American Italian: Dictionary

American Italian: Dictionary

aduzipach!/aduzipazz! – you’re crazy! (ma tu sei pazzo!) [aa-DOO-zee-PAACH]/[aa-DOO-zee-PAATS]

afanabola!/vafanabola!/a fa napule! – go to hell! (a fa Napoli!) [aa-faa-NAA-boe-laa]

agita – heartburn/indigestion (aciditá) [AA-jih-tuh]

ammonini! – let’s go! (andiamo!) [aa-moe-NEE-nee]

andosh!/andosc’ – let’s go! (andiamo) [aan-DOESH]

aunda/awunda? – where? (awundi?) [aa-WOON-duh]

aunda ciunca/awunda chunka? – where does it hurt? (awundi ciunca?) [aa-WOON-duh CHOON-kuh?]

assai – a lot (molto) [aah-SYE]

bacous’/bacouz – bathroom (backhouse) [buh-KOWZ]

basanagol/basanicol’ – basil (basilico) [baa-zaa-naa-GOAL]

bash/basc’ – down/downstairs (bascia) [baash]

bada bing! – bam!; Note: Popularized in the 1970s by The Godfather character Santino Corleone

biangolin’ – bleach (bianco lino) [byaan-GO-leen]

bicciuridu – my little boy/my little baby (piccolo bambino) [BEECH-oo-REE-doo]

bisgott’ – cookie (biscotti) [beesh-GAWT]

boombots – nickname for an idiot (u’ pazzo); Note: As in “Vinnie Boombots” [boom-BAATS]

boxugeddu – box (box per oggetti) [baax-oo-JED-oo]

braggiol’ – meat and sauce/male anatomy (bracciole) [BRAAJH-oel]

brosciutt’/prosciutt’ – italian ham (prosciutto) [BRAAJH-oot]/[PRAAJH-oot]

buttagots/butta’ gazz’ – annoying idiot (buttana u’ cazzo) [boo-taa-GAATS]

buttann’/puttann’ – b_tch/whore (putanna); Note: more mild than “sciaquadell” [boo-TAAN]

calabres’ – Calabrian (calabrese); Note: can refer to people, objects, customs, etc. [caal-uh-BRAYZ]

calamad – fried squid (calamari) [caal-uh-MAAD]

capidan/capitan’ – captain (capitano/capitan) [caap-ee-DAAN]

cazzo – balls (cazzo) [KAA-tso]

cendann’/cent’ ann’ – a hundred years (cento anni); Note: said before a toast [chen-DAAN]

che cozz’? – what the f— are you doing? (che cazzo fai?) [KAY-kaatz]

chefai? – what are you doing? (che cosa fai?) [ke-FYE]

chepreca! – what a shame! (che peccato!) [kay-preh-KAA]

chiove – raining (fa piove) [KYOH-vay]

chiove tropp’assai – it’s raining very hard (fa piove molto) [KYOH-vay-TROAP-aa-SAI]

chooch – jackass (ciuccio) [CHOOCH]

chunka – injured (ciuncare) [CHOON-kuh]

cing-u-bezz/cing’ u’ bezz’ – five dollars apiece (cinque un pezzo) [cheeng-oo-BETZ]

ciuri – flowers (fiori) [CHOO-ree]

colghioni/cogliones/gulgliones – male anatomy (colghioni) [coal-YOANZ]/[gool-YOANZ]

cornuto – husband whose wife is unfaithful (cornuto) [coar-NOO-toe]

cuore stuppau – heart stopped (cuore stopped) [KWOAW-ray-staa-POW]

ddojefacc/duyavatch – two faced (due facce) [doo-ya-FAATCH]

disgraziat’ – dirtball (disgraziato) [dees-graats-ee-AAT]

dzapp’ – gardening hoe (zappa) [DZAAP]

edi-conosc’? – do you know me?/do you know who I am? (e mi conosci?) [EE-dee-GAA-noesh]

facciabrutt’ – ugly face (faccia brutta) [FA-chuh-broot]

faccia di katzo – ball face (faccia di cazzo) [FAA-chaa-dee-KAA-tsoe]

facciadu/faccia du’ – two faced (facce due) [faatch-aa-DOO]

facciu fridda – it’s cold (fa freddo) [FAA-choo-FREE-daa]

fugeddaboudit – forget about it (forget about it)

fanabola!/vanabola! – shit! (a fa Napoli) [faa-NAA-boe-laa]

fatti gatti due!/vatoli vatoli due! – mind your own f—ing business! (fa ti cazzi tuoi) [FAA-tee-GAA-tee-doo-yay]

fattu napiridu – I farted [FAA-too-naa-pee-REE-doo] (ho fatto napiridu)

‘ffangul’! – go f— yourself! (vai a fare in culo) – [faan-GOOL]

fraggiol’ – beans (fraggiole) [FRAA-joal]

fratu – brother (fratello) [FRAA-too]

frittat’/fritad – fried egg dish (frittata) [frə-TAAD]

fugazi – fake (falso OR fake)

fuidi dogu! – get down from there! [FWEE-dee-DOW-goo]

gab’ – head (capo) [GAAB]

gabbadost’/gab’ a’ tost’ – hardhead (capa dura/capa tosta)

gabbagul/gabbagool – type of meat/food/idiot/fool (capicola/capocollo/capacolla) [gaa-baa-GOOL]

gabbaruss’/gab’ a’ russ’ – redhead (capo rosso) [gaa-baa-ROOS]

gabbadeegats/capa di cazz’ – ball face (capo di cazzo) [gaa-baa-dee-GATS]

gabish?/capish?/gabisc’? – (do you) understand? (capisci?) [gaa-PEESH]

gaguzz’ – muscles/idiot/money/squash (cucuzza) [gaa-GOOTS]

gaguzzalonga – big muscles (cucuzza lunga) [ga-GOOTS-aa-LOWN-gaa]

gambarell’/gambanell’ – (door)bell (campanello) [GAMBA-rell]

gandin’ – basement (cantina) [gaan-DEEN]

ganol’ – cannoli [gaa-NOAWL]

gavadeel’ – italian pasta (cavatelli) [gaa-vaa-DEEL]

gavone – gluttonous eater (cafone) [gaa-VOAN]

gettuzang/gett’ u’ sang’ – work hard/bleed (gettare il sangue) [get-oo-ZAANG]

ghiacchieron’ – blabbermouth (chiacchierone) [gyaa-kyaa-ROAN]

ghistu/chistu – this (questo) [GEE-stoo]

giambott’ – Italian stew (giambotta) [jaam-BAUWT]

giamoke/giamocc’/jamoke – idiot (giamope) [jaam-OAK]

gibude – onion (cipolla) [jaa-BOOD]

gomesegiam’?/comesegiam’?/gome se chiam’ – how do you say?/whatchamacallit? (come si chiama?) [go-maa-say-GYAM]

goopalin’ – snow hat (goobalini) [goo-paa-LEEN]

goombah – countryman/fellow comrade/godfather (compare) [goom-BAA]

gopp’ – up/top (coppa/capo) [gaap]

guacarunno – someone (qualcuno) [gwaa-kaa-ROO-no]

gul’/cul’ – ass (culo) [GOOL]

gumad – mistress/girlfriend (cumare/comare) [goo-MAAD]

guppin’ – ladle (coppino) [goo-PEEN]

guyasabbu? – who knows? (chissa?) [goo-yaa-ZAA-boo]

gidrul’ – stupid person (cetriolo) [jih-DROOL]

haicapid – do you understand? (hai capito) [eye-kaa-PEED]

how ya doin’? – how’s it going? (how are you doing?)

‘iamo – let’s go! (andiamo) [YAA-moe]

idu – he (lui) [EE-doo]

i-malano-miau! – I can’t believe it! (che malanova mi hai) [EE-maa-laa-no-mee-auw]

issu – she (lei) [EE-soo]

lascialui! – leave him alone! (lascilo!) [laa-shaa-LOO-ee]

lasordida!/asodida! – your sister!/your sister’s a _____! (la sorella!/tua sorella (è una putana)!) [laa-SA-dih-daa]

la vesa gazi – swear word [laa-VAY-zaa-gaa-ZEE]

ma che cozz’u fai?! – what the heck are you doing?! (ma che cozzo fai?!) [maa-KAY-kauwtz-oo-fai]

ma che bell’! – why, how beautiful! (ma che bella) [maa-KAY-bell]

ma che quest’? – what is this? (ma che cosa è questo?) [maa-KAY-quest]

maddiul’/mariul’ – fool/rascal (mariolo) [maa-dee-OOL]

maliocch’ – the evil eye (malocchio) [maal-YOAK]

mamaluke – idiot/fool (mamalucco) [maa-maa-LOUK]

mannaggia – damn/cursing (male ne aggia/male ne abbia) [MAA-NAA-juh]

mannaggia dial – curse the devil (male ne aggia il diavolo) [MAA-NAA-juh-dee-owl]

mannaggia la mort’ – cursing death (male ne aggia la morta) [MAA-NAA-juh-dee-owl]

mannaggia la miseria – cursing misery (male ne aggia la miseria) [MAA-NAA-juh-MEE-seh-ree-uh]

manigott’ – italian pasta (manicotti) [maa-NEE-gauwt]

mapeen/mopeen/mappin’ – napkin/towel (moppina) [maa-PEEN]

maranad – marinara sauce (marinara) [maa-raa-NAAD]

maron’! – damnit (madonna) [maa-ROAN]

maronna mia! – oh my God! (madonna mia!) [maa-ROAWN-aa-MEE-uh]

menzamenz – half and half (mezza mezza) [mehnz-AA-mehnz]

mezzamort’ – half-dead (mezzo morto) [METZA-moart]

minch’ – wow! (minchia) [meenk]

mortadell’ – Italian sausage/loser (mortadella) [moart-aa-DELL]

mortadafam’ – really hungy/starving (morta da fame) [moart-aa-daa-faam]

muccatori – tissue (fazzoletto) [moo-kaa-TOE-ree]

mudanz – pajamas [moo-DAANZ]

murudda – without a brain [moo-ROO-daa]

musciad – mushy (musciata/ammosciato) [moo-SHYAAD]

moosh-miauw – very mushy (musciata miau) [moosh-meow]

muzzarell’/muzzadell’ – Italian cheese (mozzarella) [mootz-aa-DELL]

medigan’ – non-Italian american/Italian who has lost his roots (americano) [meh-dee-GAAN]

napoleedan/napuletan’ – Neapolitan (napolitano) [naa-paa-lee-DAAN]

numu fai shcumbari! – don’t embarass me!/stop embarrasing me! (non fai scumbari) [NOO-moo fai shkoom-baa-REE]

oobatz’/patz’ – crazy person (un pazzo/u’ pazzu) [oo-BAATZ]

paesan’ – fellow Italian countryman (paesano) [pai-ZAAN]

panzagin’! – I’m full! [paan-zaa-GEEN]

pasta vasul’ – Italian soup (pasta fagioli) [pasta-faa-ZOOL]

pastin’ – small, star-shaped pasta (pastina) [paa-STEEN]

pizzagain’ – Italian meat pie (pizzagaina) [pizza-GAIN]

pizzolino – afternoon nap (pisolino) [peetz-o-LEE-no]

provalon’ – type of cheese (provalone) [pro-və-LOAN]

pucchiach’/bucchiach’ – b–ch (pucchiacha) [poo-KYAAK]

