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 and is widely known to be based on Florentine language. 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.
List of profanities in the Italian language
- accidenti [attʃiˈdɛnti]: literally accidents, used in the same context of English "damn", either as an exclamation of something gone wrong, or to wish harm (accidents) on someone (ex. "accidenti a lui", which can be translated as "damn him").
- baldracca (pl. baldracche) [balˈdrakka]: whore.
- bastardo (pl. bastardi): bastard.
- bocchino (pl. bocchini) [bokˈkiːno]: blowjob.
- Cagare/"cacare": To shit, to defecate, more rarely not giving a fuck (about someone): "a scuola nessuno mi caga": at school nobody gives a fuck about me. Cognate with Spanish and Portuguese Cagar, ultimately from Latin Cacare.
- Cagata: Bullshit, crap
- Vai a cagare: fuck you, fuck off
- cazzo (pl. cazzi) [ˈkattso]: literally dick, cock, prick. Used in countless expressions to express a variety of emotions like anger, frustration or surprise in a similar way in which "fuck" and "fucking" are used in English.
- cazzo: fuck/shit/hell
- che cazzo: what the hell/fuck
- cazzata: bullshit
- cazzo in culo: cock up your ass;
- testa di cazzo: dick-head
- incazzarsi: to get pissed off; “incazzato nero”: really pissed off;
- coglione (pl. coglioni) [koʎˈʎoːne] a vulgar version of testicle; referred to a person, it usually means idiot, berk, twit, fool. In addition, it can be used on several phrases such as "avere i coglioni" (literally, "to have the balls", that is to be very courageous), "avere i coglioni girati" (literally, "to have twisted testicles") which means to be angry/in a bad mood, or "essere coglione" ("to be a jerk or fool"). Note that when said to a close friend ("ma quanto sei coglione") the word is not really offensive. Sometimes coglione was also featured in worldwide news when used by ex Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi referring to those who would not vote for him during the 2006 Italian election campaign. It derives from Latin coleo (pl. coleones) and is thus cognate to the Spanish cojones and Portuguese colhões.
- cornuto (pl. cornuti) [korˈnuːto]: cuckold, literally "horned" – referring to a male whose female partner is cheating on him. Occasionally it might be coupled with the corna when saying that. In Southern Italy it is considered a rough insult.
- culo (pl. culi) [ˈkuːlo]: rough name for "buttocks", comparable to the English word ass or arse. It can also mean luck, as in "era tutto culo" 'it was all luck'. The popular expression "avere una faccia da culo" ("To have an ass-like face") indicates a cheeky, brazen-faced person. In some regions, "stare sul/in culo" is used as a variant of "stare sul cazzo", both indicating dislike for someone else. It derives from Latin culus. It may also translate as "faggot", see entries below.
- ditalino (pl. ditalini): (lit.: "small thimble") fingering, female masturbation.
- fava: dick; common in Tuscany.
- fica or figa (pl. fiche or fighe) [ˈfiːca] [ˈfiːga]: it means pussy. In past times it was also the name of an obscene gesture called gesto delle fiche. It also means sexy, hot and attractive if referring to a woman. Contrary to popular belief, figa is not necessarily an offensive term. If referring to a guy (figo), it means someone really cool, a stud, someone "who always knows how to get pussy". Figo may also mean someone really skilled in doing something. The term strafiga referred to a woman means "smoking hot". The derived term figata means something cool. A less common synonym, mainly used in Rome and Central Italy, is fregna. 
- finocchio (pl. finocchi) [fiˈnɔkkjo]: (lit.: "fennel") a male homosexual; faggot; poof. A suggestive and very popular hypothesis suggests it may derive from the age of the Holy Inquisition in the Papal State, when fennel seeds would be thrown on homosexuals executed by burning at the stake — in order to mitigate the stench of burned flesh. However, there is no proof that this is the case.
- fottere: to fuck, commonly used in the expression "vai a farti fottere", meaning "go and get fucked" or "go fuck yourself" .
- frocio (pl. froci) [ˈfrɔːtʃo]: roughly equivalent to the American "faggot", this term originated in Rome, but is now widely used nationwide. Less-used synonyms include ricchione (mainly Southern Italy, especially in the Naples area), culattone or culo (mainly in Northern Italy), busone (common in Emilia-Romagna and also a rough synonym for "lucky"), buco or bucaiolo (common in Tuscany) and finocchio (see). The usage of this word in Italian may by some people be considered homophobic and politically incorrect.
