Italian Word of the Day: Tosse (cough)

A useful word to know in Italian if you’re feeling a bit under the weather is tosse (feminine, plural: tossi) which means cough.

IPA: /ˈtos.se/

It comes from the Latin tussim from which the verb tossire (to cough) also derives.

Ho una brutta tosse e il mal di gola.

I have a bad cough and a sore throat.


The kind of cough most closely associated with the coronavirus is a dry cough (tosse secca) but with other illnesses such as bronchitis, you may experience a tosse grassa / produttiva (chesty cough) instead.

Pertosse, the official word for whooping cough in Italian, is a highly contagious bacterial disease that is accompanied by weeks of severe coughing fits (attacchi di tosse). Some more common names for this disease are tosse asinina, tosse canina, tosse convulsa and tosse convulsiva.

The expression colpo di tosse is used to describe a single cough.

Ho sentito un colpo di tosse provenire dalla cucina.

I heard a cough from the kitchen.


La signora tossisce davanti al medico. = The lady coughs in front of the doctor.

To say that you’ve got a cough, you can use the expression mi è venuta la tosse which literally translates as the cough came to me.

Mi è venuta la tosse perché ieri sera sono uscito senza sciarpa.

I got a cough because last night I went out without a scarf.


A small irritating cough can be called a tossetta or tossettina, the diminutive forms of tosse.

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