rigott’ – Italian cheese (ricotta) [ree-GAUWT]

salud’/salut’ – be in good health (salute) [zaa-LOOD]

shape-la-tass’ – shape of a cup (shape of la tazza) [shape-aa-laa-taatz]

scharol’/scarol – escarole/money (scarola) [shkaa-ROAL]

schif’/shkeeve – to be disgusted by something (schifo) [shkeef]

schifozz’ – disgusting thing (schifosa) [shkee-VOATZ]

scorchamend’/scocciament’ – a pain in the ass (scocciamento) [scorch-aa-MEND]

scooch – pest/move over [SKOOCH]

scoochi-di-bandanz – a real pain [scooch-ee-dee-baan-DANZ]

scustumad’ – stupid person (scostumato) [skoo-stoo-MAAD]

sciumara – river (fiumara) [shoo-MAA-raa]

scoba – broom (scopa) [SKO-baa]

scobendo – to sweep the floor (scopare) [sko-BEN-doe]

scubata/scupata – get laid (scopato) [SKOO-baa-taa]

sculabast’ – pasta strainer (scola la pasta) [skoo-laa-BAAST]

scungill’/scongigl’ – cooked snail (sconciglio) [skoon-JEEL]

sedeti/sededi – sit down (sedeteti) [SEH-daa-dee]

sesenta fame? – do you feel hungry?/are you hungry? (sei senti fame?) [seh-SEHN-taa-FAA-may]

sfacimm’ – bad person (sfacimma) [SVAH-CHEEM] [svaa-CHEEM]

sfogliadell’ – italian pastry (sfogliatella) [SHVOHL-ya-dell]

sciaquadell’ – whore (sciacquata) [shock-wa-DELL]

scumbari – disheveled (scumbari) [shkoom-baa-REE]

sigilian’ – Sicilian (siciliano) [sih-jeel-YAAN]

sorda – money (soldi) [SOAL-dee]

sorda – sister (sorella) [SOAR-duh]

spasciad’/scasciad’ – not talking (to someone) (spacciato/spasciau) [spaa-SHAAD]

spustad/spostat’ – spaced out (spostato) [spoo-STAAD]

strunz’ – sh_t (stronzo) [STROONZ]

stanna mabaych – son of a b—- (mispronounced “son of a b—-“) [STAA-naa-maam-BAYCH]

statagitt’!/stagitt’!/staizitt’!/staizii! -be quiet! (stai zitto) [stah-tuh-JEET]

stendinz – intestines/guts (inglese: intestines) [stehn-DEENZ]

stugots/stugats – f___ it (questo cazzo/questu cazzu/’stu cazzu) [stoo-GAATS]

stunad – moron (stonato) [stoo-NAAD]

struppiau – extremely dimwitted (stupido) [stroo-pee-YAOW]

stuppiau – very dimwitted (stupido) [stoo-pee-YAOW]

stuppiad – dimwitted (stupido) [stoo-PEE-yaad]

stuppau – stopped [stoo-PAOW]

suprasa/suprasad – type of salami (soppressata) [soo-praa-SAAD]

suscia – blow (soffia) [SOOSH-yaa]

te fugo! – f— you! [tay-FOO-go]

ti voglio ben’assai – I love you so much (ti voglio bene) [tee-VOAL-yo-TROAP-aa-SAI]

un ada oda – another time (un altra volta/un altra ora) [oon-AA-daa-O-daa]

ue, goombah! – hey, man! (ue, compare!) [way-goom-BAH]

ufratu – your brother (il fratello/tuo fratello) [oo-FRAA-too]

umbriag’/umbriacc’/umbriago – intoxicated (ubriaco) [oom-bree-YAAG]

usorda – your sister (la sorella/tua sorella) [oo-SOAR-daa]

vaffangul’!/baffangul’!/ – f— you! (vai a fare in culo) [VAA-faan-GOOL]

vagaboom/vagabuma – vagabond (vagabonda) [vaa-gaa-BOOM]

vangopp’ – go up/go upstairs (fa in coppa) [vaan-GOAP]

veni ca/vieni qua – come (over) here (vieni qui) [veh-nee-KAA]

vedi caciunca/vidi cachunka! – watch out, you’re gonna get hurt! (vedi la ciunca?) [vee-dee-kaa-CHOON-kaa]

walyun/wayo/guaglion’/guaglio’ – young man (guaglione) [waal-YOON]

‘uarda/warda - look! (guarda!) [WAAR-daa]

‘uarda la ciunca! – watch out, you’re gonna get hurt! (guarda la ciunca!) (WAAR-daa-laa-CHOON-kaa]

zoot/zutt’ – down/downstairs (sotto) [zoot]

zutt’ u’ basciament’ – down to the basement (sotto u’ basement) [zoot-oo-baa-shaa-MENT]

____________________________________________________________________________________________________

American Italian is an Italian-American pidgin language developed in the early 20th century by Italian immigrants settling in American cities and metropolitan areas, especially in New York and New Jersey. It is based on the Italian language, but it contains a mixture of Sicilian- and Neapolitan-inspired dialect words and phrases as well as English words. The language was prominent in United States cities on the East Coast, such as Newark, Paterson, New York City (especially Manhattan and Brooklyn), the cities of Long Island, Philadelphia, Chicago, and Boston, but I am finding that it was spoken very similarly in the other regions of the US as well as pockets of Canada. It was developed and spoken in tightly-knit Italian communities and neighborhoods.

Linguistically, a language is a complete form of communication, but American Italian is actually an incomplete language (a pidgin language) that needs to be supplemented with Italian (or English or both) in order to function. Many Gabbagool words are taken from Italian dialects, and different Italians in different areas spoke their dialects differently. Without a repository for these words, they will likely be lost, as pidgin languages are difficult to sustain. See the following definitions:

Language: a complete, independent form of verbal communication  (example: modern Italian or American English)

Dialect: a complete language derived from another complete language (example: Sicilian)

Pidgin: an incomplete, secondary language formed impromptu by people in an area who do not speak the main language (example: Gabbagool)

The spellings in this dictionary are somewhat arbitrary because these words do not truly belong to English or Italian; they are hybrid creations. I try to always utilize the Tuscan Italian (the official dialect on which the modern Italian language is based) as a guide to spelling, using commas for dropped vowels. If a word has an English origin, I will reflect its English spelling. If a word has unknown origins or a pronunciation that is difficult to spell in the Italian language, I will spell it phonetically using English as a guide.

This is the official dictionary and hub of American Italian (containing the approximate spellings, meanings, etymology, and pronunciations), so it is not lost forever. Much of this comes from memory and familial recollection. Putting this together in one succinct place was very fun, and I hope it is helpful. This dictionary will be updated, as it is an ongoing process.

In this dictionary, you will find tons of American Italian words and their Italian linguistic origins. This will be the official hub of everything related to American Italian. Please feel free to add to our ongoing comments section to share your words and stories! They will always be saved in the comments section, which itself is a living document of the culture.

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279 Responses

  1. nice job on maing this web site. i totally agree with you that they should bring some of the old shows back. the new shows that are on today do not compare to the old shows….not even close. also i like the italian words there really cool. al of them are correct and all italian families talk like that. im trying to memorize some of the italian slang words on your list. once again nice job. your a true italian!

  2. I remember these words from while growing up (Italian neighborhood in Jersey). Thank you for reminding me.

  3. This was great. I was sitting here with my 16 year old looking up some of the words that I could remember my italian grandmother saying through the years. I was so excited to see scola la pasta on here. We were discussing this word this morning while cooking pasta.

    • I use scola a pasta all the time.
      I am 2nd generation Italian born in America.
      Now my grandchildren use this work instead of colandar.

      • I am just reading this now and it is brining back lots of memoires of my grandparents. When they used to watch me when i was little, i didn’t alwyas understnad them. One time grandma Jennie wanted the scolapasta and i didnt know what she wanted..She said you know “macaroni stop, water go!”.

    • My mom, first gen American, said she was married before she knew the English word for colander. Fun to see scola pasta here.

  4. Hahaha, my grandma lived for a long time in the west new york/north bergen area in NJ, and says “oh maron” all the time. Best part … we’re not Italian at all!

    • you mean “madonna”.. mother of god, is what that
      saying is used to mean, pronounced
      (mah-down, with “down” like “own”).

      • no, she meant maron’! – damnit (madonna) [maa-ROAN] it’s up in the list. we said it too.

  5. Please state clearly that this is the language spoken by Italian immigrants, not Italian. Most of these terms wouldn’t be understood in Italy, but I suppose only in Brooklin (or Broccolino as they said) :D

    Ciao da Roma

    • Just a couple hours ago my Irish nephew called me from upstate New York to ask “Uncle Joe, how do you spell ‘Gomba’?” We both turned on the computers and found HERE that the correct spelling is GOOMBA. Thank you for all the fractured Italian words. A great read!

    • And understood in Newark NJ

      • and in Chicago :)

      • :)

      • Downneck!!

    • No if you going to parts of southern Italy, 90% of the wording would be still be understood by the older generation.
      It would not be understood by the new generation(schooling) which teach the Fiorentine dialect or offical Italian

    • Most of this is Napolitano or Siciliano dialect, and would most certainly be understood in the south.

  6. Oh, thank you for this! All my life my grandmother would shake her wooden spoon at me and call me scooch or scocciamente and I never knew how to spell them.

  7. I grew up in South Philly and was 1st generation American. My mom, dad, and friends rarely spoke proper Italian, but spoke a combination of slang, dialect, corrupted Italian words, and made up words with Italian origins.

    One word was “baccahous” which meant bathroom or toilet. I was told many early Italian immigrants worked as laborers for contractors. Very few people at the time had indoor plumbing and homes had outhouses in the back. (They used pee pots inside for when it was too cold at night in the winter to go outside). When they asked to use the toilet facilities, they were told it was in the “back of the house.” This phrase was Italianized and became the word, “baccahous”.

    If you remember there was a song by Lou Monte, Pepino the Mouse. The entire song is made up of corrupted Italian words. In it he uses baniarol (banyarol) and scaciata (scashata), which mean bathtub and smash or squish. Don’t ask me where those words came from, but we used them all the time.

    There was another group of words that were interchangeable. They were “a facia tu/te, a fesse tu/te, or a fessa/facia da sorida.” (Facia was pronounced facchia). These meant your face or your sister’s face. These were used primarily amongst friends to insult each other. So, let’s say someone cut loose a really gross fart. They would say to their friend, a faccia tu, or a fessa da sorida, which meant your face or your sister’s face. Your faces were compared to a fart.

    Sometimes an adult would use it as a mild oath. One time my mom dropped a big bowl of spaghetti all over the floor and she cursed, a fessa da sorida. She cursed the spaghetti’s “sister’s face”.

    Sometimes when we wanted to go tell someone to go fuck himself, we wouldn’t just say vafagul. We would say the proper Italian, “va fa culo.” Except it was pronounced very articulately as if given a few exclamation points at the end. The va, fa, and culo were drawn out with the “cu” in culo given an extra emphasis. It would come out, vaa faa cuuulo!!!

    There are more words, but I hope these bring back memories.