- gnocca (pl. gnocche) [ˈɲɔkka]: typical Bolognese version of figa; is mostly conjugated in its feminine form although sometimes can be used in the masculine form. Although very vulgar, it is not offensive, but instead complimentary. Indeed, it is used nationwide to refer to an attractive woman.
- maiala: whore, bitch; common in Tuscany.
- mannaggia [manˈnaddʒa]: a generic expression of frustration, mostly used in Southern Italy, it is not considered particularly vulgar or insulting, it is most often used jokingly; often translated as "damn" in English. Actually, it comes from the contraction of a former utterance, mal ne aggia, which means in Neopolitan dialect "may he/she get mischief out of it". Used also in English books, such as Mario Puzo's The Fortunate Pilgrim.
- merda (pl. merde) [ˈmɛrda]: roughly the same as English word "shit". Cognate to Spanish mierda and French merde.
- smerdare: to shame, to take down a peg or two.
- mignotta (pl. mignotte) [miɲˈɲɔtta]: same meaning of puttana; according to some sources it may be the contraction of the Latin matris ignotae ("of unknown mother"), where the note filius m. ignotae ("son of unknown mother") appeared on the registries referred to abandoned children; other sources derive it from the French mignoter ("to caress") or mignon/mignonne.
- minchia (pl. minchie) [ˈmiŋkja]: the same meaning as cazzo, but notably a feminine name, it originates from Sicilian language; nowadays it is common anywhere in Italy, where it is also used as exclamation of surprise, or even appreciation. It derives from Latin mentula.
- Testa di minchia: Dickhead.
- Minchione: Muggins, simpleton, fool.
- Minchiata: Bullshit, crap.
- Minchia!: Damn!, shit! hell!
- Bimbominkia: Stupid kid, especially referring to internet users.
- mona (pl. mone): dialectic form of "cunt" or "pussy", commonly used in North Eastern Italy, more specifically in Veneto and Friuli-Venezia Giulia.
- alla pecorina / a pecorina: (lit.: "sheep style") doggy-style.
- puttana (pl. puttane) [putˈtaːna]: whore, prostitute.
- porcocane: literally "pig dog", a wide range of rude exclamations.
- pompino (pl. pompini): (lit.: 'small pump') blowjob.
- pompinaro (f. pompinara, pl. pompinari/pompinare): cock-sucker, person prone to perform oral sexual activities. More often used towards women.
- ricchione (pl. ricchioni) [rikˈkjoːne]: faggot.
- sborra (or sborro, sburro, sbora; related verb: sborrare): cum 
- scopare [skoˈpaːre]: to fuck (lit.: to sweep).
- scoreggia (pl. scoregge) [skorˈreddʒa]: fart.
- sega (pl. seghe) [ˈseːga]: wank, handjob. Literally the term could be translated as "saw". The derivative verb is not segare (which only means "to saw"), but fare/[farsi] una sega (get a handjob /[from yourself; to jerk off]).
- spagnola: (lit.: 'Spanish [girl]') titty-fuck.
- sfiga, literally "without pussy", has the meaning of "bad luck". A typical exclamation when something goes wrong in Italy is "che sfiga!" ("What a bad luck!")
- sfigato (pl. sfigati) literally means "without figa", in English "without pussy". It can be translated as "loser", "uncool" person.
- stronzo (pl. stronzi) [ˈstrontso]: literally "turd", but also "arsehole" or "asshole", "bitch", "idiot", "stupid", "sod". It is used as adjective to indicate that somebody is really a bad, cruel, man/woman. It is derived from ancient German strunz ("shit").
- troia (pl. troie) [ˈtrɔːja], (lit.: sow): bitch, slut, slovenly woman or whore.
- vaffanculo [vaffaŋˈkuːlo]: "fuck you!", "fuck off!", "bugger off!". It's a contraction of "va' a fare in culo" (literally "go do (it) in the ass"). "Vattela a pijà 'n der culo" is the Romanesco form for vaffanculo, while in Northern Italy "vai a cagare" (lit. "go to shit") is also used, "vai a dar via il culo" (lit. "go sell your arse") or "fottiti" (go fuck yourself). Famously used by U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia in reference to his critics. In the Neapolitan language it is pronounced "va fangool"; and at times the "va" is omitted, as demonstrated in the film Grease (at the end of the "Sandra Dee" skit, performed by Stockard Channing).
