5 Italian Swearwords to Learn Right F#$@ing Now

Warning: If you prefer not to read harsh language, feel free to skip this post!

If you are going to be living in (or even just traveling to) Italy, you will surely be hearing a lot of colorful language. And I’m not talking about references to il mare azzurro or una macchina rossa.

I’m talking about curse words.

A lot of Americans love to curse, and so do Italians. Even if you don’t do it often, you still know how to let a good expletive rip when you stub your toe or someone cuts you off in traffic.

Today, I’m going to tell you five Italian swearwords you’ll probably be hearing fairly often, as well as give you examples of which situations you might hear/use them in. If you don’t want to use them yourself, you will at least know when someone is being rude to you!


1. Stronzo/a

Stronzo is equivalent to the English word “asshole,” while stronza, the feminine form, is more akin to “bitch.” Both are terrific for yelling at other drivers when they cut you off in traffic, so if you drive with your windows down, you’ll be hearing a lot of this one!


2. Cazzo

Cazzo is a very versatile expletive, and can be used in a wide variety of colorful and insulting ways. An exclamation of “cazzo!” when you forget something or something bad happens usually means something like “fuck!” or “shit!” If you are referring to a person when you say it, it typically means “dick” or “prick.” It also used as a vulgar way to refer to actual male genitalia… which is also why it is often used together with “testa” to form the lovely phrase “testa di cazzo” which means “dickhead.” This is another one you might hear in traffic, or if someone is referring to someone who is really being a jerk.


3. Accidenti

This one is a bit more “tame” in my opinion. Accidenti means “dammit,” and is used to express surprise, anger, or frustration. It is sometimes substituted by dannazione to add a bit more strength.


4. Merda

Now we are getting a bit more graphic. Merda means “shit,” and can be used to refer to actual excrement or as a curse when someone is angry or frustrated. A commonly used variation is “pezzo di merda,” which means literally “piece of shit.” This is used to describe something with a crappy design, something that has broken down (like a car), or to describe a really terrible person.


5. Vaffanculo

Now we come to the mother of all Italian curse words. And my upstairs neighbors’ favorite! (Seriously, they all say this to each other all day and night, even the kids…) Vaffanculo means “fuck off”or “go fuck yourself.” You can say it to someone who cuts you off in traffic, someone who insulted you, or even to an inanimate object when it isn’t behaving the way you want it to (or, apparently to your children, who will then yell it at their grandmother if you live in my apartment building…). Sometimes people even mutter it under their breath to express profound frustration, like my husband when he’s working on the computer and something isn’t going well.

I have to admit that this one is my favorite, as it is very satisfying to say (even if I haven’t yet summoned up the courage to say it to anyone’s face)!

What is your preferred Italian curse word? Are there any that you find particularly offensive? Let’s discuss in the comments!

This was a delight, what fun to read after a dark, rainy day where I am. IConnecticut}

In the Neapolitan dialect vaffanculo sounds like ba-vahn-gool. Somehow the Neapolitan pronunciation adds the added crudeness that makes it more effective against the recipient I used “testa di merda” recently to a motorist that nearly hit me in a crosswalk. Very satisfying when used sparingly and when the situation calls for a quick insult. You post was an essential language lesson. Thanks.

Sorry I'm a few days late getting back to you, Avery! But the phonetic of vaffanculo is vaf.fanˈku.lo, so you pronounce it like vah - ffan - coo - lo. (It's a bit hard to describe it in text, but there are some helpful videos on YouTube if you want to listen to the pronunciation!). I'm so glad the post gave you a laugh, Carol! It was a fun one to write. :) Thomas, I had never heard it in the Neapolitan dialect! That dialect always fascinates me because it is so different from "standard" Italian! (And nice use of profanity, by the way! You're a pro!)

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