    • Hey, this totally sounds like my relatives in Canada, who are italian immigrants!
      Only i have to say that “a fess e soreta” doesn’t mean “in your sister’s face”… it is a bit more offensive (it means “your sister’s vagina” to say it politely!)
      I’m telling you because if you ever come to Italy and say that, it is really really unpolite :)

      Also, to the writer of the post, “cornuto” is not the unfaithful husband but the husband whose wife is unfaithful :)

      • actually fessa means fool. so when they say “a fess e soreta” they are saying to the fool that is your sister… which is still cold. did anyone ever hear “alle murte tue”? where i guess they curse the dead?

  8. I forgot to mention fesse meant fool, also. It was like the word cafone.

  9. Hey a great fun to read. I’m Polish and I’m writing my thesis on family values and culture of Italian-Americans based on The Sopranos, and this mini-dictionary happened to be really interesting, so thanks a lot for Your effort.

  10. Very nice job! Funny thing: I am from Pittsburgh, PA and understood and remember the vast majority of these words and phrases being used (though some of the consonant sounds are a bit harder i.e. gavone to cavone, statagitt’ to statazitt’, etc.) I am twenty-four and I, myself, remember using the word baccaus’ for “bathroom” in school. Of course, none of my ‘medigan teachers knew what I was saying! Another popular phrase that I grew up with was to say when seeing someone, “Wai-i-o?” (Literally pronounce, Y-E-O). I was told it was a standard Italian greeting; my aunt went so far as to have her license plate changed to read Y-E-O! Boy, weren’t we surprised when we found out that it wasn’t Italian at all, but Italians trying to pronounce the English “How are you?”!

    Send an e-mail my way! I’d like to talk. Visit my page on i-Italy. As a matter of fact, everyone here should create there own page! It is an awesome Italian/Italian-American networking site.

    • “‘medigan” .. love it! hahaha I

      translation for those not familiar = “American”

      I remember my Italian grandmother always grumbling that word at my father, who was of Scottish decent, when she was not pleased with him or when referring to his side of the family!

      • yup, pronounced “mah-dee-gahnj”

    • What’s your email, Chris?

    • I believe that /Y-E-O/, as you said they pronounced, wasn’t the italians trying to pronounce “hoe are you”. I think it was the word from dialect of Neaples “Guagliò, or Uagliò – this second is exactly pronounced like the capital letters Y E O) and means “boy, kid” . It is used like “Hey man!” as greeting between mates.
      btw:
      “Goompa” is the slightly altered “Cumpà”(dialect of Neaples), in italian “compare”. It means “mate”.

      • I can remember my father’s people saying “Hey! Y O” exactly as the two letters Y and O (not “yo”). I have a cousin who when we get together still says “Hey! Y O!” and it cracks me up every time. My grandfather said it all the time.

      • In my house,(and being a 3rd generation Napolidan/Sicilian-American) I had always understood the word Y E O as pronounced like while-yo. That there was a distinctive “L” sound in there. Hey, maybe it was the Bronx/Yonkers version LOL!!!

  11. Love this!!!Thanks to Tony Soprano, my 16 year old thinks it’s so cool to say gabbagul…to my mother’s dismay. Her family is from Northern Italy and insists that Tuscano is proper Italian. My father, god rest his soul, would say “gabbagul” and “supra sa”…but he was “Naballidon”. My parents teased me when I was little by saying the biangolin man left me at the wrong house. And if you were being a little too demanding you were dubbed…paduna de buccahaus…boss of the buck (out) house. Good work!

  12. Wow, great job. Im from South Jersey, third generation, my whole family came from south Philly. You are right on the money with those definitions. The pronunciations were dead on. Especially the food, “calamad, managot”, etc.

    I know there is a ton that you dont have in there yet but I always waondered why my father and grand father would say “Putiga” when suprised or as if to say oh my god. I know the real translation is bottle (bottiglia). Just never made sense why one would say bottle when surprised….

    Good luck on the dictionary. I would deffinately buy it when its ready

  13. Growing up in central Long Island during the 1970’s, I heard many of these expressions and although I’m not Italian-American I incorporated them into my daily tongue. I have long since left Long Island and after my son asked me for the umpteenth time what ‘maron’ meant, I had to confess it was just an expression I picked up. He said, “what if you are saying something bad.” I set out to prove him wrong and your website has left me corrected! I enjoyed the read and the trip down memory lane.

    • “Maronn’ or Maronna” is simply the southern Italy’s dialects form for “Madonna”. That is the italian name for jesus’ mother Mary (or at least that’s what I’m told), so… when americans say “Oh God!” ,”Oh my God!”. “Jesus!” italians say “Oh mio Dio” or “Dio mio” “Gesù” or ” Madonna!” and sometimes even “mamma mia!” ;)

      • Actually, my mother would say “Madonna Mia” – My Mother. But not like the rock star Madonna – sounded more like “ma doan a mi a” – How it ever got the “r” in it must be because “Amiddicans” knew that Rs were pronounced like Ds. Silly Amiddicans. lol

  14. Brooklin, really?

  15. Some of my grandmother’s favorite phrases — I am guessing at the spellings (her people came from Venice, but be different and don’t be hatin’ just ’cause we come from the north-lol):

    Colo roto sczifoso — comparable to “son-of-a-bitch,” literally “dirty, stinking, broken, smelly ass.”

    Vrgone! — “shame on you!” usually shouted as she waved a wooden spoon at us.

    Quanto costa? — What the hell did you pay for that? You paid too much!

    Vecha Strega — my aunt’s crazy mean mother-in-law, or “old witch.”

  16. lots of these are non-sense for me and im italian :D

  17. the three unknown words ->

    scumanegats — Stupid F–K

    gita schlamorta gita mort — You ought to die spitting blood.. ( a very bad curse)

    fanabola te parida angula sord’ — Your father and your sister should burn in hell together (another bad curse)

    • omg they’re LOVELY

  18. sorry, correction on that translation.

    fanabola te parida angula sord’ — bascially “to hell with your father and your sisters ass also”. litterall translation is ( “go to naples your father and your sisters ass.”)

  19. looking for spelling for a phrase that was said to wish someone another hundred years. ex: i would say, I’m 52 and they would come back with something like “per cent’anni” any ideas?

    • incorrect spelling but the word is pronounced ‘gen-don’. The spelling looks nothing like the pronounceation..

      • the spelling is correct italian 100%. Per cent’anni – for one hundres years. The meaning is that if you say so during.. let’s say a toast in a birthday party, you wish for one other hundred years to live a day like that (birthdays parties).

      • That’s because the immigrants all spoke dialect, mostly from the Italian Southern regions.
        Cent’anni is the right spelling in Italian and it means”hundred years” . The dialects already distorted the Italian pronunciation. The way Americans heard it and reproduced it furtherly distorted the Italian dialect pronunciation.

    • for one hundred years

    • cent anni means a Hundred Years.

    • Maria sounds like they were giving you a good wish to live “for a hundred years” which is what per cent anni means in Italian. (with cent sound like “chent”).

    • I agree with the comment that this is intended to be a wish for someone to live a long time – 100 years. Per cent’ anni is the correct spelling. The translation to English would be equivalent to “may you live to be a hundred years old”. (in good health)

    • I’ve just come from a nice long visit with my parents, both first generation American, their parents born in Sicily and Calabria. Whenever they toast, they say, “Salute per cent anni.” (Pronounced, salutee per chento anni.)

  20. Although I appreciate your attempt to spread knowledge of (Southern) Italian-American terminology, a lot of it is misspelled and not accurate. Good work though

    • Hey Vin, I grew up in central NJ with my Sicilian family in the 50’s and 60’s and all the words in this dictionary are what I heard around my house. Everything started with a “G” instead of a “C”, like gavatel instead of cavatelli. And all the word’s endings were cut-off. Reading these words and most everyone’s was awesome! Thanks.

  21. beeuutyful

  22. Thanks for letting me know how mean spirited and foul mouthed my dad really was. (It was still funny though). Have you ever heard the phrases, “Mangiese la canne” (May you be eaten by dogs) or “Mangiese la zudicce” (May you be eaten by rats).

    • My other used to say something that was supposed to mean “may you be eaten by rats” or “I hope the rats eat you” and it sounded like “get the mongenay zuddicci” but I could never find it anywhere to know the real translation because her italian pronunciation left a lot to be desired since she was born in the US but we lived in Rockland County in NY and her dad and mom were Italian. I guess it was the “Mangiese la zudiccie” that she was trying to say.

      Joyce

      • get the mongenay = che ti mangino (I wish that… eat you)
        “i zuddicci” I have no idea, possibly “i sudici” (the dirty ones), a way to call rats? I am an Italian living in the US and this is truly fascinating!

      • zudiccie? mmm maybe li surici (Italian i sorci. The rats)

  23. A real treat to see in print again (after many years) expressions I heard growing up in West New York, Hudson Co. How about ‘engood-a-sorda’ – your sisters ass. Spoken at the end of an argument.

  24. Love the site. Brings me back to my childhood.

    Anyone know what “mastandone” means?

    • I believe it’s “mascalzone” – rascal, rogue, but not in a malicious way.

  25. It’s a bit strange the way you wrote italian slang words and you catched very different dialects from different regions, but it’s a funny idea. Thanks

  26. In Italy a thousand tongues

  27. Grazi Tant’
    I was reared in Wildwood, N.J. and my family used almost every slang you mentioned. I know my grandparents, aunts and uncles did know proper Italian because they were very proud to say they went to school in Italy like it was a big deal.
    I still use these dialect words all the time without thinking about it!! I can’t believe how much influence the old people had on me. I would love to have them all and their slangs with me today!!

  28. Very Good. It is true. You will hear these words in areas where southern Italian immigrants settled. You will particularly hear these slang words in areas such as Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island and the Bronx, NY as well as Boston and Philly. Most people who come from a southern italian american background have probably grown up hearing and using these words. These words are still used today in italian american homes and communities.

    • I’m glad you mentioned Staten Island. I was told by someone from Staten Island that “two-faced” was “faccia dos” or “fascia dos” (I’m not sure of the spelling. A fact that embarasses me since I grew up in Italian neighborhoods in northern NJ.). When I looked up two-faced though, I found many translations, but that one wasn’t there. Have you ever heard this? If so, do you know what dialect it is?

  29. Does anyone know the phrase ” ghet toe zong” that is how it sounds, bleed from the tongue or something, my parents use to say that to me in brooklyn.

    • Jim,

      That would mean, spit or throw up blood. That would be used in arguments.

      • It could also refer to someone who works very hard and is “sweating blood”, in reference to hard manual labor.

  30. Apparently, much of this has to do with the dialect for certain parts of the country. Many of these words and phrases are pronounced quite differently, and many also take on a completely different meaning.
    This one stands out: mortadafam’ – really hungy/starving (morta da fame) [moart-aa-daa-faam]

    Used in anger, it translated, Death to your family!

    • if you yell to someone “morto di fame” you are insulting him, more or less telling him is a tramp, a loser, someone who cannot even provide food for himself (morire di fame – starve to death)

    • My understanding of this expression is not quite the same as you have described. As I understand it, a person describing another as a “morto di fame” is not wishing for that person to die from hunger. Instead, it is a phrase used to describe a person who is so unfortunate as to be out of work, and can’t afford to feed himself – hence “morto di fame”. By extension calling someone a “morto di fame” also has the connotation of someone who is starving to death because he is unable or unwilling to find meaningful employment, perhaps a “loser”. Compared to the English expression “starving artist” I think the two convey a similar sentiment. So rather than a death wish (as you have suggested), it is an observation or commentary on an existing state of affairs.

