My 5 Favorite Words in Italian

Today I received a tweet from Melanie (Twitter: @italofileblog) at Italofile Blog asking me if I would be part of a mass-effort of Italy-focused bloggers to each provide a list of their five favorite Italian words, along with a brief description citing why each was chosen.

A bunch instantly popped into mind, and as I was thinking of them, I went to look at the post that started the whole thing, which had been written by Jessica (Twitter: @italylogue)of WhyGo ITALY (another fantastic blog) and 2 of the favorites listed there were also among mine (Zanzara and Dai).  Argh!  So I had to think of a few more.  No problem 🙂


1. Boh!?  (Bo)

Without question my favorite Italian word, as evidenced in this post of the same title! It means “I don’t know”, but means it with a certain attitude.  It is much more powerful than “I don’t know”, and this is one word I use no matter the language I speak.

It is important that when you speak the word ‘Boh’, you pur your hands out, shrug your shoulders and make a dumbfounded expression by looking up and fattening your lower lip.

Occhio (Eye or Watch Out!)

Occhio (Eye or Watch Out!)

2. Occhio (Oh-Key-Oh)

Occhio means Eye.  Not so special, especially if you are speaking of someone’s eye.  But it also means ‘Watch Out!!!’, and when used in this sense, especially in a moment of urgency, it is often repeated.  It all comes down to the sound one makes while exclaiming:  Occhio! Occhio! Occhio!  Come on, say it with me:

Oh-Key-Oh-Oh-Key-Oh-Oh-Key-Oh! HOW FUN WAS THAT !?!?!

Now I have some friend from Padova who put their own spin on it thanks to their local accent.  Ready?

Oh-Cho- Oh-Cho-Oh-Cho! Yeah, the entertainment never ends.

3. Pneumatici  (Pah-Nay-Ooh-Mat-Eee-Chee)

Pneumatici (Tires)

Pneumatici (Tires)

Tires.  Yeah, just “Tires”  All of those syllables to learn the word “Tires”.  OK in fairness, the common word for tires is actually “Gomme” (Go-May), but that was the first word I learned, and it stuck forever as the biggest waste of breath ever.

Of course, when I learned the word “Gomme”, I couldn’t help but laugh, because the literal translation is… ready for it?  Rubbers.  “I’d like to buy some rubbers for my car”… “Of course you would, sir”

While I am on the word “Rubbers”, I’ll give one and all fair warning to never try to translate the word PRESERVATIVES without looking it up.  Trust me, it won’t go well.  They will not understand that you are talking about preservatives.  Instead, they will think you are talking about… ummm…  tires.  Yeah, tires 🙂  Get it?

4. Burino (Boo-Ree-No)

Burino is, I believe, Roman dialect.   No, it does not mean “little butter”.  It basically translates to “Hick / Hillbilly / Country Bumpkin”, but is used on a much broader scale.   Essentially, whenever someone is so over the top that they become a characterture of whatever stereotype they embody, especially when they are out of their element.

Imagine you are standing on the street and a car drives up that is lowered to within inches of the ground, has shiny metallic paint, a chain-link steering wheel, and a battery of 20” subwoofers blasting from within…  A-Burino!

Get it?  I thought so.

5. Fattoria (Fat-Toh-Ree-Ah)

For the love of God, I have been speaking Italian for 25 years, and to this day something in me refuses to accept that Fattoria is not Italian for Factory.  That it is the word for “Farm” is somehow even more difficult to accept, but there you have it.  Old McDonald had a Fattoria, not a Fabrica (The actual word for Factory).

In Conclusionissimo…

No, that is not a word.  I made it up. The point is, that those are my five.  I have so many more, that I am going to have to do a part due (two) at some point.  I mean, seriously, who doesn’t want to hear what I think of words like “Ginocchio” and “Villano”?  This is important stuff, I tell ya.


Italian Stereotypes – True or False
Travel Tips
The 10 Best Beaches in Italy
Aglio, Olio e Peperoncino Recipe
  • First off, TOTALLY with you on “boh.” Wonderful all-purpose word with no adequate English equivalent.

    Second, also totally with you on fattoria. Completely a falso amico, that one.

    Finally, would “burino” be an accurate translation for calling someone a “bubba” in the US? Someone who’s not altogether there, but stupidly sweet? Or is it always a put-down?
    .-= Jessica, WhyGo Italy´s last blog ..Roma Pass: What it Covers & Whether it’s Worth the Cost =-.

    • Thanks for the validation, especially on Fattoria. And Burino is ALWAYS used in context as a put-down, like Dumb-Hick instead of ‘fine upstanding farmer’ 😉

  • good ones! And I had forgotten about burino 🙂 Know lots of people that say “oh-cho” too…
    .-= Madeline´s last blog ..Five favorite Italian words =-.

    • O-cho! o-cho! o-cho! I love it, an laugh every time. The whole accent up there makes me smile. Meee pee-azay la ven-ez-eeyah, too 🙂


    Author Reply

    Michael, You’re on!! I’m working on it, but it’s so hard to sit at the computer when Soriano is tempting me through the window!!. I’d rather be in campagna!!! a presto!
    .-= CAROL´s last blog ..WHAT RECYCLING? =-.

    • Yeah! Paola told me she put you to work yesterday! Glad you finally go together. Now I am beginning to get envious. Oh well, seeya in 2 weeks 🙂

  • Love it 🙂

  • You could always think of fabricating something in a fabrica…. but even this doesn’t seem to work. lol I still think of a factory when I say fattoria.
    .-= Catherine´s last blog ..Surprise news! =-.