Learning Italian –
Common Italian Words
The Roman dialect, known in Italy as Romanesco, is quite easy to spot, as it presents a wide variety of expressions and pronunciation peculiarities that make it unique. If you spend some time in Italy, you will be able to distinguish a Roman speaker from a Milanese one; it’s guaranteed.
This guide will explain some common dialectal expressions, with examples in Romanesco.
The Roman dialect is very colorful and evocative, and contains many interesting and funny-sounding expressions, that someone who lives outside of Rome may not understand. You will notice that Romanesco
is written differently from standard Italian.
· Ahò [a’o:] – this is a peculiar interjection similar to “Hey”and can be used to call attention and in a variety of different situations, as its meaning can be suggested by the intonation used.
· Ammazza! [a’m:atz:a] – it expresses several emotions.
Ammazza quanto sei bella! (“Oh my goodness, you’re so beautiful!”)
A. Nun te presto sordi n’artra vorta. (“I will not lend you money again.”)
B. Ammazza… (“Aw, come on…”)
A. M’ha regalato n’anello de diamanti pe’ ‘r compleanno mio! (“He gave me a diamond ring for my birthday!”)
B. Ammazza! (“Wow!”)
· Ma che davero? [ ma’k:e da’vero] – “really?” it expresses disbelief and surprise.
A. Maria m’ha mollato. (“Maria dumped me!”)
B. Ma che davero?! (“Really? I can’t believe it!”)
· No, pe’ finta. [no pe’f:inta] – “no, it’s a joke/we are pretending.” It is a sarcastic answer to “Ma che davero?”
- Me so’ rotto er braccio! (“I broke my arm!”)
- Ma che davero? (“What? Really?”)
- No, pe’ finta. (“No, it’s a joke – of course it is for real!”)
· Avoja! [a’voja] – it comes from Italian “hai voglia” and means:
- “Sure,” as in this conversation:
- Te piace er cioccolato? (“Do you like chocolate?”)
- Avoja! (“I like it a lot!”)
- “A lot of…” as in:
- C’è ancora bira in frigo? (“Is there still beer in the fridge?”)
- Avoja! (“There is a lot of beer in the fridge!”)
· Sòla [‘sɔla] – to be a sòla means to be the one who disappoints, the one who does not keep a promise. For example, your Roman friend invited you to get a drink with some friends. You promised him to go, but then you just stayed at home. The following day, he may tell you “Che sòla che sei!”
· Bella! [‘bel:a] – it is used by Romans to greet each other, an alternative to ciao, buongiorno, etc.
- Bella Marco!
- Oh, bella! Come stai?
· Come te butta? [‘kome te’b:ut:a] – It can follow the greeting “Bella!” as it means “how’s it going?”
· Anvedi! [am’vedi] – literally “look at that!” It is used to express surprise or awe for having seen something very interesting or impressive.
- Anvedi che machina! (“Look at that car!”)
- Ammazza! (“Wow!”)
· Rosicare [rosi’kare] – this verb means to be sorry, nervous, sad, and disappointed for a missed opportunity, a defeat, and so on. One can also use rosicare in reaction to something someone did or said.
- Hai visto Marco? Ancora rosica pe’ ‘a partita. (“Have you seen Marco? He’s still down because of the match.”)
- Ahò, hanno perso quattro a uno! Te credo che rosica. (“Hey, they’ve lost 4 to 1! Of course he’s down.”)
· Steccare [ste’k:are] – this verb has two basic meanings.
- Divide something in two parts and give a share of it to each person.
- C’ho fame! (“I’m hungry!”)
- Ce steccamo ‘n panino? (“Would you like to divide a sandwich with me?”)
- To fail an exam or to pass to the next school year.
A: Com’è andato l’esame? (“How was your exam?”)
B: M’ha steccato… (“I failed…”)
· Gianna [‘dZan:a] – It is a feminine name, often diminutive of Giovanna. But in Rome, it also means “cold weather.”
- Ammazza che gianna oggi! (“Woah, today it’s really cold!”)
- Tira una gianna! (“It’s so cold!”)
· Che tajo! [ke’t:ajo] - this expression is used to comment on something amusing, like a funny story. Tajo can also be used as an adjective, referring to likeable and witty people.
A. (tells a funny joke)
B. Ah ah ah, che tajo!
- Anna è ‘n tajo! Me fa troppo ride. (“Anna is so much fun; she makes me laugh hard.”)
· Da paura [da pa’ura] – it is used as an adjective or as an exclamation. It could be translated with “awesome” or “cool”.
