Tag Archives: idioms

A Funny Way With Words


As in all languages, Italian has some pretty funny way with words – idioms that are difficult to understand unless you have a pretty good command of the language! I was even stumped once with an American idiom -probably because I grew up in an Italian house and, unless I heard them at school or in a social setting, I wouldn’t have ever been exposed to them. The one that got me was “bake a file in a cake“….am I the only one that has never heard that one?


I wanted to share some quirky Italian idioms and try to explain their meaning.

1. “Avere le braccia corte” – having short arms!


This is used when someone is stingy and never offers to pay for anything!

2. “Hai volute la bicicletta…adesso pedala!” – you wanted a bicycle, now pedal it.


Kind of like “you made your bed – now sleep in it!”.

3. “Quando il fieno e vicono al fuoco, bruccia” – when hay is near fire, it will burn!


In other words, when a girl and a boy are close, sparks will fly!

4. “Hai capito Roma per toma” – you understood “roma” for “toma. As far as I know, there isn’t a translation for “toma” – it just rhymes with “roma”. It’s used when someone misunderstands something.

5. “Le piu grand l’uch del buch” – this is Lombardian dialect which translated means “the eye is bigger than the hole“. My grandmother used to tell me this every time I took down a lot of food on my plate and then left half of it uneaten. My eyes were bigger than my stomach.


Do you have any others to add? I think these are always so funny and descriptive!


Sayings and things….


Italian, like any other language, has some pretty interesting sayings to explain many of life’s experiences.  Recently, my husband found a book which listed some of these.   Most of these sayings were new to me, but some were familiar because I remember my parents saying them. What’s interesting to realize is that different parts of Italy have their own sayings or ones that they use frequently – I guess much like our American versus British versus Australian sayings – each one has little quips that are particular to their own region! 

Here were some of my favorites:

1.  Le bugie hanno le gambe corte = lies have short legs! (I used to get this all the time when I was a little girl!!)

2.  Occio il tram = watch out for the tram = watch out!  (this is Lombardian dialect and who knows if I spelled it correctly!!!)  I used to get this all the time, too!

3.  Un caval donato non si guarda in boca = don’t look a gift horse in the mouth!

4.  Il contadino non puo sapere quant’e buono il formaggio con le pere = Don’t let the peasant know how good cheese is with pears!  I don’t really get this one, but I hear it alot.  Why can’t the peasant know?  Perhaps then he would keep it all to himself?

5.  Can che abbaia non morde = the dog that barks does not bite!

6.  A tavola non s’invecchia = you don’t get old at the table! 

7.  Amici e vini sono meglio vecchi = Friends and wine are better old!

There are lots more, and as they come to me, I will post some more 🙂  But in the meantime, if you hear any of these, you will know what they mean. 

Forewarned is forearmed….hmmm, I wonder how they say that one in Italian?