Have you ever wondered why foreigners sometimes don’t make sense when they speak? Every language has different ways to express feelings, opinions or just say something. Here are some Italian idioms that, if literally translated from Italian to English, won’t make any sense 🤔

In bocca al lupo. In the wolf’s mouth.

These expression for good luck is well known throughout Italy, but clearly it doesn’t make any sense.  If someone wishes you good luck with “in boca al lupo” you have to answer “crepi il lupo” that means “may the wolf die.” Maybe they came into use because a simple “good luck” (buona fortuna) was too plain and boring and actually it looks like it makes the opposite effect.

Avere le braccine corte. To have short arms

In Italy, cheap people are said to have “short arms,” Too short to reach out for the wallet.

Chi dorme non piglia pesci. Those who sleep don’t catch any fish.

If you don’t try (so you sleep) you miss good opportunity (fish). Very close to the English “You snooze, you lose.”

Hai voluto la bicicletta? E adesso pedala! You wanted the bike? Now you’ve got to ride it!

We say this to someone that refuses to take responsibility for his or her own actions. We use it with lots of sarcasm, especially if we already warned about it. In English you would probably say “you’ve made your bed, now lie in it!”

Senza peli sulla lingua. Without hair on their tongue.

When you ask a friend to be totally honest with you, even if it’s something bad or not nice, you ask them to say it “without hair on their tongue”. An English equivalent would be “without sugar-coating it”.

Tirare il pacco. To throw the package

When you “throw the package,” it means you didn’t show up to a date, a meeting with a friend or you just didn’t do something you promised.

Si chiama Pietro e torna indietro. Its name is Peter and it comes back

When someone wants to borrow something from you, you lend it by saying, “Its name is Peter and it comes back.” In English, this doesn’t make much sense, but it works in Italian because Pietro and indietro rhymes. This saying is so well-known in Italy that people often skip the second part.

Fare le corna a qualcuno. To have the horns put on you

This is an extremely popular saying in Italy. If your girlfriend or boyfriend “puts horns on you,” it means they are cheating on you. In Italy is very common to see drivers sticking their hand out of the car window and show the ‘rocker’ hand sign. Well, they are not been friendly, they are just very mad at someone else, probably a bad driver. In Italy, this is very offensive as you’re basically saying his wife or husband cheated on him/her and he/she has horns on his head. You can use it to offend someone, or just use it casually in conversations.

Come un cavolo a merenda. Like a cabbage for snack

With this statement we want to say that something has nothing do with something else! Also, it can be used to describe something that doesn’t match and it’s totally no right. Who would have a cabbage for snack? Certainly not Italians!!!

This is just a small part of it. Please use the comment box to add more and have some fun together 😊



  1. “la bellezza del somaro” …….perchè appena nato il somaro è più bello del cavallo…… dice alle signore che da giovani erano belle ma da anziane…….!!!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Totò disse: ” l’ammore nun ha tennè penziero ” ……….. in pratica quando si fa l’amore la testa deve essere libera dai pensieri !!!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. ” Ad Maiora ” tradotto ” A cose più grandi ” in pratica quando due amici si salutano per buoni auspici si salutano con questa espressione

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Pingback: Italian expressions and numbers. An unusual and funny combination if you look at the literal translation. | Speak Eat And Love Italia·

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