      • The term “i morti di fame” (“those who die from hunger”) is very interesting in the context of understanding our 19th and early 20th century Italian immigrant ancestors concept of social welfare. Indisputably they were hard workers as a rule and the vast majority usually looked to no one to pick up the burden of feeding themselves and their families. The men were often uncomplaining hard laborers….the women if not entirely at home tending large families often also worked in the sewing or confectionary industries…Acquainted with many when I finally did encounter such an individual who was obviously “lazy”, “good for nothing” and looking for handouts I was genuinely amazed. He was clearly an exception to the vast majority of his fellows.

  31. Does anyone else remember using the term “pizza fritt” for the fried dough everyone else calls zeppoli?

    • Yes. My aunt in Schenectady, NY still makes it!

    • Yes, Pizza Frizza. My mom made it whenever she made pizza.

    • My grandmother and mother made the fried dough in the shape of a donut and called them “belly busters”

    • Yes we did! We are Marchegiani, Siciliani, and ‘Basiligaga’ :).

    • My family always used pizza frit for fried dough or zeppoli or st joe’s cake

  32. I was trying to find the spelling for “cool-couli” (cold ass)

  33. Great stuff

    One that also comes to mind is “Brishca brolia” meaing a meal made from leftovers usually bound by eggs (sort of a garbage omlette) or to mean anythingb that was all mixed up. Example “Clean your room, it’s all Brishca brolia”

  34. Back to “cornuto”, although it could mean unfaithful husband, in English it is “Cuckhold” or a man who watches his wife have sex with other men either by his own or the wife’s demands. In these days of sharing and swapping it may not be considered the actual true insult it is, one of the highest magnitude. In Italy no man with honor would pimp out his wife so calling someone a cornuto or cornude is like calling a man a cunt.

    • Or in the words of Joe Pesce in Goodfellas, “contento e cornuto.”- Content to be a jerk.

  35. Jim, “Gette u sangue”, or variations in dialects for “gette il sangue” would mean to spit or let (throw) out the blood. I think it was meant as ” te gette u sangue ” which would mean I’m gonna make you bleed, or more like I’ll beat the blood out of you!

    • I grew up hearing this all the time. It can refer to someone who is a hard working person, such as “Father is working so hard that he is sweating blood (“getta lo sangue”) to support the family.

    • Ok.. I’m a real Italian ( I mean I was born in Italy, grew up there and still live here). My parents are from calabria, so I understand a lot of this terms. Because the main thing that all of you have to know is that all this expressions come from varius dialects of southern Italy (Napoletano-from Naples, Calabrese-frommCalabria, and Siciliano-from Sicily).
      These three dialects are quite similar among them, most of the time there are only slight fonetic differences in these idiomatic expressions from one dialect to another, while the differences with standard italian are more relevant.
      In this example, (iett’ u sang’ – as a calabrese would pronouce it), litterally is “to throw away the blood”, in the meaning of “to have one’s blood suck it away from oneself.
      It simply means “go to work”. Where the work, of course, is intended extremely hard physically (like working in a farm, in mines ecc..)

  36. does anyone remember “gloves” being called “wans” or something similar to that. i grew up in cicero, il n most italians in my neighborhood were calabrese as i am.

    • Gloves in Italian are guanti.

  37. This is fantastic! It’s like having my grandmother here with me. You have everything she used to say on your list. This is the Italian I grew up with! I have looked everywhere for something like this. Thank you!!!

    Just fyi — My grandmother’s family was from southern Sicily. They moved to Jersey City, and then upstate, NY. My grandfather, who was from Palermo, even spoke differently, and told my grandmother her Italian was “wrong.” ;-)

  38. “Ghet tu zong” literally means “bleed”.

    Some more of my favorites, growing up in th Bronx and Queens were:
    ” Shcafadeel un gool ” which means ‘ shove it up your _ss ‘
    ” Goocutz or googats” lterally meaning small cucumber also moron.
    ” Fanobola, tu e tre quatro de vostro baez ” meaning ‘go to hell, you and three quarters of your ancestors’

    Other favorites: Oofah!, Meenchia!, Strunz,

    • Frankiebaby,

      Do you have a good translation for Oofah!, Meenchia!
      I’ve heard these alot in my childhood and know when to
      use them but I can’t put my finger on what they mean.

  39. Growing up in “Little Italy in the Bronx”, the Belmont/Arthur Ave section, I am familiar with most of these phrases. Many of them were told to me by my maternal grandmother, Marguerite Barbarotto from Palermo and the Bronx. Thank you for these wonderful memories, some of which I still use today.

  40. Top 5 sayings, I heard so much of from my ‘angry all the time’ dad. Calabrese dialect: 1. “Tido un cowchoe’lintu cooloh” Standard Italian: Ti do un calcio in tuo culo. I’ll kick your ass!
    2.”PieryallahmeeZzeryia” or “Manayeeaha LA Mizeria” Per la Miseria. Oh hell no!!!
    3. “inculoAHmamate” in culo a tua mama. MotherF–ker!!! more I can write a book.
    4. Kecazzu fahyee duohKew? Che cazzo ci fai? What the f–k are you doing over there?
    5. Fanu ‘ShKaffu eentuol’ Fachew, Se’nonDiBasta! Ti do uno schiaffa in tua faccia, se non ti smettila. I’ll smack your face if you don’t stop it!

  41. What’s the word for pasta strainer that’s something like: scewda macaron

    • Hi George,

      I know exactly what you are talking about. Not sure of the exact spelling, but I’ll put it down as I think and then phonetically shcallamacaroon shhka-la-mok-a-roon Hope this helps

      • A woman on Story Corps remembered going shopping for a colander with her Italian grandmother (who spoke no English) as a little girl. The old woman circled and circled the store looking before she finally went to the man behind the counter. Frustrated, she said, “macaroni stoppa, water gawhead.” The owner knew exactly what she meant and got her one.
        This list is terrific. My parents were laughing at how many they used to hear. I’m sad that that older generation is dying off, but some of these phrases will never die.

      • I love this story. my mom and i were laughing about it… macaroni stoppa water gawahead. LOL! that’s great <3

    • In my house it was scula pasta, and the pasta sounded more like basta.

  42. we used to say … scolapasta, drain pasta. we are from Bari in Puglia.

  43. Every Saturday morning in Bensonhurst in the 1950s, a truck would come around loaded with gallon bottles of (apparently) home made bleach. Ther guy had some lungs — He would call out, LOUD — something that sounded like “cha-velle,” or shavelle, or something like that. Is anyone familiar with this term? Any suggestions at how to spell it phonetically?

    • ours was called lastella

    • Yo Michael,
      That guy you speak of [that sold "ga-vell"] don’t forget, in dialect ‘cha’ is pronounced as a ‘G’, & they usually dropped the last letter(s) of the word too. Anyway, he must’ve worked his way all the way over to So. Jamaica, Queens because you got it 152% right!! Don’t forget, the bottles had CORK stoppers in ‘em & he would leave ‘em @ the side door if my Grandmother would miss him. I thought that was the word for bleach ’cause I used the word in class once (ONLY) & everyone (teacher too) thought I was ‘Oobatz!!!’

      P.S. I also remember the coal man w/ the chain drive truck, the junk man w/ the horse (w/ the bells around his belly) cart, the ice man, the eggman (w/ the push cart), all were Italian…

    • We had the same in North Jersey…but I thought he was saying “jabell” water.
      The correct name is “Javel” and it was used as laundry bleach, pretty much the same as “Chlorox” back in the day.

  44. Thank you from the bottom of my Heart for writing this Dictionary, Mille Grazie !!! I stand Proud when I say that The Real italian Family way is and will always be very very Strong in my Tight Knit Family, We eat sleep and breathe Our culture still to this very day. I grew up this Italian Way and I sing it from my Italian Heart everytime i perform at my Shows. Ciao, sincerely, Moe BellaGloria The italian Singer ” King of the 1 Hour Shows ” !! YouTube.com/MoeBellaGloria

  45. How do you say and spell castle in the neapolitain dialect?

    • maybe ” ‘u castillo” not sure.

  46. Great collection of the Italian words and phrases I heard growing up in the 1950’s on the east coast. I finally understand the meaning of struntz and yes Uncle Beans was a struntz! :)

  47. this dictionary is very interesting: it shows how lively a language can be and it’s amazing how people can transform it!

    great job :)

  48. Whoever made this dictionary–thank you very much. I laughed like crazy!

  49. One thing I didn’t see (but hear all the time, especially from older women, like my mother-in-law) is “Oo-di!” It’s used in a moment of panic, like when the “mopeen” (also “mopeena”, ie “dishtowel”) catches on fire because you’ve been waving it around the gas stove as you talk, while you’re cooking.

    Another one I hear is “shah-quad” (phonetic spelling), which means (or so I’m told) “all crooked” or “messy”. For example, my niece–a teacher in Texas–once told her students as they walked through the corridor to an assembly, “Straighten up this line. It’s all shaquad!” (At which point, one of her students–a recent transfer from New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina–said, “Hey! Shaquad! That’s my sister’s name!” (I love that story…)

    Honestly, when I first met my husband and his family, I thought the words they used were made up. I’m still not convinced that some of them aren’t. (Jalapida momida?) But this site has given some credibility to the musical and sometimes comical utterances I hear from day to day. I’ve bookmarked it for reference. (WHAT did you call me?)

    • “Oo-di!” would mean “Oh, God!” “O Dio!” Mopeen is a made up word for a dishtowel. Kind of Americanized. “Shah-quad.” would stand for d’aquato- which is something like watered down or watered. So, when you say that to someone, it would mean their brain is full of water or watered down.

    • I’m wondering if sha-quad is the same as (this is phonetic) shaquat. This is what my mom said, “Italian men like their women to be bella shaquat. You know bella shaquat? Like a tomato so ripe the skin has split.” Her parents were from Sicily.

      • Lol bella shaquat that is great.

  50. I grew up in my grandmothers house hearing a lot of these words.to see them in one place brings back so many memories of growing up.she passed away on august 27 2011 and I will miss her everyday but I will keep her memory alive by teaching my children these words so that when I’m gone they can teach there children.the warmth that I feel every time I hear one of these words or hear somebody speak in napolitan or broken English is indescribable.I hope to visit my grandmothers hometown in avellino sometime in the near future.anyway thank you for this website

  51. My grandmother came here at age 13 in 1887 from a small town not far from Potenza. They lived at first in St. Anthony’s parish below Greenwich Village, then in the west 30’s around 9th ave. My mother, born 1907, was the ninth of eleven children and didn’t speak much Italian but words she did sometimes use were Neopolitan dialect. She occasionally made a kind of stuffed bread she called what sounded like figuatz. Standard Italian would have been fogasse or foccacia. And the simple meal of macaroni and beans sounded something like basta vasool rather than pasta e fagioli.

    • There is no J in Italian thus the G can be either hard or soft. Napiltons (Neopolitans from Naples) are criticized even in Italy for dropping all the endings of words. Fagioli becomes Fagool and in America, Fasool. So you’re right and all the menus in America are wrong. Hope this helped.