- zoccola (pl. zoccole) [ˈtsɔkkola]: slut, whore; bitch; zoccola also means "sewer rat".
Profanity in literature
Italian writers have often used profanity for the spice it adds to their pages. This is an example from a seventeenth century collection of tales, the Pentamerone, by the Neapolitan Giambattista Basile:
- Ah, zoccaro, frasca, merduso, piscialetto, sauteriello de zimmaro, pettola a culo, chiappo de 'mpiso, mulo canzirro! ente, ca pure le pulece hanno la tosse! va', che te venga cionchia, che mammata ne senta la mala nuova, che non ce vide lo primmo de maggio! Va', che te sia data lanzata catalana o che te sia dato stoccata co na funa, che non se perda lo sango, o che te vangano mille malanne, co l'avanzo e priesa e vento alla vela, che se ne perda la semmenta, guzzo, guitto, figlio de 'ngabellata, mariuolo!
This tirade could be translated like this:
- Ah, good for nothing, feather, full of shit, bedpisser, jack of the harpsichord, shirt on the arse, loop of the hanged, hard-headed mule! Look, now also lice cough loudly! Go, that palsy get you, that your mom get the bad news, that you cannot see the first of May. Go, that a Catalan spear pass through you, that a rope be tied around your neck, so that your blood won't be lost, that one thousand illnesses, and someone more, befall you, coming in full wind; that your name be lost, brigand, penniless, son of a whore, thief.
Francis Ford Coppola had some characters in The Godfather use untranslated profanity. For instance, when Sonny Corleone found out that Paulie Gatto had sold out his father to the Barzinis, he called Gatto "that stronz'". Also when Connie Corleone learned Carlo Rizzi was cheating on her, Carlo snapped: "Hey, vaffancul', eh?". Connie yelled back: "I'll vaffancul' you!".
Profanities in the original meaning of blasphemous profanity are part of the ancient tradition of the comic cults, which laughed and scoffed at the deity. In Europe during the Middle Ages, the most improper and sinful "oaths" were those invoking the body of the Lord and its various parts – as the expression of the dialect of Bergamo pota de Cristo ("Christ's cunt") – and these were precisely the oaths most frequently used.
Nowadays, the most common kind of blasphemous profanity involves the name of God (dio), Christ (cristo), Jesus (Gesú) or the Virgin Mary (madonna) combined with an insult or sometimes an animal, the most used being porco ("pig") as in porco Dio ("God is a pig") or bestia ("beast") as in Dio bestia ("God (is a) beast") or porca Madonna ("the Virgin Mary (is a) pig").
Common blasphemous profanity in Italian are: porco Dio (often written porcodio or also porcoddio), Dio cane (lit. "God (is a) dog"), Dio merda, Dio bestia, Dio maiale, porco Gesù, Gesù cane, Madonna puttana, porco il Cristo,"Madonna slabbrata","Madonna prostitua","Dio legnetto", Dio stronzo, Dio Fauss (or Dio Fa', more colloquially).
In some areas of Italy, such as Veneto, Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Umbria, Marche, Lazio, Abruzzo, Emilia Romagna, Piedmont and Tuscany, blasphemy is more common, but not because of a strong anti-Catholic feeling.
In the Italian language profanities belonging to this category are called bestemmie (singular: bestemmia), in which God, the Virgin Mary, Jesus, the Saints or the Roman Catholic Church are insulted. This category is so strong it is usually frowned upon even by people who would make casual or even regular use of the profanities above.
Bestemmiare ("swearing") is a misdemeanor in Italian law, but the law is seldom enforced. However, it is still considered a strong social taboo at least on television. For example, anyone caught uttering bestemmie in the Italian Big Brother (Grande Fratello) "must be immediately expelled" because they offend "millions of believers". Uttering bestemmie is widely seen as a vice and is often listed together with smoking, drinking and substance abuse.
