Italian Word of the Day: Pancia (tummy / belly)

Just as English speakers use the words tummy and belly to informally refer to the area between the ribs and the pelvis, Italians also have an informal name for this part of the body: pancia (feminine, plural: pance).

/pàn·cia/

Note: A more formal context would require the use of ventre or addome to refer to the whole abdomen, and stomaco to refer specifically to the stomach.

When talking to a child about their tummy, Italians often use the diminutive forms pancino for a boy and pancina for a girl. The augmentative form pancione may be used to describe the large tummy of an overweight person or a pregnant woman’s belly, whereas pancetta translates as both bacon and an affectionate term for the extra fat around a person’s waist. The Neapolitan and Sicilian variant panza has also entered Italian as a humorous way of saying pancia.

Here are a few common expressions you’ll encounter:

  • Avere la pancia (lit: to have the tummy) = to have a belly
  • Non avere pancia (lit: to not have tummy) = to have a flat stomach
  • Mettere su pancia (lit: to put on tummy) = to get fat
  • Buttare giù la pancia (lit: to throw down the tummy) = to lose weight
Woman measuring her tummy and weight
Non ha più la pancia. = She no longer has a tummy.

An expression you’ll hear often if you have a child is Ho mal di pancia! which means I have a tummy ache!

Ho mal di pancia! Posso rimanere a casa oggi?

I have a tummy ache! Can I stay at home today?


As you might have guessed, pancia often appears in expressions to do with eating. Below are a few popular ones you might encounter in conversation:

  • avere la pancia piena / vuota = to have a full / empty stomach
  • la pancia mi brontola dalla fame = my stomach is grumbling from hunger
  • mangiare a crepapancia = to eat excessively
  • pensare solo alla pancia = to think only of one’s stomach
  • salvare la pancia per i fichi = to eat very little at the start of a meal to save room for dessert

Two expressions with pancia that mean to laze around or to be idle are:

  • grattarsi la pancia (lit: to scratch one’s tummy)
  • starsene con la pancia all’aria (lit: to be flat on one’s back)

In a figurative sense, pancia can also be used to describe the convex, rounded or protruding part of an object, such as the puffed up sail of a boat or the closed rounded part of a letter of the alphabet. It is from this sense of the word that we get the expression fare pancia which refers to surfaces that bulge or deform.


Other idioms featuring ‘pancia’

Predicare il digiuno a pancia piena

Literal translation: to preach fasting on a full stomach
English meaning: to demand sacrifices from others without sacrificing yourself


Tenersi la pancia dalle risate

Literal translation: to hold one’s tummy from laughter
English meaning: to laugh out loud


Danza per la Panza

Danza per la Panza (Dance for the Belly) is one of the most popular children’s songs in Italy. Watch the video below to learn all the dance moves!

Mi sono iscritto a danza,
l’ho fatto per la panza,
la trippa era un po’ troppa,
a volte il troppo stroppia
sì l’ho fatto per la panza!

Avevo troppa panza,
mi sono iscritto a danza,
mi sono appassionato,
e questo è il risultato,
dai v’insegno un po’ di mosse
così ci divertiamo
e poi magari
vi cala la panza anche a voi…

Il giro della trottola, il salto del canguro,
il volo dell’allodola, le mani contro il muro,
il passo del cammello, il gambero che rema,
il topo è pazzerello e l’elefante trema…

Mi sono iscritto a danza,
l’ho fatto per la panza,
la trippa era un po’ troppa,
a volte il troppo stroppia
sì l’ho fatto per la panza!

Avevo troppa panza,
mi sono iscritto a danza,
mi sono appassionato,
e questo è il risultato,
dai v’insegno un po’ di mosse
che movimento ragazzi,
e che dite, cicala*, no dico,
ci cala la panza?

Il giro della trottola, il salto del canguro,
il volo dell’allodola, le mani contro il muro,
il passo del cammello, il gambero che rema,
il topo è pazzerello e l’elefante trema…

I signed up for dance,
I did it for my belly,
I had too much belly fat,
sometimes you can have too much of a good thing
yes I did it for my belly!

My belly was too big,
I signed up for dance,
I got hooked,
and this is the result,
come on I’ll teach you some moves
so we’ll have fun
and then maybe
you’ll get rid of your belly too…

The spin of the top, the jump of the kangaroo,
the flight of the lark, hands against the wall,
the step of the camel, the rowing shrimp,
the mouse is crazy and the elephant trembles…

I signed up for dance,
I did it for my belly,
I had too much belly fat,
sometimes you can have too much of a good thing
yes I did it for my belly!

My belly was too big,
I signed up for dance,
I got hooked,
and this is the result,
come on I’ll teach you some moves
what a movement guys,
and what do you say, cicada*, no what I mean is, are we losing our tummy fat?

The spin of the top, the jump of the kangaroo,
the flight of the lark, hands against the wall,
the step of the camel, the rowing shrimp,
the mouse is crazy and the elephant trembles…

*The word cicala, which is a kind of insect, is a play on words because it sounds like ci cala (we drop / decrease).

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