  52. I grew up in East Boston and heard many of the words listed. Did I miss cedemonia (ceremony)to describe someone , usually a woman, making too big a deal about something. A complaint. Fa la cerimonia.
    Or, mezza stunard'; scumbari; gatzee (maybe from Yiddish) and chiaccheressa (chatterbox)… something I was often accused of being.
    I’ve studied language corruption. Sometimes regional differences, Boston vs. NYC, might be also be due to effect of other immigrant languages. In Boston there were Polish and Yiddish words in the mix. It all made for a very rich “gravy”.
    I do a one-woman show on two Italian-American women. It’s rich in language; mostly cultural difference and problems of assimilation. And often very comical.
    Thanks.

    • Hi Laura,
      I am Sicilian and grew up in the SF Bay Area. All four grandparents from Lentini/Catania area. Some settled in Boston, some in Omaha (?), and the bravest ones came out here. After much research, I found we also had a lot of Yiddish in our daily language. I am interested in your one-woman show. Where do you perform? I’d love to take my family!
      Thanks, Geralyn Giese

    • We used (still use) gatzee/gatzees, meaning little decorative but useless things… anyone else? Also, scasciad (ska-shaad) meant messy, disorganized, shitty, screwed up. Spacone meaning flashy person (guido/mob wife type).

    • NYC and northern NJ do the same with mixing slang from various countries. Mostly Italian, Irish, Yiddish, and Spanish. Polish sometimes.

  53. I grew up in Lorain, Ohio during the ’50s and ’60s, the product of a Sicilian-Polish marriage. We lived in my Sicilian grandfather’s home and I heard lots of these expressions from him and my numerous relatives. Reading this has brought back a lot of memories, especially of the holiday celebrations we had at this time of year.
    Does anyone recall hearing a children’s song or rhyme with words that sound like this? (Pardon my spelling — I’m doing this phonetically).
    Calencita,
    Somaterita
    Rege mangia l’ove (“The king eats eggs”?!)
    i bebe mangia chicche chicchie (chicky chicky?) . . .
    and I don’t remember the rest.
    My mom used to sing this to me when I was very little. Anyone know the rest or the correct words?
    Thanks so much and buon natale!
    Jeannine S.

    • In my family in Worcester, MA, my Sicilian Grandmother would sing this song.

      A woga a woga
      a rege mangia l’ova
      a mama la adina
      a (insert child’s name hear) goo abanza agina…rey, rey, rey!

    • As a child while eating I would be asked “did you eat your chicche?” Or “eat your chicche!”. It was the meat on my plate which I did not like to eat. Where does this come from?

  54. Love love love this dictionary- helped me to remember some of the terms that were forgotten once my grandparents had gone! I also remember the oh -de!! My family immigrated to Boston and Providence!! Still use some of these to teach my own kids now I have more!

  55. My Napoletane grandmother grandmother had a good response when I asked her what’s for dinner.
    o’cazze ‘e ciuccio cu cucuzzille e l’ove
    u gazza di chooch cu googoozeel e loave (phonetics)
    donkey dicks (literally) with squash & eggs

    • My father still says that, we live in Toronto, Canada o’cazze ‘e ciuccio cu cucuzzille e l’ove

    • LOL!

  56. I remember hearing, “Ha perduto la giobba,” meaning, of course, “He lost his job.”

  57. WOW…I didn’t hear a lot of those word in a long time..My mother and father used to use all the words above

  58. Anyone ever hear of the word yachetone (spelling??) It means someone who talks too much, or at least that’s how we use it in our family!

    • pronounced “kee-ak-ya-done” (“done” like “own”)
      means someone who talks too much.

    • Lol! It’s “chiacchierone”

    • The real word would be chiacchierone (pronounced KYA-kye-RONE)

    • Hi Ralph,
      Yes I have but know it from the Italian: Chiarracar(r)one.

      Buon pomergiggio,

      Richie

    • The word my mother always used was chiacchierone. I guess yachetone is midway between english and italian!

    • Yes. Southern Italians leave of the initial hard-g or hard-k sound, so English ice is modern Italian ghiaccio but is pronounced yaccio. So Southern Italian you mentoned “yachetone” is modern Italian chiachierione (pronounced something like kyakyerone, meaning “chatterbox.”

  59. I found this very interesting because I am studying Italian, but it was mostly unfamiliar to me because all my Italian ancestors came from northern Italy, mostly in the early to mid 1800s, and their descendants whom I knew (unfortunately) only spoke English.

  60. alot of the spelling is wrong. You pretty much summed it up but correct some of those spellings. You have words using the letter K in it. Where Italians not russians. Lol

    • You meant to say, “We’re (we are) Italians not Russians.” See how easy it is for words to get misspelled. Imagine how it was for our grandparents and great-grandparents when they first came here not knowing a word of English. I believe the dictionary is meant to give all possible spellings, whether correct or incorrect, that were commonly used, especially since many words were “made-up” or combined English and Italian. Just Enjoy!

  61. Do you know this one ? :
    Shuncad – meaning in a real bum or low life, worse than a gavon.

    • Shuncad lol! That’s Abruzzese dialect also means lazy, sloppy

  62. Thanks! Lots of fun reading this dictionary and seeing so much from the East coast. This sure reminds me of our experience.

    In California’s 1970’s San Francisco Bay Area, a lot of us, who grew up with Sicilian in the home and among our family and friends, did not know until our high school Italian class teacher informed us, that what we knew, was not Italian: for example, idda and iddu were not Italian for he (Lui) and she (Lei); piccirriddu and piccirridda were not Italian for little boy (Ragazzino) and little girl (Ragazzina); and, areri was not Italian for again (di nuovo). Many, believing they’d get an easy A, were in for a rude awakening! And, in everyday life, for example, it was especially enlightening for us to discover that a scula pasta is a collander and a cupino is a ladle!

    Then, after high school and college Italian, I learned about Professor Cipolla, of New York’s John Hopkins University, who leads Arba Sicula, a
    world-wide organization dedicated to the preservation of Sicilian culture and language. For those who are interested, this organization has plenty of interesting books available through LEGAS that may be of interest. I have enjoyed all of them, and I refer to Bonner’s Sicilian Grammar book often.

    Thanks again!

    • I had the same problem with Spanish. I know Puerto Rican, Cuban, and South American dialects. At school they taught us Castillan Spanish, which my teacher informed us nobody in Spain even uses anymore. My friends could never understand why I didn’t know Italian because it was “just like Spanish”. Not to me! Lol. The same reason I can’t follow Portugese. If someone from Spain tries to talk to me, I say: “I’m sorry, I don’t speak Portugese” and they ask me if I speak Spanish because they are speaking Spanish and not Portugese.

      I know this thread is about Italian slang and I’m getting off topic here, but I’m interested to know about these terms as although my family is unsure about its heritage, we’re pretty sure we’re Italian for a variety of reasons.

      I’m also finally learning what some of the words I’ve heard for much of my life mean or at least how they are spelled. It’s interesting to hear about ones different from the dialects I’m used to from various areas of Italy. Everyone I’ve ever known was either Neopalitan (I always thought the spelling was Napolitan, and yes, I do know how to pronounce it. :) ) or Sicilan or half and half. The only thing I remember their parents yelling was: “My mother told me never to marry a Neopalitan!” “MY mother told me never to marry a Sicilian!”

      Unfortunately much of what I know in Italian is just curse words, lol.

      I also wonder if someone can tell me if I am spelling “butan” or “butana” right. Yes, I know what that means, lol.

      Also, can someone please tell me how to spell the word that is pronounced “badjagaloop”? I have always been curious to know that. I’ve never been quite sure of the definition either. I was pretty sure it meant idiot or something like that, but I’m startng to suspect it’s something worse.

      I almost took Italian in school. I was taking Spanish and French and told my guidance counselor I wanted to take Italian as well. His reaction was “What? Do you want to work for the United Nations or something?” I did get into the class, but decided to drop it because my class was full of Snookis and I didn’t want to have to deal with that. However, from what I am reading here, high school Italian would not have done me much good in talking to real people.

  63. I grew up with a different word for fart. My grandmother was from Sicily and we called it beetadul. I am sure I spelled it wrong but I thought that was the word for fart until I was older.I grew with a lot of slang Italian words. like umbriago which means no good drunker. and spinata which means all messed up.Probably spelled wrong too.

    • Darlene, I knew how to phonetically say fart in middle class italian [scoreggio] and in sicilian it is [pirito]. We pronounced it: [pee di too]. So there you have it, now you can call someone a fart in two italian dialects. I feel like I did this site a favor.
      Vinnie from Buffalo & now in Cincinnati.

  64. what is the slang word for toilet or bathroom? I keep hearing what sounds like “pichadu” on the Sopranos…molto grazi!

    • Wow, over a year ago, no matter. Anyway, the slang word for bathroom is “beckausu” (bec-cow-sue) which is literally the American term “back house”. Before there was indoor plumbing and toilets, there was the back or out house”

    • You are correct with pichadu. I have heard that word countless times growing up. In fact, when one of us kids would pour a big glass of water or milk ot whatever, my Dad would say, “look at the pichadua”, meaning like a big piss pot. Has anyone ever heard a spanking referred to as a “scupalone”? Or the curse “Che te potz e shcattar”? Pardon the spellings.

  65. here’s some others i say/know of which i didn’t see here
    or reply to. i am in Rhode Island, we come from between Rome and Naples.
    Places like Fondi, Itri, Montecalvo, Raviscanina.

    – pouton (whore) “poo-tahn”
    – bombaleeth (drunk) (with the “th” like the, a dead stop.)
    – spah-cone, shpa-cone (american guido, flashy man, showoff)
    – scoom-bah-dee (ashamed, embarrased)
    – scoos-tha-mahd (eating too much, like a pig)
    – ma-nej or ma-nejja (darn it, frustration)
    – doo-ya-vach (two-faced person)
    – bobba-lawks (cobwebs)
    – ah-speth (wait !) -ah-speth-a-mee-notes (wait a minute)
    – moo-thon-thees (longjohns, thermal underpants)
    – skee-votes (eww, something gross, a verb)
    – fritatta (free-todd) egg sandwich

    • I had absolutely no idea there was Italian slang for american guido. I know I can say that here. Every time I meet people from Italy they tell me it is an ethnic insult. Not in my neighborhood.

    • skee-votes…I wonder if that’s where the term: “it skeeves me” comes from.

  66. I grew up in Pittsburgh, and now live in Chicago, me and my amicci and familigia in both places still talk this way amongst ourselves.

  67. maronn! semplicemente bellissimo. bravi! keep going!

  68. Trying to get a spelling and meaning for “ga gatz” or just “gatz”. I thought it meant “nothing”, as in, “that particular credit card doesn’t give you points or any kind of rewards. They give you “gatz”, or “ga gatz”.” meaning “nothing”. Implied sarcastically or with disdain, or disgust. Can you help me with this? Couldn’t find it in your glossary which by the way is quite extensive and brings back memories of my “yoot”, to quote Joe Pesci in “My cousin, Vinny”!

    • My grandmother used to say ungatz for nothing and eegatz when something sounded ridiculous and cagatz when she was frustrated if you or anybody can figure that out let me know. She was napolitano

      • my family said ewe-Gatz. Naples dialect.

      • Ronnie- as for the word, “eegatz”- I wonder if that’s where Americans get our expression, “eegads!” I have no idea, just thinking.

      • @Karen @Ronnie:

        “Eegats” is possibly English-to-Italian, like “baccausa.”

        “Ye gods and little fishes” is the English expression. “Eegats” may derive from this, picked up because it sounded vaguely like a euphemism for the Italian, “e cazzo?”, as in, “WTF?” (Although, it sounds like Nonna was saying more like “GTFOH!”)