Until 1999, uttering blasphemies in public was considered a criminal misdemeanor in Italy (although enforcement was all but non-existent), while nowadays it has been downgraded to an administrative misdemeanor. Some local administrations still ban the practice. For example, after the curate complained about the frequency of blasphemous profanity in the parish recreation centre, the comune of Brignano Gera d'Adda banned the practice in the civic centre and in all places of retail business, be it public or private. As of July 2011, the laws in force in Italy identifies as a bestemmia only the profanities related directly to God. Any insult to Mary or the various saints do not actually represent a bestemmia or any violation of existing laws and rules.
- Porco zio, using zio instead of Dio, where zio is Italian for uncle; or orco Dio, where porco is replaced by orco ("ogre"), even though this second one results in a profanity as well. Other similar minced oaths can be created also replacing Dio with a series of existent or meaningless terms like disi, Diaz, due (two), disco, dinci, Dionigi (Dyonisius), Diomede (Diomedes), Diavolo (devil).
- Maremma maiala, using Maremma instead of Madonna (Maremma is a seaside zone of Tuscany and maiala means "sow"). The idiom is widely used in Tuscany, whose origin is attributed to the swamps of Maremma that used to cause malaria and other diseases to the Tuscan population. An expression somewhat similar is Maremma bucaiola (bucaiola means "sodomite").
- Porca madosca, using madosca instead of Madonna, where madosca means nothing and it sounds like a macaronic Russian version of Madonna.
- Dio boria, that is used instead of Dio boia. Boria means "arrogance", boia means "executioner".
Other minced oaths can be created on the fly when people begin to utter one of the above blasphemies, but then choose to "correct" them in real time. The principal example is somebody beginning to say Dio cane (where cane means "dog") and choosing to say instead Dio cantante ("God (is a) singer") or Dio cantautore ("God (is a) songwriter"). Also it is very common to say Dio caro (typically used in Lazio and Umbria), meaning "dear God" or Dio bono (with bono being a contraction of buono, that means "good") or Dio bonino (same meaning, typically used in Tuscany) or Dio bonazzo (same meaning used in Castelfranco Veneto) instead of Dio boia (where boia means "executioner"). A peculiar minced oath created on the fly, especially popular among Italian teenagers, has the form of a rhyme and read as follows: "Dio can...taci il Vangelo, Dio por...taci la pace!" and it means "God, sing to us the Gospel, God bring us peace!".
Cristo! or Cristo santo!, used to express rage and/or disappointment (similar to "Oh my God" or "Holy Christ"), is usually not considered a bestemmia, though it may be assumed to violate the second commandment of not making "wrongful use of the name of the Lord Thy God".
- Cory Crawford. "A Brief History of the Italian Language". Retrieved 15 January 2007.
- Collins Italian-English Dictionary. "English Translation of "accidenti"". Retrieved 26 September 2018.
- "Language Log". Retrieved 28 February 2016.
- Alexis Munier; Emmanuel Tichelli (2008). Talk Dirty Italian: Beyond Cazzo: The curses, slang, and street lingo you need to know when you speak italiano. Adams media. Retrieved 31 March 2016.
- BBC (8 April 2006). "Berlusconi's poll fight ends with a bang". BBC News. Retrieved 16 May 2007.
- BBC. "BBC Languages — Lost in words". Retrieved 9 June 2007.
- "cornuto". WordReference.com. Retrieved 6 July 2017.
- See the corresponding French porter des cornes; deriving from the mating habits of stags, who forfeit their mates when they are defeated by another male.
- University of Pennsylvania. "Language Log". Retrieved 9 June 2007.
- "Dizionario di Inglese". Culattone. Retrieved 16 November 2017.
- "inculare". Retrieved 30 October 2017.
- Peter Silverton (2011). Filthy English: The How, Why, When And What Of Everyday Swearing. Portobello Books. Retrieved 22 April 2016.
- "figo". Collins Italian-English Dictionary. Collins. Retrieved 8 April 2017.
- Alexis Munier, Emmanuel Tichelli (2008). Talk Dirty Italian: Beyond Cazzo: The curses, slang, and street lingo you need to know when you speak italiano. Simon and Schuster. Retrieved 6 July 2017.
- Giovanni Dall'Orto. "G. Dall'Orto: checcabolario (in Italian)".
- Cambridge Dictionary. "Translation of "fottere" — Italian–English dictionary".
