Italian Idiom of the Week: Parli del diavolo e spuntano le corna

You’re chatting with your friend about someone when suddenly and unexpectedly, that person appears around the corner. There’s a perfect Italian idiom to describe this kind of encounter: “Parli del diavolo e spuntano le cornawhich translates to “Speak of the devil and the horns appear.

parli del diavolo e spuntano le corna

This well-known idiomatic expression serves as a playful means to inform someone that you were recently talking about them. Similarly, it can be used to imply that a person you may have been talking about (or badmouthing in some cases) is in close proximity, and could possibly overhear the conversation. In literal Italian, you could simply say Ecco che arriva la persona di cui stavamo parlando (Here comes the person we were talking about).

Kid celebrating Halloween in devil costume

In English, the full idiom is “Speak of the devil and he shall/doth appear,” whereas in Italian, they use the expression “the horns appear.” Both expressions can be shortened, however, to just Parli del diavolo! (Speak of the devil!)

Giorgio è proprio tirchio. Non ha neanche voluto… – Ah, parli del diavolo… Eccolo lì!

Giorgio is really stingy. He didn’t even want to… – Oh, speak of the devil… There he is!

speak of the devil in italian

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