Colorful Italian Curses and Rude Gestures

Using foul language may not be considered part of Italian culture in the same way as opera, vini pregiati (fine wines), or Renaissance art. Still, cursing is an everyday part of the Italian language. Through the art of Italian vulgarity, you can express saltier sentiments without shocking innocent ears. 

Single-Word Swears

Start simple with Italian curses by learning these single-word swears. For the sake of propriety, we’ve left out a few key vowels in some of the English equivalents.

Although in some Italian-speaking areas, curses are commonly used in front of children or older family members, the vulgarity levels listed here reflect what might be appropriate in casual adult conversations.

Use your best judgment to avoid offending people on the grounds of irreverence, sexual insensitivity, or references to violence. If you’re around “polite company” – including children, in-laws, most co-workers, clergy, or your elders – it’s best just to practice these in your head.


English Equivalent

Literal Meaning

Vulgarity Level


dang / wow / good gracious / dammit!



stronzo / stronza

bastard / b*tch

a piece of excrement



nuisance / bother / pain in the butt

c*ck-smasher / c*ck-wrecker [scassare (to smash, to wreck) + cazzo (vulgar for “penis”)



Pain in the ass; ball-breaker; nut-buster

You’re breaking (my) balls [from rompere, to break/smash/break off]







hell, f*uck




(I’m) p*ssed off / f*cking angry / streamed

in the d*ck





Go f*ck yourself!

go do it in the ass






Cagare, Cacarella, and Stronzo

The act of defecating and its results make up a whole category of Italian cusswords.

Cacare / cagare – to sh*t

Cacarella literally means “loose stool” or “diarrhea,” and figuratively refers to fear.

Mi ha fatto venire la cacarella. – He / She scared the sh*t out of me.

Queste penne all’arrabbiata erano tanto piccanti che mi hanno fatto venire la cacarella. – This penne all'arrabbiata  was so spicy that it gave me the runs.

Although stronzo means a literal piece of excrement, it’s often used to say “jerk,” “bastard,” or “asshole.” If you want to specifically say “b*tch,” you would use the feminine variant of stronza.

Culo, Cazzo, and Coglioni

The Italian words for ass, penis, and testicles are involved in numerous insults and vulgarities.


Vaffanculo – f*ck yourself / take it up the ass

Buco del culo  asshole

Botta di culo (strike or blow in the ass) is a vulgar way of saying colpo di fortuna (stroke of luck). It’s actually a positive expression, although you wouldn’t use it in polite company.


The literal translation for cazzo would be “d*ck” or “c*ck,” but it’s often used to mean “hell” or “f*ck.”

Sei in ritardo, cazzo.  – You’re late, for f*ck’s sake.

Ma, che cazzo dici!? – What the f*ck are you saying?!

Che cazzo vuoi? – What the hell do you want?

Non so chi cazzo credi di essere – I don’t know who the hell you think you are.

A Sicilian version of cazzo is minchia, which comes with a further variation (minchiata)


Italian idioms involving testicles are used to express annoyance and pain.

Some of the most common variations are rompere i coglioni  (to break one’s balls) and girare i coglioni (to turn / to rotate one’s balls).

Essere un coglione literally means “to be a testicle,” but it would translate as “to be a stupid asshole” or “to be a d*ck.”

un coglione presuntuoso – a pretentious, stupid asshole

una gran bella rottura di coglioni – a big pain in the ass [balls]

un povero coglione superficiale – a superficial little pr*ck

Some of these are less vulgar than expressions involving body parts, but they can still be fairly insulting. So, when in doubt, don’t let these out of your mouth!


Aquila is Italian for “eagle.” Depending on your tone of voice and the context of the conversation, it can be considered either a compliment or an insult to tell a friend, Sei propria un’aquila (You’re really an eagle).

It’s similar to the way we’d say in English, “You’re a real rocket scientist” or “You’re a real genius, aren’t you?”


Porco cane  (literally, “pig dog” or “pork dog”) can be used mildly to mean “doggone.” More strongly, it can mean “holy crap” or “God dammit.”

If something is done alla cazzo di cane, it means that it was undertaken in a careless or reckless manner. Literally, though, it means “in the manner of a dog’s d*ck.” So, it’s not an expression you’ll want to use in front of little children – or puppies, for that matter.


In contrast to the proverbial “wise old owl,” the unfocused, wide-eyed stare of the allocco  (tawny owl) characterizes a vapid or confused person.

Guardare come un allocco  (literally, “to watch like a tawny owl”) can mean to gawk at someone or something.


Monkeys seem most likely to break into the Italian liquor cabinet. Ubriaco come una scimmia literally means “drunk like a monkey” in English, and can be used to describe a shameful state of inebriation.


As you might imagine, branding someone a balena (whale) is not going to improve their self-esteem or your relationship. It’s akin to calling someone a “porker.”


And, speaking of our porcine friends, Italian has several pig-based vulgarities.

The reputation of pigs in Italy is not much better than their stereotypes in English-speaking countries. In both languages, pigs seem to exemplify a lack of couth, ambition, and basic grooming.

Porco / porca (pig, pork) is often combined with other animal names for extra sizzle:


English Equivalent

Literal Meaning

Vulgarity Level

Porca miseria!