- Soffici, Caterina (2014). Italia yes Italia no: Che cosa capisci del nostro paese quando vai a vivere a Londra. Feltrinelli Editore. Retrieved 16 November 2017.
- BBC. "BBC Languages — Cool Italian". Retrieved 9 June 2007.
- University of Vermont. "Language Log". Retrieved 9 June 2007.
- "merda". Retrieved 6 January 2017.
- "On-line dictionary, "smerdare" entry". Corriere della Sera. Retrieved 25 February 2018.
- F. Ravano, Dizionario romanesco, Roma, 1994.
- "Etimologia : mignotta;". etimo.it.
- Speziale-Bagliacca, Roberto (1991). On the Shoulders of Freud: Freud, Lacan, and the Psychoanalysis of Phallic Ideology. ISBN 0-88738-409-9.
- Cinque espressioni del dialetto veneto intraducibili in italiano, article of 16/07/2014 on www.cinquecosebelle.it (31 March 2016).
- Gabrielle Euvino (2012). Dirty Italian: Everyday Slang from "What's Up?" to "F*%# Off!". Ulysses Press. Retrieved 22 April 2016.
- "Andare a puttane". Retrieved 30 October 2017.
- "puttanata". Retrieved 30 October 2017.
- "On-line dictionary, "puttanaio" entry". La Repubblica. Retrieved 25 February 2018.
- "Translation of "puttanaio" in English". Reverso context. Retrieved 25 February 2018.
- "On-line dictionary, "puttaniere" entry". Corriere della Sera. Retrieved 25 February 2018.
- "sputtanare". Retrieved 30 October 2017.
- "pompinaro". Retrieved 6 January 2017.
- "Language Log". Retrieved 28 February 2016.
- "Language Log". Retrieved 28 February 2016.
- "Language Log". Retrieved 28 February 2016.
- Pat Bulhosen; Francesca Logi; Loredana Riu (2013). Compact Oxford Italian Dictionary. OUP. Retrieved 31 March 2016.
- "Fare una sega". context.reverso.net. Retrieved 21 June 2017.
- segaiólo, dizionari.repubblica.it.
- Traduzione di "segone" in inglese, context.reverso.net.
- "be a pipsqueak" traduzione italiano, it.bab.la.
- "sfiga". WordReference. Retrieved 8 April 2017.
- "sfigato". WordReference. Retrieved 8 April 2017.
- "Stronzo". WordReference.
- "troia". Retrieved 6 January 2017.
- "The Nino Scalia Guide to Sicilian Hand Gestures". thenation.com.
- "Language Log". Retrieved 22 February 2013.
- Gianbattista Basile, (1634) Lo cunto de li cunti, also known as The Pentameron. The title can be translated as The Tale of Tales.
- Bakhtin 1941, "Introduction", p. 5–6.
- Bakhtin 1941, chap. 2 "The Language of the Marketplace in Rabelais", p. 188–194.
- "Sindaco di Novara bestemmia durante il consiglio comunale". Quotidiano Piemontese. 29 March 2017. Retrieved 25 April 2017.
- "Grande Fratello, punite le bestemmie. Fuori Pietro, Massimo e Matteo". Il Messaggero (in Italian). 10 January 2011. Retrieved 6 July 2011.
- "Troppe bestemmie all'oratorio. E Brignano mette il divieto" (in Italian). Il Giorno. 11 February 2011. Retrieved 6 July 2011.
- "Bestemmia" (in Italian). UAAR, Unione degli Atei e degli Agnostici Razionalisti. 21 September 2008. Retrieved 28 July 2011.
- Framcesco Merlo. "Anche Dio sa ridere". La Repubblica (11 January 2015). Retrieved 24 April 2017.
- Angelone, Pietro (2014). Di(a)lettando. Piccolo glossario etimologico viterbese con racconti di vita paesana. Edizioni Sette Città. Retrieved 7 January 2017.
- Tartamella, Vito (2016). Parolacce. Rizzoli. Retrieved 7 January 2017.
Bibliography and sources
- Bakhtin, Mikhail. Rabelais and His World . Trans. Hélène Iswolsky. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1993.
- Tartamella, Vito. Parolacce. Perché le diciamo, che cosa significano, quali effetti hanno. BUR, 2006.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Italian profanity.|