Sto vestito è da paura. (“This dress is really cool.”)
A. Com’era er film? (“How was the movie?”)
B. Da paura! (“Awesome!”)
· Bono/a [‘bɔno/a] – it means “good” if referred to food, but it also means “beautiful” when referred to people. So if a Roman addresses you with the typical expression A’ bono/a! , it is a compliment—maybe not a really polished one, but still it’s a compliment.
A. Oddio guarda quello…
- ‘Sta pizza è proprio bona. (“This pizza is really good.”)
(“Oh my God, look at that guy!”)
B. Quant’è bono!
(“He’s quite handsome!”)
· Sta’ sotto a ‘n treno [sta ‘sot:an’treno] – it literally means “to be under a train.” Of course, it is a very bad place to be, so if somebody says so, it means (s)he feels really bad, either because of an illness or because of deep sorrow.
- A. Laura sta sotto a ‘n treno, su’ nonno è morto ieri. (“Laura is really sad; her grandpa died yesterday.”)
B. Me dispiace! (“I’m sorry!”)
· ‘Na cifra [na ‘Sifra] – it means “a lot,” as in the following examples:
- Me piace ‘na cifra. (“I like it a lot. / I really like it.”)
- Ce stava ‘na cifra de’ggente (“The place was crowded.” Literally, “there were a lot of people.”)
· Bussà coi piedi [bu’s:a ‘coi pjedi] – “to use the feet to knock at the door.” It is an expression describing what a good guest does—bring a gift when visiting someone. It is usually something to eat all together.
· (Chiudi ‘a porta che) nun stamo ar Colosseo [‘kjudi ‘a ‘pɔrta ‘ke nun ‘stamo arkolo’s:eo] – “close the door; we are not at the Coliseum.” It can be a valid alternative to the sarcastic Ma che, abiti ar Colosseo? [ma’k:e ‘ab:iti arkolo’s:eo] (“Do you live in the Coliseum?”). The Coliseum has just open arches and no doors, so this expression is used to invite someone who left the door wide open to close it, so as to avoid a windy “Coliseum-effect.”
· Avecce ‘a coda de paja [a’vec:e a ‘koda de‘paja] – literally, “to have a straw tail” which quickly catches fire. It is used to describe someone touchy, who reacts very quickly to an accusation made to somebody else, or to a comment about someone else, as if it were intended to be against him or her, usually because he or she has something to hide.
- A. Occhio quando c’è in giro Anna, c’ha ‘na coda de paja… (“Beware when Anna’s around; she’s quite touchy…”)
- B. Ah davero? Allora me sto zitto! (“Oh really? I’ll just shut up then!”)
- A. Ahò, s’è rotto er vaso! (“Hey, the vase is broken!”)
- B. Nun so’ stato io! (“It wasn’t me!”)
- C. E chi t’ha detto gnente? Che, c’hai la coda de paja? (“Who said you anything? Do you have a straw tail?”)
Rebukes and Insults
When Romans insult each other, it is often in a very sarcastic and complicated way. Wanting to avoid the most vulgar and harsh terms, here are some Roman expressions.
· Nun te stai a regolà [‘Nunte ‘stai a rego’la] – it is used to scold somebody who is not behaving properly. It literally means “you are not controlling yourself.”
· Sei n’ accollo [‘sei na’k:ɔl:o] – it means “you are a boring and unpleasant person,” a burden.
· A’ burino! [ab:u’rino] – “A’” is a vocative. A burino is one who comes from the countryside, and is thus believed to be the epitome of a very rude and almost primitive person.
· Datte all’ippica! [‘dat:e a’l:ip:ika] – it is an invitation to get occupied with horseracing, said to somebody who is not very good at something. It is the equivalent of “go take up knitting!”
· Te do ‘na pizza [te ‘do na’pits:a] – “I will slap you.” It is a threat to someone bothering you.
· Ma vammoriammazzato! [ma’v:am:o’riam:a’tz:ato] – literally, “go die killed.” The phrasal accent of this exclamation goes on “va.”The short form moriammazzato can also be used as an adjective.
· Te pijasse ‘n corpo! [te ‘pias:en’korpo] – literally, “may you have a stroke.” Curiously, it is sometimes used not as a bad wish, but as a friendly way to express admiration.
· ‘Tacci tua [‘tatS:i ‘tua] – the whole expression would be Li mortacci tua [limor’tatS:i ’tua], which refers to the deceased family members of the person insulted, as “mortacci” bears a pejorative undertone. Oddly, such an expression is sometimes used among friends in a benevolent way, to express affection and admiration.