Italian Word of the Day: Birichino (mischievous)

A child who causes trouble in a playful manner can be called mischievous or cheeky, which in Italian translates as birichino (masculine). Although the etymology of the word is uncertain, it is thought to originate from the Emilian dialect and may possibly be related to the word briccone (rascal).

IPA: /bi·ri·chì·no/

The feminine equivalent is birichina, whereas their respective plurals are birichini and birichine.

Lui è il bambino più birichino che io conosca!

He’s the most mischievous boy I know!

In addition to being an adjective, birichino also works as a noun to describe someone – usually a child – who is mischievous. Possible English equivalents include brat, imp, rascal, scamp and monkey.

Sua figlia è proprio una birichina!

Your daughter is real little monkey!

smiling girl hiding behind the table
Una bambina birichina = A cheeky girl

Although the official spelling is birichino, many Italians in the northern and central regions of Italy pronounce it with a double “c” (biricchino), including my husband! According to some dictionaries, the double “c” variant is an accepted alternative to birichino whereas others claim it is widespread yet incorrect.

A related term is birichinata which is one way of saying practical joke or prank in Italian.

Some possible synonyms for birichino include:

  • monello (noun) = brat, rascal
  • furbo (adjective) or furbacchione (noun) = crafty, cunning
  • birba or birbone (noun) = rascal
  • birbante (noun) = rascal, cheeky monkey

Did you know that…?
Birichini was the name given to a mafia-type criminal society in Bologna during the first half of the 18th century. They were divided into gangs, each led by a leader, which were named after the streets to which they belonged. (Source: Biblioteca Salaborsa)

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