine and feminine forms.
Noun / adj. (pl. dementi)
Quel giocatore si comporta spesso come un demente.
That player often acts like an idiot.
‘Idiot’ in Vulgar Italian Slang: The Top 3 Terms
The second section covers three Italian slang terms for idiot that are considered vulgar and offensive unless, of course, they are used in a joking manner among friends.
In a nutshell: A vulgar insult based on the word cazzo meaning the male sex organ. Cazzo is one of the most popular swear words in Italian, like the f-word in English. The suffix -one means big. There is also the diminutive cazzoncello.
Masc. noun (pl. cazzoni)
Sei veramente un cazzone quanto ti comporti così!
You really are an idiot when you behave like that!
In a nutshell: A vulgar slang term meaning testicle, and one of the most popular Italian insults you can come across. Also popular are the diminutive coglioncello and the pejorative coglionazzo. The slang verb coglionare means to make fun of someone.
Noun (f. cogliona; pl. coglioni/e)
Come fai a uscire con quel coglione?
How can you go out with that idiot?
In a nutshell: Once again, we have a vulgar insult based on the word minchia meaning, you guessed it, the male sex organ. Like cazzo, minchia is also a swear word. The suffix -one means big.
Noun / Adj. (f. minchiona; pl. minchioni/e)
Che minchione che è quell’attore. Pensa di essere migliore di tutti gli altri.
That actor is such an idiot. He thinks he’s better than everyone else.
Other Terms for ‘Idiot’ in Italian
Below are a few other translations for idiot that don’t really belong anywhere else on this list, either because they are regional or aren’t quite as commonly used.
In a nutshell: Derives from the Arabic mamluk meaning ‘bought slave’. It was the name given to members of the Turkish and Circassian militias, which were originally formed of a body of slaves converted to Islamism. Today it denotes a foolish and clumsy person. Alternative forms are mamelucco / mammelucco and the feminine mammalucca.
Noun (f. mammalucca; pl. mammalucchi/e)
Non capisce proprio niente quel mammalucco!
That idiot doesn’t understand anything!
In a nutshell: It originally meant insane but now refers more generically to a stupid person. From the Latin mente captus (‘seized by the mind’).
Noun / Adj. (f. mentecatta; pl. mentecatti/e)
Cosa sta dicendo quel mentecatto?
What is that idiot saying?
In a nutshell: Italians love their food-based insults and you can’t get much better than carciofo, which literally means artichoke. It denotes a stupid and clumsy person.
Masc. noun (pl. carciofi)
Il suo fidanzato mi pare proprio un carciofo.
Her boyfriend seems like a real idiot.
In a nutshell: Describes a person who demonstrates low intelligence and lacks sense. It is generally used with reference to certain kinds of behaviour and is more objective than other words on this list.
Noun / Adj. (f. stolta; pl. stolti/e)
Solo uno stolto si fiderebbe di lui ciecamente.
Only an idiot would trust him blindly.
In a nutshell: A brainless individual who is unable to reason. Thought to derive from the word scemo (see section 1). In the south you’ll hear the variation scemunito.
Noun / Adj. (f. scimunita; pl. scimuniti/e)
Guarda che non sono mica così scimunito da crederti!
Look, I’m not stupid enough to believe you!
In a nutshell: Someone with little intelligence who is easily deceived due to excessive naivety. Mostly used in Tuscany.
Noun / Adj. (f. grulla; pl. grulli/e)
Sei davvero grullo se non capisci quello che ti sto dicendo.
You’re really foolish if you don’t understand what I’m telling you.
In a nutshell: A Neapolitan word for a person who acts in an idiotic manner. From the word cetriolo meaning cucumber.
Noun (f. citrulla; pl. citrulli/e)
Mi raccomando, non dare retta a quel citrullo.
Please, don’t listen to that idiot.
Noun (f. gnocca; pl. gnocchi/cche)
Solo uno gnocco non capirebbe il suo ragionamento.
Only an idiot wouldn’t understand his reasoning.
In a nutshell: An insult used to refer to a stupid person. Derived from the meridional word fessa, a vulgar term meaning vulva. The expression fare il fesso means to behave like an idiot.
Noun / Adj. (f. fessa; pl. fessi/e)
Credi di essere un eroe, invece sei solo un povero fesso.
You think you’re a hero, but you’re just a poor fool.
In a nutshell: A name you’d call a person who acts in an irresponsible or reckless manner and fails to consider the implications of their actions. The ending in -e works for masculine and feminine, and the collective plural ends in -i.
Noun / Adj. (pl. incoscienti)
Hai passato tutto il giorno sulla spiaggia senza mettere la crema solare? Ma sei proprio un incosciente!
You spent the entire day on the beach without wearing sunscreen? You really are an idiot!
In a nutshell: Yes, we all know Gonzo is the name of an iconic Muppets character, but it’s also an Italian word for a stupid person who is easily fooled.
Noun / Adj. (f. gonza; pl. gonzi/e)
Quell’uomo è proprio un gonzo.
That man is a real idiot.
In a nutshell: Tonto and the feminine tonta are used to describe a slow-witted individual. The expression fare il finto tonto means to play dumb.
Noun / Adj. (f. tonta; pl. tonti/e)
Sei più tonto di quanto immaginassi.
You’re more of an idiot than I thought.
In a nutshell: The word babbeo is onomatopoeic because it sounds like someone speaking awkwardly or mumbling. It describes anyone who is foolish or a simpleton.
Noun / Adj. (f. babbea; pl. babbei/e)
Un uomo più babbeo di lui non esiste!
There isn’t a man more foolish than him!
In a nutshell: Here we have yet another term that means slow-witted, silly or stupid. However it can also mean groggy or dazed when talking about someone who is unwell or surprised.
Noun / Adj. (f. balorda; pl. balordi/e)
Non c’è niente di peggio che fare discorsi balordi con persone balorde.
There is nothing worse than talking about silly things with foolish people.
In a nutshell: Salame means salami in a literal sense but figuratively, it describes a clumsy person of low intelligence. It can also be an affectionate term for a child.
Masc. noun (pl. salami)
Dai, sbrigati, non stare lì fermo come un salame!
Come on, hurry up, don’t stand there like an idiot!
In a nutshell: Unlike the other words here, bacucco (and the feminine bacucca) refers specifically to a person who has succumbed to stupidity due to old age. Interestingly it derives from the name of the Hebrew prophet Abacucco.
Adj. (f. bacucca; pl. bacucchi/cche)
Quel vecchio bacucco mi ha ripetuto la storia talmente tante volte che ormai la so a memoria.
That old fool told me the story so many times that I know it off by heart.
In a nutshell: If you are naive or inexperienced due to ignorance or lack of understanding, you might be called a sempliciotto. It derives from semplice meaning simple and can be used in its feminine form sempliciotta to indicate a woman.
Noun / Adj. (f. sempliciotta; pl. sempliciotti/e)
Quel sempliciotto crede a qualsiasi cosa.
That idiot will believe anything.
Heather Broster is a graduate with honours in linguistics from the University of Western Ontario. She is an aspiring polyglot, proficient in English and Italian, as well as Japanese, Welsh, and French to varying degrees of fluency. Originally from Toronto, Heather has resided in various countries, notably Italy for a period of six years. Her primary focus lies in the fields of language acquisition, education, and bilingual instruction.