Italian Word of the Day: Gonfio (inflated / swollen)

When describing something that has exceeded its normal dimensions, Italians often use the adjective gonfio (feminine: gonfia, plural: gonfi / gonfie), which is the past participle of the verb gonfiare (to inflate).


/gón·fio/ – [ˈgonfjo]
italian word gonfio

First and foremost, you can use it to describe something filled with air, in which case we’d generally use the adjective inflated in English. For example, an inflated balloon would be un palloncino gonfio whereas an inflated tyre would be uno pneumatico gonfio.

Il pallone è gonfio? Bene, allora giochiamo!

Is the ball inflated? Good, then let’s play!

Young woman standing on roof, holding helium balloons
Questi palloncini sono ancora belli gonfi dopo tre giorni. = These balloons still full of air after three days.

If you’ve indulged in a particularly hearty meal and find yourself feeling full, with either air or food, gonfio is the perfect word to describe the sensation. In this case, you will often hear the expression sentirsi gonfio (to feel bloated).

Ah, mamma mia, come mi sento gonfio. Ho mangiato davvero troppo!

Oh boy, I feel so bloated. I ate way too much!

Sick gray-haired businessman poisoned, boss holding stomach, having severe stomach pain mature man working in modern office using laptop.
Ha lo stomaco gonfio. = He has a bloated stomach.

Gonfio is also used to describe body parts that appear swollen or puffy, such as gli occhi gonfi (puffy eyes) or una caviglia gonfia (a swollen ankle).

Hai il piede gonfio. Ti fa male?

Your foot is swollen. Does it hurt?

A less common expression is gonfio di… (full of… / overcome with…), which is used to describe strong emotional states. It often appears in the company of nouns such as superbia (pride), gioia (joy), collera (anger), presunzione (arrogance), ira (rage) or dolore (pain) to name a few.

Luigi aveva il cuore gonfio di gioia perché era riuscito a coronare il suo sogno.

Luigi’s heart was full of joy because he had achieved his dream.

Some other things that can be considered gonfio include overflowing rivers (fiumi gonfi), full wallet (portafoglio gonfio), bulging bags (borse gonfie), puffy hair (capelli gonfi) and even pregnant women!

A common idiom in Italian that features gonfio is andare a gonfie vele, which literally means “to go with full sails“. In English, the equivalent idiom would be “to go swimmingly“.

Il lavoro sta andando a gonfie vele.

The job is going swimmingly.

But what about the opposite of gonfio? You can create this adjective simply by adding an s- to the beginning of the word: sgonfio. As you can imagine, it means deflated, flat, or without swelling.

Il palloncino è tutto sgonfio, buttiamolo via.

The balloon is completely deflated, let’s throw it away.

Close up of deflated soccer ball
Un pallone da calcio sgonfio = A deflated soccer ball

Ethics statement: Below you will find affiliate links. If you buy something after clicking the link, we will receive a small commission. To know more about our ethics, you can visit our full disclosure page. Thank you!

Lingopie (affiliate link) is the Netflix of language learning application that uses real TV shows and movies to help you learn a new language. You can choose a show to watch based on your fluency level, and use the interactive subtitles to get instant translations to help you learn quickly.

Are you interested in improving your Italian in a fun and stress-free manner? Then we highly recommend Serena Capilli's short stories in Italian (affiliate link), designed for beginners, advanced beginners, and lower intermediate learners (A1-B1 CEFR). These stories have been optimised for English speakers in search of a fun, laid-back learning experience! Read our full review here.

Leave a Comment