  69. what great help this has been, i`m semi retired and attempting to write a book about Italian Americans in New York. Why i`ve chosen this subject i just dont know,but how fascinating and how useful is this.

    Mitch John, Cyprus. April 24 April 2012.

  70. One thing to keep in mind is that there are at least three origins of the “Italian” language; the “proper” Italian, dialect specific to each region/municipality, and the bastardization of dialect we usually call Italian-American; which is the subject of this thread. Italy began as a loose collection of city states that grew to regions and has only been considered a unified country for a century or so. Thus the customs, food preparation, and language vary widely. The “proper” Italian is probably most connected to Roma and from my experience growing up in Central New York and in the culture of Abbruzza di Molise, I would say that the dialect above is most closely associated with “Nabbalatan,” or the bastardized dialect of those from Naples.

  71. oh goodness thank you for this. I’m third generation italian american and we still used some of these words growing up. I remember when I was 15 being over a friend’s house with my brother making maccaroni. the time came to strain the maccaroni and I asked my friend where her sculabast was… I spent probably a good four minutes,desprately trying to remember the english word for it… i even called my brother over to help, but we couldn’t figure it out. finally my friend said ohhh you mean a sieve… this might be a litle silly,but that memory has stuck with me because it reminded me that as americanized as my family had become, our heritage, our customs were still part of our upbringing, even if it was just in a word or two

  72. Love this list! Thank you! But “maronna mia” is not “My God” but “my blessed mother” or “Our Lady” – it is “madonna mia” where “madonna” refers to the Madonna, the Blessed Virgin Mary, not the singer! :-)

  73. I remember a word my father would say for linoleum , not sure but he used to say ,,, time to lay the Shidodd

    • That sounds kind of Yiddish.

  74. Very good to read. My father’s family originates from Siciliy and immigrated to Birmingham, AL through New Orleans. Funny to see how similar the “American Italian” I heard growing up is to the Northeast version! The biggest diffrerence I see is that the people here add an ‘ah’ sound at the end of the words. I appreciate your work, my wife now has a better understanding of some of the things my Dad says!

  75. the bacousa

  76. My mom always said, “Company’s coming,” whenever someone dropped a spoon on the floor. I’ve always wondered if that was a Sicilian superstition, or just a thing in my own family–I’ve never heard anyone else saying that.

    I was called testaduda, hard headed, as a stubborn child.

    One of my great aunts, after a meal, always said, “Per la bocca,” meaning she wanted just a little taste of something sweet to finish, “For the mouth.”

    When we were little and asked to be picked up, grownups would say no, “You’re a big baccala.” I felt a bit insulted when, years later, I learned baccala means codfish. Hmmph.

    I would REALLY love to know more about this next word. I’ve never heard anyone else say it:

    My great uncle was getting out of his car when my brother Steve and boisterous cousin David stuck their heads out the upstairs window and called down, “Hey, Uncle Gerry!” Uncle Gerry shouted back up, “Hey, hey, hey musutu (moo-SOO-too). When the boys came downstairs, my cousin asked, “Grandma, what’s musutu mean?” She started laughing, saying, “Who calla you musutu, Davey?” David replied, “Uncle Gerry, but he could have been calling me, he could have been calling Steve, I don’t know.” She said, “Oh, no, Davey–He calla YOU. Musutu mean bigga mouth.”

    • I’ve heard that belief before, but I think a lot of ethnicities believe it. Also, if it is a fork, it means it will be a woman.

    • “testaduda, hard headed” = my Northern Italian mom used to say “capa tosta,” which, in the Southern dialects, comes out as “gabbadost’.” She also used another “capa” expression–“capa fresca,” a “cool head,” only she meant it more as “fresh (as in “impudent”) head.” I heard Tony Soprano refer to someone on that show as being a “gabbavrischia” inma situation where my mother would have said her version of the expression, and so I assume that’s a Southern pronunciation.

  77. I used to get called ma-jah-gul-loop. Or at least something to that effect… lol. Does anybody here know what I’m referring to?

    ‘What are you doing? You ma-jah-gul-loop.’

    • I asked that too, lol. I’m pretty sure it is “ba” and not “ma” though. Unless it depends on the region. Hopefully someone will answer us, but since most of these posts seem to be at least a year old, Idk if they will even see these. :(

    • Bacigalupo is an Italian surname, and it was the name of a character on the old Abbott & Costello TV show who was a clownish sort of Chico Marx stereotype, although he was much shrewder than Chico. Maybe you were being compared to Bacigalupo.

  78. Dear Fellows, I really don’t believe my eyes..i’ve been looking around for ages , for someone to share the dictionary of..my Granma who used to speak the Sicilian-American dialect. and i know all of those words plus others..it’s wonderful knowing that all those words are not getting lost..
    Carru -Car
    parkari lu carru – park the car
    begghicella – the bag
    iettasangu- a person who makes you spit blood..
    and many more..

  79. My family uses many of these words all of the time. Italians from Rhode island baby.

  80. here’s a few classics…

    ga’binyost-gossiping
    Ficonazz’-nosy
    Mopiiiiiin’-dish towel
    And a favorite VA’FRITT’-go fry!

    I love that you mention gagutz. Its a fave.

    I grew up in Rhode Island…. Jersey and Brooklyn are pretty Italian, but Rhode Island is actually where the Italian plurality is in the USA. Literally EVERYONE in my hometown was at least part Italian. Imagine a whole state where everyone appreciates pasta vazool in gravy ;-) and the joys of ravioli night, where bakeries dont close Sundays but on Mondays, where most people understand these words even with Lois Griffin accents… And the office assistants pronounced your name right when you get called to the office in high school. Even if it had more vowels and syllables than folks in like Idaho would assume possible :-)

    • Omg, it’s been forever since I’ve heard anyone use gravy in that context. I’d almost forgotten it. :(

  81. My mother uses the Naples pronunciation for grandfather — thathone. Does anyone know what it means and the possible spelling?

  82. What is the word for being treated like a don…gabaditch?? many thanks.

  83. Has anyone ever heard the word ‘smozza tudda’ – (pronounced smoe -tsah -TOO- dah) used for ‘broccoli? Everyone I know of Italian descent uses this word instead of the standard Italian ‘broccoli’.

    There were so many English words incorporated into not only the Italian language of early immigrants but into the dialects as well. I read a short article a long time ago about this phenomenon. I found a link to it once on the web but forgot to save it. Hysterical stuff, as entire sentences are mixed in with the dialects, such as ‘sti sciusi allucunnu naisi’ for ‘these/those shoes look nice’. If I locate it I’ll post the link here – that is, if people still read these replies.

    I would ask my dad how to say something in Italian and he would do one of four things: come out with the proper word, come out with a Sicilian dialect pronunciation of the standard Italian word, come out with an entirely different word (such as the above mentioned ‘smozzatudda’), or come out with the English-Italian- Sicilian gumbo mixture. I remember a lot of them, and if interest is still here, I can post them.

    Great website.

    • Please do!

  84. Love the list! It brings back a lot of memories. We live in Toronto, and my folks are from Molise. I believe our dialect is fairly close to the Neapolitan. My sister & I have always gotten a kick out of the familiar words that show up on the Sopranos.
    I think the spelling of many of the words is up for debate, because they really are primarily spoken.

    Forgive me if I’m missing these in the list or comments above:

    -gualio’ (pronounced “waleeo” = gualione = guy, boy
    Tony uses this is one episode, when he’s watching a Mickey Rooney movie. My sister and I found it hilarious

    -mangana’un = not even one
    It was only after I studied Italian in University that I realized this is properly “neanche uno”.

    -this I have no clue how to spell, but it’s pronounced, “sherot” = jerk
    Does anyone know this word and how it should be spelled?

    • I should add my mom lived in Jersey City for three years, when she was a teenager. & we still have relatives there.

  85. has anyone head the phrase pitchada pepe? (not sure if im spelling it right)
    meaning when someone starts up about something

    • I’m gonna make a guess on this one. Sounds like somebody is ‘pitching pepper’. Which makes sense, sending something irritating in to the mix.

  86. The slang / dialect word for toilet is ( pisciaturo )
    I was born in Argentina to Neapolitan parents , the same phenomenon happen there with the Spanish language , the Italian influence created a new idiom called LUNFARDO,

  87. What about moo-nates? This was a word my family (Newark) used for a mess, or when something was in pieces. Like, “You put that cookie (bish-gawt) in your pocket and now it’s all in moo-nates. Also, what about un-gwike-ya? This was used for a meal that was just thrown together by a ‘medigan. Like, “I ordered the zupa-da-pashe at that new restaurant on the avenue and it was nothing but un-gwike-ya.” Lastly, what about coo-baad?, the feeling of being cramped or in a tight space. “We went over to their house for cake and coffee and their living room was so small I felt so coo-baad the whole time.”

    • Aha! These I know. Must be Newark words. :)

  88. Also, coo-pa-LEEN, for a wool hat (ski hat). Your mother would say, “It’s cold out, make sure you wear your coo-pa-LEEN today.”

  89. [...] “salut” (salute), “bacouz” (bagno), e la lista continua, se volete, qui. Come potete vedere, molte sono parole vicine al napoletano o comunque ai dialetti del sud. Di [...]

  90. Thank you for a delightful trip down the memory lane of Brooklyn 60s-70s. I was a French Canadian married into a Brooklyn/LI family. 7 years in Brooklyn was an education for which I should have gotten 2 years of college credits, that is after the first year of shock and acclimating. Brooklyn folks are nice people…I liked it/them better than LI. I have met Italians visiting this country who have had snobby attitudes toward the Italian-American vernacular. And, my son, after going to college and living in Manhattan for a few years picked on me for my use of the Italian-American forms of everyday Italian words. I have respect for language that is local to a geographical area any where in the world. It comes with maturing and a growing sense of wonder about people and the world. (I have heard French mocking French Canadian speech. And, hey, the British make fun of us..along with the Welch, Irish, Scottish) Oh, and everyone corrected the Hebrew I was learning. Language seems to be part of people’s religion, though they don’t acknowledge it. My opinion is that it is all beautiful!! :)

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  93. Congratulations ! “As we said in the Tenements in “da BRONX,”
    “YA DONE GOOD !”
    The Street Italian was, Napuletana, Siciliana, Baresa, Calabresa dialects and slang. Ya gotta know dat we wuz all First generation,not like the WANNABE
    ITALIANO’S who tried but could never make it with their ‘Merican interpretation of a Beautiful Language which blends itself in dialectical differences but still
    melodic. NO, I’m not a snob, just a Bronx street guy who grew up with it and takes great pride in our Heritage. Keep up the good work. I’m anxious to see any and all updates. TUTTO A POSTO.!
    Angelo

    • It’s nice to hear someone speak New York again as well as Italian slang! I live in the South now and half the time I have no idea wth these people are talking about.

  94. I grew up with my grandmother and grandfather- she was from Sorrento and he was from Naples. They seemed to speak the same or similar dialects. Can someone tell me what “mouse” would be in Napolitan? it sounds phonetically like, “Zutagil” or sootagil. And snail- which they pronounced as “marruttz”. They had a saying which only makes sense in Napolitan, but means nothing in English- it was, “Manage o zutagil”, which they said meant, “Gosh darn, the mouse”. Anybody ever hear that expression?

