7 Funny Italian Words

Are you learning Italian? Would you like to add some vocabulary belonging to the sphere of everyday life and not usually taught in class? Go on reading this post, you find some quirky and funny words 😉


For the May’s edition of the Dolcevitabloggers’ Linkup, Jasmine, Kristie and Kelly asked us to write about our 5 favourite Italian words. Again, I choose to kill two birds with one stone and I combine this entry with the one related to the Italian vocabulary I published on Instagram for “12 Weeks in Italy”. Being formerly a weekly challenge, the words I will list here will be seven and not five, but I wish the ladies will forgive this breach ;P Also, I have decided to stop pasting the Instagram entries directly, as the captions are too confusing to read due to the large amount of hashtags. So I will upload the pictures I shared on Instagram and copy the captions as plain text below.


Fantasmini - Peds“Fantasmini”, literally “little ghosts”.  They are very short socks that you don’t see once you wear the shoes. Hence, the ghost reference.

I find the word “fantasmini” quirky, and even quite effective to indicate a pair of “peds” or “no-show socks”, as I was informed by other users they are called in English.



Bugiardino” is the colloquial name for “foglietto illustrativo”, which is the information leaflet you find inside the packages of the medications. The funny thing is that bugiardino literally means “little liar” and that’s not reassuring at all! According to “Accademia della Crusca”, doctors started to name it this way, to underline the fact that, at the time, these leaflets were too focused on the beneficial effects of the medicines, without mentioning all their possible side effects. Nowadays I feel it’s quite the contrary…if you read those leaflets, you end up not taking the medicines at all because of the huge amount of listed scary side effects!

Have you ever bought Italian medicines and try to put back in the box the bugiardino? It’s an impossible task! They’re so huge you can hung them on a wall like a poster.



” Ammazzacaffè ” literally means “coffee-killer”  and it’s the liqueur usually drunk after the coffee in order “to kill” ( or, to say it better, “dull”) its strong taste. Yes, Italians murder coffee!!


 Civetteria - Coquetry “Civetteria” literally means “the ability/tendency of being a owl”  and it is translated in English as “coquetry” . Since the owl is said to be able to attract the preys pretending to be flirting with them, it’s used as a metaphor to indicate a coquette/vixen. Other derivative expressions are “fare la civetta” and “civettare”.

In Italian we use quite a few words which derive from animals and their behaviour, and I have to say I am quite frustrated by the fact that in English there seems no to be a difference between civetta and gufo, both translated as “owl” (tell me if I’m wrong). Other than being different animals, they are linked to different beliefs and mythologies in our country and from them derive the verbs “civettare”, as I said before, and “gufare”, which have two completely different meanings.


Cagnara - Commotion

“Cagnara” refers to a gathering of barking dogs, not something you’d enjoy because of the noise! The term “cagnara” is used to indicate a dim, a commotion caused by people and it’s a quite a common word since in Italy we tend to be very loud!

While in elementary school, I remember our teacher shouting “Basta con questa cagnara!”, when we broke loose during the break. Quite a useful word, cagnara, when around Italian children!


Beccuccio - Spout  “Beccuccio” is the translation of spout. You can find the formal version “erogatore”, but the colloquial name is, indeed, beccuccio, which literally means “small beak”.


Rossetto - Lipstick “Rossetto” is lipstick in English. While in English the term refers to a stick which content is to be applied on the lips, the Italian word focuses on the colour of the product. The etymology of the word is indeed “quite red”, as, at first, the lipsticks were basically all red.

These are my Italian quirky words, I hope you enjoy learning them! I think it’s interesting the fact that many of these words sounds both quirky and cute, because of the use of –etto,ino, –uccio, some of the Italian modifying suffixes that allow to indicate the “quality” of a certain something and even to create terms of endearnment.

Thanks for reading and remember to check the other words suggested by my fellow Dolcevitabloggers by clicking the badge below.

A presto!


29 thoughts on “7 Funny Italian Words

  1. Glad you had this post, because I remember seeing the wonderful word “fantasmini” on your Instagram a couple of months ago and I had already forgotten it!
    As to whether we have another word for owl in English, I only know “owl” and then there are different types of owl, but I grew up in the suburbs of NYC. I wonder if people more in touch with nature use other words. I often find myself scratching my head at the male and female words for farm animals. In English, I might vaguely be acquainted with terms that I’ve read in books, but I don’t think I paid much attention. I remember once in Germany in a cafeteria. I saw what looked like chicken, so I asked for the Hünchen. The lady shook her head. We don’t have any. I asked again. She shook her head. I walked away, tried to compose myself and asked again and finally pointed to it and yelled, “Was ist das?” And she calmly replied, “Hähnchen.” Well, it never crossed my mind that there was even such a thing as a male bird on a plate. Yes, I know there are hens and roosters, but when we cook them up, they’re all chicken. Well, my example was in another language, but that’s the way I feel when I come across details like civetta and gufo. In English, as far as I know, they’re both “owl,” and I’d translate “civetta” in the secondary meaning as “coquette.”


  2. mammaprada

    Oh these are brilliant Sara, there are so many I don’t know. Unfortunately I have had the displeasure of trying to get the bugiardino back into the packet. I think it’s due to having children and them always catching something. Like you say you wouldn’t take the medicine if you read the instructions!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. My late grandma, who was still very present with her mind despite being in her 90s, used to read the whole bugiardini then saying she didn’t want to take the medicines, because she was experiencing some (minor) side effects. We had to hide all the bugiardini in her house, lol.


  3. These were fun words Sara! Just yesterday my fantasmini were slipping down in my shoes (most annoying feeling ever ahaha)! But now I’ll never forget that word 😀 I also love knowing the cultural & historical contexts behind these words!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. First of all I have to say – LOVE THE NEW BLOG NAME! Sorry I’ve been meaning to let you know on Instagram but kept getting side-tracked. I love all your words Sara, I felt like we really needed an Italian in this because you’ve managed to give us some really unique words. We’re a bit predictable in our choices as learners of Italian, at least in my opinion! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Grazie Jasmine! I should not have problems with the leather porn now, haha!

      Well, I think it’s normal, there are quite a few people who are just studying and don’t regularly use Italian in their daily life! But i got the opportunity to understand where all the fascination with “allora” comes from!


    1. That’s because he is a man and fell into the trap! A woman acting like a civetta flirts to flatter her ego without the man even realizing it, ihih! (Just joking about Amore of course, but the bit about the sneaky play is totally the point of civetteria).

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I enjoyed learning new words from you today! Now I know that slipper socks are called “Fantasmini”! I did notice that there a lot of animal references in the Italian language to describe physical appearances and actions.

    Liked by 1 person

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