Skip main navigation

New offer! Get 30% off your first two months of Unlimited. Subscribe for just £35.99 £24.99. New subscribers only. T&Cs apply.

Find out more

8 great Italian idioms

Why do you want a hairless tongue? And why is it a good thing if someone calls you a piece of bread? Now's the time to find out with this post about some great Italian idioms.

illustrations of Italian idioms

in bocca al lupo
In the mouth of the wolf

Used in theatre this is the Italian, and more poetic, equivalent of break a leg. The typical response is ‘crepi il lupo’ meaning ‘may the wolf die’. Poor wolves, they get a bad rap.

FutureLearn Italian Idioms 2 in bocca al lupo

un pezzo di pane
a piece of bread

If someone is un pezzo di pane in Italian you might say they’re a good egg in English.

FutureLearn Italian Idioms 1 a piece of bread

non mi rompere le scatole
don’t break my boxes

If someone’s breaking your boxes, they’re getting on your nerves and you’re telling them to stop annoying you. It’s worth noting this is a variation of a slightly less polite idiom.

FutureLearn Italian Idioms 3 non mi rompere le scatole

prendi lucciole per lanterne
mistaken fireflies for lanterns

If someone has mistake fireflies for lanterns they’ve confused one thing for another. You might say in English that someone’s got the wrong end of the stick.

FutureLearn Italian Idioms 4 prendi lucciole per lanterne

hai voluto la bicicletta
you wanted the bicycle

Or in full: you wanted the bike, now get on and ride it. A more active version of the English ‘you made your bed, now lie in it’ – i.e. you made the choice now live with the consequences.

FutureLearn Italian Idioms 5 hai voluto la bicicletta

qualcosa bolle in pentola
something is boiling in the pot

Best said with tones of suspicion – this means something is brewing, a plot or a plan is underway.

FutureLearn Italian Idioms 6 qualcosa bolle in pentola

non ho peli sulla lingua
I have no hair on my tongue

One of the more unappetising idioms; if you have no hair on your tongue you’re speaking frankly.

FutureLearn Italian Idioms 7 on ho peli sulla lingua

nella botte piccola, c’è il vino buono
in the small cask/barrel, there is good wine

Just like the English ‘good things come in small packages’ only with added wine, which is no bad thing.

FutureLearn Italian Idioms 8 Nella botte piccola, c'è il vino buono.

Ready to discover more of the bellissimo Italian language?
Get started on our Italian for Beginners program today.

Related stories on FutureLearn

FutureLearn - Learning For Life

Reach your personal and professional goals

Unlock access to hundreds of expert online courses and degrees from top universities and educators to gain accredited qualifications and professional CV-building certificates.

Join over 18 million learners to launch, switch or build upon your career, all at your own pace, across a wide range of topic areas.

Start Learning now