Italian Word of the Day: Matto (crazy)

Matto is one of many ways you can translate the word crazy into Italian. It is thought to come from the late Latin mattus, which means drunk, and later assumed the meaning of stupid before acquiring its current definition.

italian word for crazy

Because matto is an adjective, the masculine singular ending o changes to a for the feminine form, -i for the masculine plural form, and -e for the feminine plural form. For example:

  • un gatto matto = a crazy cat (masculine, singular)
  • una persona matta = a crazy person (feminine, singular)
  • dei gatti matti = crazy cats (masculine, plural)
  • delle persone matte = crazy people (feminine, plural)
Crazy family mixed ages celebrate and enjoy the football match together with coloured clothes of the team
Una famiglia completamente matta – A totally crazy family

In addition to essere (to be), matto often appears in the company of the verbs andare (to go) and diventare (to become).

Vado matto per i gatti!

I’m crazy about cats!

È diventato matto dopo aver scontato dieci anni di carcere.

He went mad after spending ten years in prison.

Did you know that…?
The word for checkmate in Italian is scacco matto. Scacco, in its singular form, means both chess piece and Check! whereas the plural scacchi is the name given to the game of chess.

Like many adjectives in Italian, matto can also function as a noun with the meaning of lunatic, madman or crazy person.

A way to say that someone has literally gone crazy or is acting like a crazy person is dare di matto (lit. to give like crazy).

Just like the English Are you crazy?, Italians will use Sei matto? with someone who says or does absurd things. Another interesting expression is Fossi matto! (lit: If I were crazy!) which is used as a response to categorically refuse to accept or do something.

Ti va di vedere questo film? Dura sei ore. – Fossi matto!

Do you want to see this film? It’s six hours long. – What do you think I am, crazy?

When matto modifies a noun, it takes on the meaning of intense, enormous or insatiable in colloquial Italian. For example:

Ho una voglia matta di andare in vacanza!

I’m dying to go on vacation!
(lit: I have an intense desire to go on vacation!)

dog jumping into a lake
Il cane ha una voglia matta di farsi un bagno!The dog is dying to go for a swim!

Then we have other interesting expressions with the word matto in its plural form:

  • C’è da diventare matti (con questo traffico)! = (This traffic) is enough to make you go mad!
  • Roba da matti! = Crazy stuff! (lit. stuff of crazy people)
  • Mi piace da matti! = I’m crazy about it!
  • È una gabbia di matti! = It’s a madhouse! (lit. it’s a cage of crazy people)

Common synonyms for matto are pazzo and folle.

Idioms featuring the word ‘matto’

Essere matto da legare

Literal translation: to be crazy enough to be tied up
English meaning: to be stark raving mad

Essere matto come un cavallo

Literal translation: to be crazy like a horse
English meaning: to be unpredictable (used in a kind or playful way)

Essere come il matto dei tarocchi

Literal translation: to be like the fool of the tarot cards
English meaning: to be everywhere and always appreciated

La Casa in Via dei Matti Numero Zero (The House on Madman Street Number Zero)

This cute children’s song is one of my son’s favourites at the moment. It was recorded in Italian by singer-songwriter Sergio Endrigo in 1969 but the original music and lyrics are by Brazilian poet Vinicius de Moraes.

Era una casa molto carina
Senza soffitto senza cucina

Non si poteva entrarci dentro
Perché non c’era il pavimento

Non si poteva andare a letto
In quella casa non c’era il tetto

Non si poteva fare pipì
Perché non c’era il vasino lì

Ma era bella, bella davvero
In Via dei Matti numero zero

Ma era bella, bella davvero
In Via dei Matti numero zero

It was a lovely house
Without a ceiling, without a kitchen

You couldn’t go inside
Because there was no floor

You couldn’t go to bed
There wasn’t a roof on that house

You couldn’t have a wee
Because there wasn’t a potty there

But it was beautiful, very beautiful
On number zero, Madman Street

But it was beautiful, very beautiful
On number zero, Madman Street

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