Bloody hell / Holy crap / G*ddarnit

Extreme pig poverty


Porco cane

For goodness’ sake / For cryin’ out loud / doggonit

Pig dog / Pork dog


Porca vacca

Whoa / Wow / What the heck

Pig cow


Porco zio

Holy cow / oh man

Pig uncle [zio (uncle) is substituted for Dio (God)]


Porca madosca

Holy cow / oh man / oh geez [can express disappointment]

Pig “Madonna” [madosca is a nonsense word that’s substituted for madonna]


Porca puttana

Holy sh*t! / F*cking hell!

Pig whore


Porca troia

F*cking hell! / Whore!

Pig sow


Multi-Word Magic: Full Phrases

Once you’ve gotten the hang of single-word expletives in Italian, you can combine them with everyday vocabulary in context.


English Equivalent

Literal Meaning

Vulgarity Level

dire cazzate

to talk nonsense or bullsh*t

to say something stupid [cazzata derives from cazzo, meaning “d*ck” in English]


una vera cazzata

a load of crap

a truly stupid thing


ha un culo così grande

he / she is a lucky bastard

he / she has such a big ass


hai la faccia come il culo

you have a lot of nerve / balls; you have a face like a slapped ass

your face [looks] like your ass


me ne frego

I don’t give a damn

I don’t give a damn


mi fa cagare

[this / that] scares the sh*t out of me / freaks me out

[this / that] makes me defecate


sei proprio uno stronzo

you’re such an asshole / jerk / jackass / t*rd / d*ck

you’re such a piece of excrement


figlio di puttana

son of a b*tch

son of a slut / prostitute / whore


levati dai coglioni

p*ss off / get the f*ck outta here 

off [my] balls


vai a cagare

f*ck off

go take a sh*t


mangia merde e morte

eat sh*t and die

eat sh*t and die


che cazzo / che minchia

what the f*ck

what d*ck


Bestemmie: Blasphemous Curses

Italy’s strong Catholic tradition has even influenced some of the language’s profanity. Una bestemmia is a blasphemous expression that profanes part of the religious culture. It might involve swearing by Dio (God), Cristo (Christ), or la Madonna (the Virgin Mary).

Many of these bestemmie involve combining the name of a religious figure with a maligned animal or a profane word, such as Dio bestia (God [is a] beast), Gesù cane (Jesus [is a] dog) or Madonna puttana (Our Lady [is a] slut).

Because of their offensiveness in a religious context, these expressions are restricted from use in television. Even people who routinely use parolaccia (vulgar language not involving religious contexts) might think twice before invoking most of these sacrilegious vulgarities. 

Needless to say, there are many substitutions have developed for the raunchier bestemmie, such as porco zio or porco disco (for porco Dio), porca madosca (for porca Madonna), and osteria (for ostia [communion host]). 

Mildly Spicy: Cavolo, Cazzarola, and Other Minced Oaths

Are you looking for alternatives to the truly vulgar? If you’re in polite company while suffering from a bad mood day, here are a few go-to “minced oaths” that you can safely use in front of bambini (children) and nonni (grandparents) alike. 


English Equivalent

Literal Meaning

Vulgarity Level


jeepers; shucks

accipicchia derives from accidenti (mishaps / accidents), which is often used for “damn”



by Jove / by golly

I swear by Bacchus [the ancient Roman god of wine, agriculture, and fertility]



holy cow / goodness me

a small restaurant in a rural area [osteria is used to replace ostia, which refers to the communion host]


alla carlona

half-assed; reckless; poorly done

in a careless manner


che cazzarola 

what the heck

what casserole / saucepan


mi rompi le scatole

you’re getting on my nerves

you’re breaking my boxes


che cavolo 

what the heck!

what cabbage


Non-verbal Italian: Hand Gestures

Even without uttering a word of Italian, you can speak volumes through hand gestures. There are literally dozens of them in daily use, and, while not all of them are considered vulgar, the ones we’ll discuss are intended only for mature audiences.

The Chin Flick

Place the fingertips of one hand under your chin, then flick them outwards. This is a way of saying non me frega niente (I don’t give a sh*t).

Ma va via va

To tell someone to p*ss or f*ck off, extend one of your forearms, and waive it up and down in a chopping motion.

A similar way to say “get lost” is to extend your arm in front and slightly to the side of your face. Keep your other arm loosely hanging by your side. This is similar to a pose an opera singer might strike when hitting a high note.


While sporting a serious expression, point at one occhio (eye) with your index finger. This is a warning to whoever sees it that your ire is raised, and they should watch out!


When it’s time to say basta (enough!), raise your arms to chest level (about six inches below your chin). Then, with your palms facing downward, simultaneously swing your hands toward and then away from each other. You’ll cross your wrists as your arms meet in the middle. Repeat as necessary.

Biting your hand

If you need to warn or threaten someone further, hold your hand palm down. Raise it to your mouth, and then clamp your front teeth gently over the side of your hand.

This is a gesture of Sicilian origin. It roughly means, Si ti pigghiu…! (If I catch you…!).

How to do the horns in Italian language

Fare le corna

“To do the horns” means to ward off an evil or an annoyance by extending your index and pinkie fingers simultaneously. Your other two fingers should be held against your palm with your thumb. 

Italian Curses in Context

To learn how to use these expressions properly, try watching Italian films and television shows with captions. Italian social media can also help you understand how to use profanity appropriately.

With a powerful tool like Lingvist to build your vocabulary, you can prepare for the real-life conversations in which you can practice off-color Italian.

Get more from Lingvist

We have created an app that gets the most out of Lingvist and your device. Download the app and enjoy Lingvist at its best.