Have you ever wondered how to say cool or trendy in the Italian language? Well, the adjective you’re looking for is fico, or figo as it is pronounced in the north. This slang term has become a popular expression to convey something stylish, attractive, or simply impressive.
Because it is an adjective, its form changes depending on the gender and number of the noun it modifies. For example:
- il locale fico / figo = the cool place
- la macchina fica / figa = the cool car
- i locali fichi / fighi = the cool places
- le macchine fiche / fighe = the cool cars
The precise etymology of fico and figo isn’t as easy to pinpoint as other words in the Italian language. According to this detailed piece on L’Accademia della Crusca, the most plausible theory suggests that fico originated as Roman slang in the 1970s among the youth, stemming from the local term ficaccio (a playful twist on efficace meaning efficient or effective), with the removal of a suffix. Despite this, many dictionaries like Devoto Oli continue to propose a direct connection to the feminine noun fica, an explicit term referring to a woman’s vulva.
Fico the adjective shouldn’t be confused with fico the noun, which is the name given to the fig and the tree on which they grow.
That being said, fico can sometimes be used as a noun to refer to a cool or fashionable guy.
In casual Italian, fico/figo is also used to mean “hot” or describe someone as very attractive or sexy. The feminine counterpart is used in a similar context when referring to an appealing woman, but it’s important to note that it also has a vulgar connotation related to a woman’s private parts.
Certain dictionaries propose that fichetto (pretty boy) is a diminutive of fico; however, in reality, this term belongs to a series of variants (fighetto, fighetta, fichino) extensively documented since the 19th century in various Italian dialects, serving as derogatory expressions directed at a man. With the introduction of fico, there naturally arose an association with fichetto due to the similarity in their appearance and sound. (Source: Accademia della Crusca)
An expression you’ll hear all the time in Italy is Che figo! which is the equivalent of the English How cool! or That’s so cool! You also have the expression Che figata! which literally means ‘That’s such a cool thing!’.
Because it is an adjective, you can add on the suffixes -issimo and -issima to say “really cool” (e.g. una festa fighissima = a really cool party, un locale fighissimo = a really cool place).
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.