Italian Swear Words and Their Meanings (for Polite Society)

Call me a killjoy, but swearing bothers me in any language. Whereas others might assail one another with flying f-words and references to bodily excrements, I am more partial to euphemisms. And let’s be honest – they are often far more entertaining and effective than swear words themselves!

In this article, you will find many of the most common politically-correct swear words in the language of love. If you were hoping to learn vulgar curse words in Italian, I would suggest you to look elsewhere! 😉


Moments of Surprise and Shock

In Italian, you are spoilt for choice when it comes to ways of expressing surprise. Conveniently, these words can be used for both negative surprises (discovering that your friend is in hospital) or positive surprises (receiving a lovely gift). Simply pick a handful of your favourites and use them until your heart’s content!

Caspita!

English meaning: Gosh!

Caspita, che bel regalo!

Gosh, what a nice gift!


Mamma mia!

English meaning: Oh my!

Mamma mia, quanto sei cresciuto!

My, how you’ve grown!


Oh mio Dio!

Oh my God!
Note that although I don’t consider this blasphemous, Christians might not appreciate it, so make sure there aren’t any religious people around you.

Oh mio Dio! Si e’ rotto il braccio!

Oh my God. He broke his arm!



Madonna Santa!

Holy cow! (literally: Saint Mary!)
Note that although I don’t consider this blasphemous, Christians might not appreciate it, so make sure there aren’t any religious people around you.

Madonna Santa, pesa un sacco!

Holy cow, it weights a ton!


Accipicchia!

My goodness!

Accipicchia! Che paesaggio fantastico!

My goodness. What a fantastic view!


Accidenti!

Wow!

Accidenti, che brutta partita!

Wow, what a bad game!


Perbacco!

My word!

Perbacco, che festa!

My word, what a party!


Mizzica!

Holy cow!

Mizzica, che bella ricetta!

Holy cow, what a great recipe!



Moments of Anger and Annoyance

You’re walking down the street when your faithful canine companion decides to take a quick bath in a conveniently placed mud puddle. You walk into your bedroom to find that the same dog has ripped your new curtains to shreds. And your dish of homemade spaghetti? Well, you might as well just order a pizza at this point.

Now, as an upstanding member of polite Italian society, you know that swear words simply aren’t the proper way to express your anger and annoyance. Enter these great Italian euphemisms for swear words! With these expressions, you will soon be able to express your anger and annoyance without the risk of fare una brutta figura (making a bad impression). 😉

Mannaggia!

English meaning: Darn it!

Mannaggia, non riesco a smettere di fumare.

Darn it, I can’t stop smoking.


Accidenti!

English meaning: Darn!

Accidenti, ho perso il treno.

Darn, I missed the train.


Che barba!

English meaning: What a drag. (literally: What a beard.)

Che barba, non ho più soldi.

What a drag, I don’t have any money.



Che palle!

English meaning: What a pain! (literally: What balls!)

Che palle, non trovo il mio portafoglio.

What a pain, I can’t find my wallet.


Che rottura di scatole!

English meaning: What a pain. (literally: What a breakage of boxes.

Che rottura di scatole. È cominciato a piovere.

What a pain. It’s starting to rain.


Cacchio!

English meaning: Darn! (literally: poo)

Cacchio, non ho finito i compiti!

Darn, I didn’t finish my homework!


Cristoforo Colombo!

English equivalent: Jesus Christ! (literally Christopher Columbus)
This Italian expression is a substitute for Cristo! or Cristo Santo! which can be considered blasphemous by Italian Christians.

Cristo…foro Colombo! Mi sono dato una martellata sul dito!

Jesus Christ! I hit my finger with the hammer!



How to tell someone to “get lost” in Italian

Just as there are harsh ways of saying “get lost” in English, so there are plenty in Italian. If you prefer to avoid swear words as I do, you will probably be in need of some useful substitutes! Here is a list that will surely tickle your fancy.

Vai a fare un bagno!

Literal translation: Go take a bath!

Vai a quel paese!

Literal translation: Go to that country!

Vai dove devi andare! / Vai dove dico io!

Literal translation: Go where you have to go! / Go where I tell you! (the destination in this case refers to the paese of the previous expression)

Vai a cantare in un altro cortile!

Literal translation: Go and sing in another courtyard!

Levati dai piedi / scatole!

Literal translation: Get off my feet / boxes!


Joey swears at Chandler on Friends – An alternative way tell your friend to “get lost”!

In this Friends episode, Joey tells his best friend Chandler to vaffanapoli, a hilarious euphemism for a much stronger expression in Italian which you would only use if you were truly irked at someone. Vaffanapoli doesn’t actually exist in real life, and may not be appreciated by Neapolitans since this expression replaces the more vulgar one with the name of their city.


Using the word “porco” to express anger and upset

For some unknown reason, Italians love to use the word porco / porca to express their annoyance, which literally means pork or swine. In fact, they will add just about any word onto the end of porco/a to turn it into a swear word. Of course, among the immense selection, there are nasty expressions and nice expressions. As you might have guessed, on this page, we are dealing solely with the least offensive! The meaning of porco/a + random word is similar to the English dash it, darn it, or oh bother.

Porca miseria!

Literal translation: Pork misery!

Porca paletta!

Literal translation: Pork shovel!

Porca vacca!

Literal translation: Pork cow!

Porco mondo!

Literal translation: Pork world!

Porco Giuda!

Literal translation: Pork Judas!

Zio porco!

Literal translation: Uncle pork!
Zio is a euphemism for Dio, which means God. As you can imagine, using Dio instead of Zio would sound very blasphemous and many Italians would not appreciate it.

Porco cane!

Literal translation: Pork dog!

Porca puzzola!

Literal translation: Pork skunk!


Food as a replacement for cursing

While English people refer to bodily excrements and places of eternal damnation to curse and insult others, the Italians, not so surprisingly, often turn to food for inspiration. When you’re bored, you might say you’re having a pizza of a time, whereas the person who just got you in a fender bender probably has a head of a rapa. To see a full list of fun and family-friendly Italian swear words and insults using food, just look below!

Pizza

English meaning: Pizza

Che pizza!

What a bore! / Oh man…


Cavolo

English meaning: Cabbage

Non me ne frega un cavolo!

I don’t care one bit!


Zucca

English meaning: Pumpkin

Hai la zucca vuota!

You’re a blockhead!


Rapa

English meaning: Turnip

Sei proprio una testa di rapa!

You’re a real pinhead!


Capperi

English meaning: Capers

Ah capperi, non lo sapevo!

Gosh, I didn’t know!


Did you enjoy these expressions? Why not share a few of your own in the comments section below!