    • Literally Mouse = TOPO or TOPOLINO
      NAPULETANO= SURACILLA (SU RA CHEELLA)
      Go to YouTube and pull up Pepino The Italian Mouse by Lou Monte
      and learn the NAPULETANO EXPRESSIONS.
      CIAO e. TUTTO POSTO.
      Angelo

      • Thank you, Angelo, now I see!

    • Karen,
      You got it 100+% right, “Manage a zutagil” = “Darn the mouse”. Very common phrase. (It may not be right, but remember, we’re talkin’ “dialect” here.)

  95. I grew up in Queens second generation Italian, my father grew up in Brooklyn with his parents that imigrated from Avellino and this reminded me of them soooo much. This is 90% of the things they said. I actually say alot of these curses and never knew what they ment. Thanks for reminiding me of the good old days when they were here.

  96. My mother taught me to say “sca shod” when something was screwed up or a mess. Most of the words on here are familiar to me also. We grew up in Jersey, Italian American. Is this familiar to anyone? I see a similar one above, but not exact.

  97. Greetings! Very useful advice within this article! It is the
    little changes that will make the largest changes. Thanks a lot for
    sharing!

  98. Hello I am a Canadian, born in north western Quebec, in 1954. We are all living in Ontario now since 1965. My parents came from Calabria, Italy. We learned to speak their dialect. I recognize a lot of the words on your list. But I want to know if anyone ever says ” fuocu mio”. It’s used when something bad has happened. Or if you cannot stand something. I used to hear as well: e chimu ti jett u sangu. When someone was upset with someone they said this. Also: malanova mu ti vene. if you were bad. We use our dialect like we our own language using the language from their town, Gerocarne. I can say so many things. It is like I want to preserve this language. Just like your list. I studied French, Italian and Spanish. So I know how words should be spelled in Italian. For example: Amu din da iamu means: We must leave. In italian you write: Ce ne dobbiama andare. Another one: A duva jisti? Means: Where did you go? In Italian: Dove sei andato? Another: Cumu ti chiami? What is your name? Italian: Come ti chiami? Another: Cin dai iru. : means: They left. In Italian: Se ne sono andati. A duva ijiru? Where did they go? Dove sono andati? Oo vidi?. Do you see? Hai visto? Cin daiu. He went away. Se n’e andato. Cu vinne? Who came? Che e venuto? I have many more.

    • fuocu mio means = my fire! is like = chimu ti jett u sangu = we are going to suck your blood malanova mu ti vene = bad things will happen to you!

  99. I should have written: Ce ne dobbiamo andare.

    • Sorry, It should be; Chi e venuto?

  100. Really nice job! :) I’m italian and I think there are no chance to lost this “language” because in italy dialect is spoken by the most of people nowadays and most of them/us still have the american dream. So maybe you’re serach never stop :)

  101. I love this so much! I tried learning Italian and I realized that the pronunciations didn’t seem correct. Turns out all of these words were Brooklyn-ized. Spoken and understood here in Kearny, NJ and our roots in Brooklyn. Grazie for this!

  102. Thank you so much for this. I grew up in Brooklyn in the 70’s and 80’s and am half Italian: Napolitano and Calabrese. I heard many of these growing up. It makes me so homesick to read them now- my father is gone and I live on the West Coast.
    Also, reading this had made me inexplicably hungry. :-)

    • I feel your pain. I live in South Carolina atm and boy are you guys making me homesick! These people are so…vanilla..it’s so boring! And they know nothing about food.

      (They also know nothing about loyalty. Ugh.)

      My friend from Brooklyn tells me you don’t get much real food on the West Coast either as he’s currently living in San Francisco.

      -Trina O.

      NY/NJ

  103. When Neapolitan grandfather was referring to a guy who had a high opinion of himself he would call him, “Mastro Filippo” ?????? Who knows…maybe a reference to a local guy in the old country who was a big shot (bigga shotta). Also this from Sicilian grandmother…exclamation, “Oh, Maria Santissima!” Translated to “Oh, most sainted mother!”

    Anna Marie L. NJ/NY

  104. These words are certainly used in Cleveland, Ohio too. Thanks for the site!

    • I went to high school in Westbury Long Island which was pretty much wall to wall Italians. Using a lot of these phrases was prevalent not only among those of Italian descent but amongst all of us. Some of the words I did not find here – Abeetz for pizza; lacho bijok eat c–t; possibly from lancia bigiocco(?) lick the jewel. gibone – possibly from the French gibbon( monkey ) – meaning a jerk. another was Facheen a med – possibly from va tine a media get lost at noon. Most were just used as expletives and the majority of us didn’t really know what we were saying.Etymology is sort of a hobby with me. Another observation – kez a deech Whaddya say as a greeting. Originally in Italy no one would have known what that meant, but a lady whom I know here in Germany says they use that in parts of Italy as a greeting as well. Interesting some of this stuff is now being adopted in the old country. By the way I told a young teenage girl here in Germany whose family came from Calabria to click on Lou Monte. Her family got a kick out of it. Itz getting late, gotta sign off. As I get more ideas, I’ll check back in. Ciao( Germans use this quite frequently as a goodbye )

      HOLLY, Giessen, Germany

      • Yeah, my grandmother also used to say, “A-pizz” for pizza. Why did they put “A” in front of so many things? Anybody know? She also said, “A-boka-di-lay” for a cup or glass of milk. “

      • Karen, in southern Italy a lot of the dialects omit the “l” in a word e.g. “a pietz” would be “la pizza” – in this restaurant I go to here in Giessen, Germany they feature “spaghetti a matriciana” a dish from Matricia. It would be “la matriciana” but– They also drop the last vowel in a word – thus “a Beetz” They also drop the g in a word with “gu” guaglione is waglio – guapo becomes – wapo – thus the slur “Wop” Don’t know why but it is.

      • possibly because the standard Italian “una” (“a” or “an” in English) is spoken as “na” in Neapolitan…which is not by the way necessarily always a corruption of so called “standard Italian” by any means. It is simply how the vernacular language came to be spoken in that area on account of the surrounding influences. What you heard is probably ” a pizza “… as in “would you like a pizza ?”The other phrase in standard Italian likely translates into “un poco di latto” or in English…”a little bit of milk”. The letter “P” can sometimes sound like “B” when spoken in American Southern Italian dialect which is perhaps more of a corruption of a “legitimate” language (if any can be termed that !) often incorporating the vernacular languages of the entire southern half of the Italian boot and some “Americanisms” as well.

      • spusada=sposata >married

  105. Just found your site. What a treat! Thanks you for all the work you put into it.
    Tom Fusia

  106. What about “Liava Pinsirea” my grandma always told me it meant get it off your head and I don’t know how accurate it is but maybe someone else knows it

  107. Love it ! I grew up in that ny nj area and speaka da gabagool italian! Thanks so much!

  108. Anyone know how to spell the Italian word spoken before a dead person’s name? Also, it’s exact translation? Phonetically spelled “abunonama”? It’s Napolitano dialect. Thanks!

    • buon anima = good soul

    • I believe what you are hearing is the Neapolitan vernacular of
      la buon’ anima pronounced as (a)bonanima or (a)bunamina.
      In many southern Italian dialects the traditional vowel “o” has been replaced by “u”, and the consonant sounds [p] [t] and [k]
      are frequently replaced by [b] [d] and [g] in dialect. Italian spelling does not use certain letters such as “k” and “j” and “w” and “x”.

      example: official Italian scopa (broom) becomes scupa
      official Italian capicollo becomes gabigullu or gabigull’

      Many individuals among the older generations did not have the opportunity to go to school, so the language that was passed on to them in their region was handed down orally (not from text books). It is easy to see how “compare” in official Italian gets repeated as goomba’, the [k] sound becomes [g] and the vowel [o] becomes prounced as a [u] (written here as ‘oo”).

      The immigrants who came to America did not “corrupt” the official Italian. After all, the Florentine language itself was only a dialect until it became elevated to official national status.
      Immigrants to North America were forced to invent new words for things which simply did not exist in their old country. The result is a colourful blend of Italian dialect, English, and local vernacular. A living language is one that constantly changes to reflect its new environment.

  109. This word was used a lot in my Sicilian household, miss-keen-ah or mischina…..basically a pathetic person. Also, poo-peed-ah-me-ah or puppida Mia, basically a term of endearment :)

  110. Don’t forget…basnigol which is Italian slang for basil!

    • I remember my dad saying basnagol for basil. When my wife and I were first married we lived in a Ponte neighborhood and we all had vegetable gardens. I said to my neighbor “That’s great basnigol” and he looked at me like I had three heads. He was from Rome..

      • My grandma used to say fazzaneegol ,I spelled it out how it sounded when she said it) for basil.she was from avellino . She was nabolitan(again spelled out how it sounded) not neopolitan.

      • My grandfather from Cefalu, Sicily, used to call basil “basalico” with the accent on the last syllable.

      • I too recall two versions of the plant we all call Sweet Basil in North American English. Growing up my ears heard “Basa Nicol” from a Calabrese dialect (with the very last syllable stressed). In university I learned the official Italian word was “basilico” (with the second syllable stressed). My own theory is that previous generations of Calabrese speakers did not learn the word from the written form “basilico”. Instead it was passed down orally. It is not a stretch for someone with limited reading ability to hear Basa Nicol from the intended utterance “basilico” especially when there is universal familiarity with San Nicola (good old St Nick) and Basare (which is a variation of official Italian “baciare” (to kiss). If you close your eyes and attempt to say the official word “basilico” (with the second vowel stressed) and then repeat this time with the final vowel stressed, it sounds very much like Basa Nicol (unaccented final vowel “a” is frequently omitted in spoken Calabrese) (reinforced perhaps by the semantic meaning associated with basa (kiss) and Nicol (shortened form of Nicola (“Nicholas”).

  111. My Northern Italian mother used to say, in a situation where in English we might say, “”Well, he made a real pig’s ear/dog’s dinner/unholy mess outta that!” she’d say “a pasticcia,” to mean a jumble, which word I discovered later literally means “pie filling,” as in the word “pastry”(“dough with a filling”). As it happens, as a young kid I came across a description of a work of art as being a “pastiche,” and guessed, from knowing the word from Mom, that it meant a “mash-up” of sorts, and to my surprise, I found I was right; while it’s a French word which moved into English, it’s one of those cognate words which ends up NOT being a “false friend.” You know what they say in Italian– “traditore-traduttore” (“the translator-betrayer”) so you always have to watch out.

  112. This is great, very comprehensive! I put together several videos of my family explaining the meaning of various Italian-American slang words (all my Grandparents born in Sicily and now families mainly based in NY/NJ area), and it is good to see some cross-referencing here! If anyone is interested…

  113. Great job. I recognize many words my parents use to say. So funny. Thanks.

  114. You omitted “FART” which I believe is:
    scoreggia: f. (pl. -ge) (vulgar) fart. Upper class italian
    Pirito: fart in the Sicilian dialect

    You are all welcome. It is a language that should not be forgotten. I was raised on the west side of Buffalo, NY. My aunt once told me that when the Sicilian Italians moved into the west side of Buffalo [1920's] she said that the Irish moved to south Buffalo LOL, it is true.
    Vinnie

  115. This was a walk down memory lane for me! when I was a kid, I used to joke that there must be something about living closer to the Equator making you drop the endings off words. Southerners in the USA drop the “g” off anything ending in “ing”, and Southern Italians just drop the last letter off nearly anything. As others have pointed out, the letter “C” at the beginning of a word turns into a “G”. T’s and D’s seem to get interchanged often too. Makes it hard to learn proper Italian, because the voice recognition programs keep correcting me! Nice to know I am remembering it the way my grandparents said it.

