Italian Phrase: Dolcetto o scherzetto? (Trick or treat!)

Today’s ‘phrase of the week’ is part of our Italian Halloween Word series. On the days leading up to Halloween, we’ll post a word that is related to this spooky time of year. Enjoy! 🦇

Twenty five years ago, when my husband was a child living in Turin, his knowledge of Halloween mostly came from American television shows, movies and books.

Fast forward to the present day and Halloween is celebrated across Italy, albeit without quite the same enthusiasm as in America. Storefronts decked with scary decorations, jack-o-lanterns, spine-chilling costumes and parties are all part of the norm, as is every child‘s favourite part of Halloween: trick-or-treating!

Little kids trick or treating
Bambini piccoli che fanno dolcetto o scherzetto – Little kids trick or treating

The way Italians have translated the expression Trick or treat! is Dolcetto o scherzetto? You can hear how it is pronounced below:

Dolcetto o scherzetto?

Trick or treat!


The expression literally translates as little treat or little joke, with the suffix -etto meaning small or little.

  • dolce (sweet) > dolcetto (little sweet)
  • scherzo (joke / trick / prank) > scherzetto (little joke / trick / prank)
Group of children in Halloween costumes knocking in the door and say trick or treat
Dolcetto o scherzetto?! – Trick or treat!

Curiously, before Halloween entered mainstream Italian culture, there was another translation for trick-or-treat that appears in the Italian version of the Peanuts Halloween comic strip. Instead of dolcetto o scherzetto, the translator uses the expression la borsa o il malocchio (your money or the evil eye). It is related to a similar idiom la borsa o la vita (your money or your life) which is what thieves yell when they are in the process of robbing someone. (Source: Terminologiaetc.it)

I think I prefer dolcetto o scherzetto, don’t you? 😉

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