How to swear in Italian
The Italian language has a wide repertory of swear words or parolacce. They’re used in everyday conversations, especially the milder bad words.
If you ever had a conversation with an Italian in a bar, you certainly know that these expressions are as common as ciao and grazie.
Italian swear words are a form of literature and the Italians take great pride in their swearing.
In traffic, within families, in lovers’ quarrels… It’s how they show affection!
In this post, you’ll learn a lot of swear words that you can use to vent your anger or frustration and plenty of ways to insult someone in Italian. You should definitely avoid using these insults (yeah…), but it’s always good to be prepared just in case someone screams one of them at you.
Let’s explore the true beauty of Italian hysterics and the wicked humor of their swearing.
Italian profanity, beautiful
The Italian language is a language with a large set of inflammatory terms and phrases, almost all of which originate from the several dialects and languages of Italy, such as the Tuscan dialect, which had a very strong influence in modern standard Italian.
Several of these words have cognates in other Romance languages, such as Portuguese, Spanish, Romanian and French.
Profanities differ from region to region, but a number of them are diffused enough to be more closely associated to the Italian language and featured in all the more popular Italian dictionaries.
Learn Italian phrases and expressions with swear words
Did you know that among the various dialects there must be three hundred or more names for the male and female genitalia?
My favorite expressions are the ones that blaspheme using the emphatic name of the pig or swine for starters. Porca madonna, porca miseria, porca puttana are the most common and are straightforward. There is also porca eva, still blaming Eve for original sin, porca troia, much like porca puttana, and porcata, something you don’t want to hear, see, or do.
People who use these expressions come from all walks of life and represent both genders.
Is it ok to swear in Italian?
The biggest difference between the Italian and American cultures in this regard is that Italians don’t often take these expressions personally. The fact is that “Vaffanculo” is such a common expression in Italy today that it can also be said jokingly between friends and will ten times out of ten get a laugh. “Che cazzo dici?” (what the hell are you saying? — “cazzo” actually means penis) is another.
Sure, there are cutesy euphemisms like “cavolo” – which means cabbage, instead of “cazzo”. However, substitute words attract no less attention than the bolder ones do. Using the right curse word in the perfect moment is pretty much the same as having told a hilarious joke.
People love it to make a “bella figura” (a good show), which is not the same as making a good impression. A gratifying gesture is more important than good behavior.
Passion and humor are at the core of Italian society and, if those things might be considered irresponsible at times, Italians can always repent with a few Hail Marys and start again.
Parolacce (dirty words) are part of the Italian people everyday vocabulary. They are used by students, housewives, actors, blue and white collars to express feelings and emotions. And by politicians too.
Swearing in Italian politics
Swear words in Italian are compelling forms of personal expression that everyone uses in often humorous and very human contexts.
Even politicians like Berlusconi freely expound profane language as a way of appearing more like everyday folk and less like aloof VIPs. In his case, it’s yet another form of propaganda for attracting voters. During a political speech in 2006 he was quoted for saying he has too much esteem for Italians to think they would be coglioni (assholes, or literally balls) and vote against their own interests. Sure, Berlusconi is crude, but his supporters like it. They see him as a man who tells it like it is.
Take the famous Vaffanculo Day (V-day for short) held in Bologna’s Piazza Maggiore in 2007 and led by stand-up comedian and political activist Beppe Grillo. The event united hundreds of thousands of fed-up Italian voters who are tired of hosting a self-indulgent and lethargic government largely populated by criminals and money launderers linked to the mob. Vaffanculo basically means “go screw yourself”.
The parolacce, or curse words, that Grillo uses are no different from what the average Italian would use while driving in traffic or while shopping at the supermarket. “Better curses than hypocrisy,” some would say. It’s more important to speak the truth in whatever idiom than to worry about the appropriateness of it all.
10 Frequent swear words to survive in Italy
1. Andare a puttane
Literally “to go whoring”. It means that something goes bad or fails. It could be a project, a deal, or your life. Here’s an example:
Va tutto male: famiglia, lavoro… la mia vita sta andando a puttane.
2. Che culo!
Culo means “ass, butt”. In the past, having a large waist meant that you were well nourished and that was enough to be considered lucky. Now, it just a sign of luck. For example:
Martina ha vinto alla lotteria. Che culo!
3. Non capire un cazzo
Cazzo means “dick”. In negative sentences, it’s like “a fuck” or as in “I don’t give a fuck”. It’s often used with the verbs capire, fare or avere (to understand, to do, to have). Here’s a sentence:
Ma stai zitto! Non capisci un cazzo di politica.
4. Con le palle
Palle or coglioni is the slang for testicles. Some “with balls” is brave and has a strong character.
Mi piacciono gli uomini con le palle: forti, decisi, coraggiosi.
5. Averne le palle piene
This is the same word as sentence 4. Having your balls “full” of something means that you’re fed up and can’t take it anymore. Amusingly enough, this expression is also used by women.
Sono stufo di questo lavoro. Ne ho le palle piene!
6. Stare sui coglioni
Yes, the same word again! If someone or something stands on your testicles, you have a strong antipathy for it. This expression too can be used by women.
Abbiamo un capo antipatico che sta sui coglioni a tutti.
7. Girare i coglioni
Balls, again! When they’re turning, it means that you’re angry and nervous, in a bad mood.
Quando parla quel politico mi girano i coglioni.
8. Leccare il culo
You lick someone’s ass if you praise them shamelessly hoping for personal profit, like a promotion from a boss, or good marks from a teacher.
Quello lecca il culo al professore per avere buoni voti.
9. Togliersi dai coglioni
I promise that this is the last expression with testicles. If someone or something is getting in your way, you want them to get away from your balls. Indeed, I don’t want anything on my balls.
Se quella macchina si toglie dai coglioni parcheggiamo.
10. Fare cagare
Cagare means “to shit”. If something makes you shit, it sucks. Anything that sucks makes you shit. It could be a room, a drawing, or a pair of shoes.
L’albergo era vecchio e sporco. Faceva proprio cagare!
Free audio lesson to practice Italian swear words
Even if you understand these expressions by reading, you need to speak to actually learn them.
What’s more, you need to speak with people to know how to use them.
If you’re alone or don’t feel like insulting people randomly, this audio lesson is the closest possible to practice in real life.
Here’s a free preview:
If you like it, download the full lesson below and start swearing in Italian today!
If you want more audio lessons for free, check out the preview of the first 10 lessons of “Ripeti con me!”
30 sentences with Italian swear words + audio
Are you tired of repeating boring textbook sentences?
Here’s a special lesson about Italian swear words!
- 30 sentences packed with expressions that the Italians really use
- Read by a native speaker with a natural accent
- With a booklet to look up the words you missed
- For intermediate level (B1)
Tip: to retain more vocabulary, take the lesson again after a night of sleep.
Once you see how well it works, move on to the full Italian audio course!
This package includes:
- 30 sentences
- 3 audio files for each lesson
- PDF booklet with the sentence script
- Instructions to use the course correctly
Audio lesson price: only €1.98 ($2.16)