Italian Word of the Day: Occhio (eye)

The word for eye in Italian is occhio (masculine, plural: occhi).

IPA: /ˈɔk.kjo/

Just as in English, it refers to the physical body part but also has a number of figurative meanings related to sight.

Mi è entrato qualcosa nell’occhio!

Something went into my eye!

Below is a brief selection of the many figurative expressions containing the word occhio in the Italian language, some of which have similar equivalents in English. Because it is impossible to cover them all, we suggest checking out the very complete list in the Corriere’s online dictionary if you want to know more.

  • tenere d’occhio / tenere sotto’occhio = to keep an eye on
  • dare un occhio a = to supervise, look after
  • chiudere un occhio = to turn a blind eye
  • a perdita d’occhio = as far as the eye can see
  • avere sotto’occhio = to be in view
  • a quattr’occhi = a private conversation between two people
  • a occhi chiusi = with full confidence
  • a colpo d’occhio = at first glance
  • a vista d’occhio = right before one’s very eyes

Trivia: Quattrocchi is a playful name for someone who wears prescription glasses. It is composed of the words quattro (four) and occhi (eyes).

Eye colour / Colore degli occhi

occhi azzurri / blu

occhi castani / marroni

occhi verdi

occhi neri

blue eyes

brown eyes

green eyes

black eyes

An expression you’ll often hear Italians use when they roughly measure or calculate something is a occhio (by eye). It implies that the speaker is making an approximate estimate, usually based on instinct or experience. A closely related expression to this is a occhio e croce (by eye and cross).

Quanto zucchero devo mettere? – Non lo so, vado sempre a occhio…

How much sugar do I need to put in? – I don’t know, I always make a guess…

Also related to measurements is the phrase avere buon occhio (to have a good eye), which is used to describe someone who is good at calculating or evaluating things, people and situations.

The way you’d say to wink in Italian is fare l’occhiolino or strizzare l’occhio whereas to blink translates as battere gli occhi.

The word Occhio! on its own also functions as an exclamation meaning Watch out! or Be careful!

Occhio! C’è un ragno grosso sul cuscino!!

Watch out! There’s a big spider on the cushion!

Idioms using the word ‘occhio’

As we mentioned above, there are literally dozens of idioms containing this word, so this section only contains the ones I’ve found the most useful and interesting in day-to-day conversation. I hope you enjoy them!

Essere un pugno in un occhio

Literal translation: to be a punch in the eye
English meaning: to be an eyesore

Essere nell’occhio del ciclone

Literal translation: to in the eye of the storm
English meaning: to be in the eye of the storm

Essere come un bruscolo in un occhio

Literal translation: to be like a speck in an eye
English meaning: to be annoying

Essere tutt’occhi

Literal translation: to be all eyes
English meaning: to be very concentrated on something

Anche l’occhio vuole la sua parte

Literal translation: even the eye wants its part
English meaning: wanting something to be aesthetically pleasing as well as useful

Non aver più occhi per piangere

Literal translation: to no longer have eyes for crying
English meaning: to experience much sorrow or misfortune

Costa un occhio della testa

Literal translation: it costs an eye from your head
English meaning: it costs a lot of money

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