Italian Word of the Day: Gioco (toy, game)

Today’s word of the day is part of our Italian Christmas Word Advent Calendar series. Each day throughout December, we’ll post a word that is related to the holiday season. Enjoy!

Christmas is an exciting time of the year for children because they know they will receive lots of toys under the Christmas tree!

The generic word for toy or game in Italian is gioco (masculine plural: giochi).

IPA: /’dʒɔ.ko/

Metti via i tuoi giochi, Mattia! È ora di andare a dormire.

Put your toys away, Mattia! It’s time to go to bed.


It can also translate as gambling, sport, pastime, and trading in reference to the stock market depending on the context.

There are many different kinds of giochi that exist including:

  • gioco di ruolo = role-playing game
  • gioco da tavolo = board game
  • gioco sporco = foul play
  • gioco pulito = clean game
  • gioco delle parti = role play

If you choose to metterti in gioco, it means that you are willing to challenge yourself and try new things in what could be considered a risky situation.

Voglio la possibilità di mettermi in gioco in ambiti diversi.

I want the chance to challenge myself in different environments.


Doing something per gioco, on the other hand, means that you do something just for a laugh or for fun.

Giochino and giochetto are the diminutive forms of gioco. While they can translate as small toy or game in the literal sense, they are also used to describe the deceitful games people play to annoy or hurt the feelings of other people.

Comincio a essere stanco dei tuoi giochetti...

I’m starting to tire of your little games...


Giocattolo by comparison is specifically used for toys and playthings that children or animals play with such as small cars, balls, stuffed animals, trains, and lego bricks to name a few.

Gli ho comprato un telefonino giocattolo per Natale.

I bought him a toy cellphone for Christmas.


kid with various toys and gifts around her

Unsurprisingly the word gioco appears in the verb giocare which means to play a game or a sport, to bet or to outsmart.


Idioms featuring the word ‘gioco’

Fare buon viso a cattivo gioco

Literal translation: to make good face to a bad game
English meaning: to grin and bear it, to make the best of a bad situation


Fare il doppio gioco

Literal translation: to play the double game
English meaning: to be two-faced, double-cross, to play both sides


Il gioco è fatto

Literal translation: the game is done
English meaning: it’s a done deal, problem solved


Il gioco non vale la candela

Literal translation: the game isn’t worth the candle
English meaning: it’s not worth the trouble


Quando il gioco si fa duro

Literal translation: when the game gets tough
English meaning: when the going gets tough

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