  116. My mom used to call my boyfriend “scualiabeep”. Any ideas of what that could mean?????

    • My grandma used to call me that . She would say mr. Shpillabeek. That’s how it sounded when she said it you probably have the spelling right.she would say it playfully not really sure what it means

  117. Can’t begin to tell you how wonderful it is to have found this site. I’m 1st generation from Brooklyn NY, I grew up hearing these words and phrases every day. I still use them quite regularly :-)
    Wouldn’t know any other way…. As Carol Burnett sang, “thanks for the memories ”
    Ralphie….

  118. I am a 1st. & 2nd. generation Italian, depending on which parent I refer too. My mother wanted her children to be American first, so she would ask her brothers and sisters to please only speak English around the children. Of course my Grandfather who had to spend at least one month a year in America in order to keep his holdings, could not speak any English, so he got a pass. I thought my mother was cool at the time, but now as I look back a realize how much I missed not being able to speak Italian so I especially appreciate your work on these interpretations. I think I can tell you I recognize 95% of them.

    I worked for two Italian Gentlemen who owned a riding stable in Brooklyn. They use a phrase “Mannagia get tu zong as I remember it. When I would ask what that meant they would say, since I was just a 10 year old kid, It means “Your toast is in the oven”. I’m still looking for the real meaning of that phrase.

    Thank you again.
    Gregory

  119. Thanks for compiling these phrases to preserve our Italian-American cultural heritage. It’ll be interesting to see how many generations these phrases live on in North America, or will they get lost in the ‘broth’ of the melting pot?
    -Janet

  120. Great list .. ny dad’s favorite thing he
    used to say when he got updet was “mannaggia dial” .. I neve knew exactly what he was saying , but i do now lol .. thanks!

  121. […] ancestry, thanks to my beloved maternal grandmother, but most of my day to day life was filled with Italian-American words and traditions.)  During family gatherings we lifted our glasses to toast the occasion while everyone shouted […]

  122. Everything is very open with a precise clarification of the challenges.
    It was definitely informative. Your site is extremely helpful.
    Many thanks for sharing!

  123. I recently ran across an Italian whose last name is “Stucatz”. Does it mean something (other than a last name). It sounds familiar- like calling someone a “stucatz” would be something bad, but I may be thinking of another word.

    • OMG! I’d hate to have a last name like that. I’d definitely change it. It reminds me of the actor who played Frank Pentangeli in “The Godfather 2″, whose name was Michael V. Gazzo.

    • I have since found out what it means:-( Sorry, I really wasn’t trying to be vulgar.

  124. My mother’s favorites were, Ti Potza schiatta, Potza yetta u sangue. There were others but can’t remember them right now.

  125. I’m from Chicago and my mother’s family came from Naples. They used to use a word that I can’t find anywhere. I don’t know how to spell it properly in Italian, but it sounded like “meen-gya-roll”. If I remember correctly, it was used when someone did something stupid. And, my mother used to say, “fangool thea-de-mommeda”. I know what fangool means, but not the rest of it. Anyone hear these words?

  126. Very interesting page. I got here via Google as I’m trying to find out the meaning of some Sicilian/Italian slang or colloquial terms, which I assume are varying degrees of offensiveness. I heard these a lot from my adoptive mom, actually my paternal grandmother, while I was growing up in the 1950’s-1960s. She passed away in 1975. I think she was born in the US but her folks/siblings came over from Sicily late 1800’s-early 1900’s. They lived on the East Side of Cleveland, the “Woodland” area I think. She’d use these when she’d get mad at me or my brother, or at her husband. I still pretty much remember how she said them. I know d and t sounds can overlap, as well as b and p, and c and g. When I was young, I thought pasta was BOSS-ta! So where I have a G, may be a C, etc. Everyone I could ask is deceased, I’m gonna be 61 myself. So I’ll present them the way I remember them.

    She would voice this all in one complete long senetnce: Go VAH-go vah-GAH, SCUDdy vah DAY-stah, BRUCE-t-cahDOANia, miz-diablo, voo-TAHN-noo-SHAKE-oo (might be “scutty”, day-stah = testa = head? Nuts in the head or dick head? I know diablo = devil, but not what the “miz” refers to. Shake-oo – shekoo? donkey? ass? I have a hunch go-vah-go-vah-gah may be a variant of vaffanculo?)

    I got called a “horse’s KNOCK-you” plenty of times (prolly ass or penis?)

    Lock-ah day VAIN-trah. (first part crazy, like in loco? I also seen laca (?) refer to milk and also maybe shellac or varnish? day is de? ventra? air? Also I think I seen it referring to stomach/belly/abdomen/lungs?)

    If I asked where we are going and she was pissed, she’d say Buzzle la GAHNT. (Plaza or place of something?)

    She has also said “rome-bo-TONE-oh” a couple of times, but if I’d repeat that one especially, she’s get mad and say “shut up, that is a really bad word”, so seems she didn’t use sexual terms, or did she?

    Another she used to say sounded like “grah-NOOD-oo”, but I think I found “cornuto” on that one. That’s another she said was really bad, but I don’t see it being that bad since I found out, means more or less “bastard” in this sense? But then back then, guess “bastard” was bad.

    I think I found GREASE-toe, Christ?

    I remember sometimes she’s refer to the bathroom as the “buckhouse” which I found out meamt “back house/out house”. She did use to word “culu” and I remember it pronounced as cool-oo, not cool-oh. Crazy was POT-see.

    I don’t have cable, so I don’t know if any of these were used on the Sopranos, LOL.

    Thanks for any help!

  127. So cool; a little jewel of a resource for Little Italy’s ‘Spanglish’. So awesome when people get down to brass tacks and get this on the Internet. It keeps these languages living. I took enough Italian in college to know the base of some of these phrases from “High” Italian, but the trench linguistics morphology you provide for the street Neapolitanese is both entertaining and invaluable. I needed just the right word in not quite mobspeak, just the right slang rendering of something Sicilian but not so sinister, for a certain type of idiot, and here I found it, the exact right word in no language but the one we collectively share. Fascinating stuff for anybody like me who just can’t get enough fun out of the words I already know. I think first gen’s (Italian, German, Mexican, any and all) keep English such a powerful living language because its the ragazzi, the ones who don’t speak either language so good (they don’t talk either so great neither), who create these pidgeon portmonteaus that fill in the crevices of precision in creating the exact word over time that no single language would have on its own.

  128. My grandfather was from Naples and he would sing to his grandchildren the following song:
    Chickery chick, chala chala, checkalaromi in the bananica, pollicowolica can’t you see, chickerchick is me” I supplied the punctuation and excuse my phonics. Has anyone else heard this tune or did my grandfather just make up some words just to entertain his grandchildren?.

  129. “American Italian” perhaps is often even more apt than “Italian American” in describing this wonderful language of the immigrants and their children that we will do well to hold on to as an American cultural treasure. Our ancestors did not lack for colorful expressive phrases that squarely and succinctly hit their intended mark. Try “vedova bianca” (white widow) meaning a woman whose husband was alive but nowhere to be found so she was not entitled to wear a widow’s black. Although often unlettered yet still as a people how truly “civilized” by any fair measure they equally as often really were. It remains for us to preserve the sacred memory of this chapter of the American experience and not in the frequently misleading and exaggerated terms of television and film. Sites such as this can and will do just that.

  130. My grandfather always said something like “male di cuah” when something was broken or not working. “It’s male di cuah.” Anyone else remember this or know what the last word was (I know “male di”)?

  131. I just found this site. It’s an amazing compilation of words and phrases I grew up with.

  132. I wish I could remember all the words my mother said to me in Italian the phrases were a little different then used here! To her I was lazy and alot of words you use here thank you for the translations I used to think what she was telling me in Italian that she would not repeat in English was just what SOME of the words are here you do not have them all but I get the picture! To me being a female I never lived up to her standards but ya know you cant even please family all the time! I am happily married retired these days and my husband has soothed and smoothed out my worriies and my emotions now about my Mother for over 43 years God Bless Him! No he is not full blood Italian American 2nd generation like me he is Scotch Irish! Just as much fun but a little more understanding! lol! btw my Italian Father (God Bless My Parents stayed and argued and yelled at each other for over 50 years!) would never say as much in Italian he always told me in English lol but a little more picturesque that I could understand ! Yes I dont think to them I was the best child but the more I tried to please them the bigger the hole I dug! Oh Well Whatcha Gonna Do? Or as Grandma would say “Whatcha want eggs in your beer?- lol sweetheart she was! Sorry to write so much but the phrases still echo in my head after all these years !
    !

  133. oh btw thanks again for this site I have been wondering over 60 years what the words were that Mother used now at least I know some! This site I would rate excelllent! You have done a fabulous job in translation of all the Italian Slang ! I do appreciate it thank you so very much! I give you a 10 plus and more then excellent rating! sincerely yours

    • Jeanne-are you my long-lost cousin from Waterbury,ct?? paul nap.

  134. A lot of thought and heart have gone into this website congratulations .
    When I hear southern dialect spoken I feel it in the heart and in my memory. Unfortunately when I hear proper Italian spoken I feel nothing.
    I am 50 and I am first generation Australian from calabrese migrants parents which there is loads of in Australia especially in Sydney . Maria Comito xxx

  135. I get emails from this site to my inbox, but when I click on it, it takes me to the beginning of this page. Is there any way to go directly to the reply?

  136. Grazie !!! I have spent many hours thru the years trying to find the words and phrases I heard as a kid . You filled in some blanks … and the comments filled in some more !!! I have sent this to many of my goombas that will love it !!!

  137. May I suggest that an alternate pronunciation for provolone (especially auricchio) would be ‘Bruva lune’. That’s the way my Dad (Elmont, LI by way of Lower Manhattan) pronounced it and the only way my brother and I know how to say it

    • There are many instances where southern Italian dialects substitute the sound [b] for [p] and [d] for [t], in addition to the vowel [u] for [o]. So your phonetic perception is quite accurate.
      My own perception of what my Calabrese parents were saying was something akin to ‘pruvulun(e)’ (official Italian ‘provolone’).
      I recently visited Italy and it warmed my heart to hear some southern Italians speaking to each other in my parents’ tongue.
      They tell me that the dialects are dying out, and that everyone studies official Italian today, and that it is inappropriate to use a dialect with a total stranger. But I found it delightful to hear Calabrese spoken in Italy among family and friends. Due to local influences, the dialects spoken by immigrants to North America have evolved quite differently from the original Calabrese dialects in southern Italy. My relatives always got a good laugh when I repeated words my own parents used to say in southern Ontario –words that never caught on in southern Italy. For example – “gar-bi-che” (for “garbage”) yard-a (for “yard”) and “bassa-men-to” for “basement”)

      • Even though your relatives were Calabrese, it seems the pronunciations are the same as my family from Naples & Sorrento. Provolone was Pruvalone , basil Basanicol. I hope this dialect doesn’t die out. IF I ever get to go to Italy, it’s probably all I would relate to.

  138. Anyone ever hear the word “spusada”? Just spelling it how it sounds.

    • My best guess is that this is a variation of the official Italian “sposata” which refers to the marital status of a female. For a male that would be “sposato”.
      It is common in southern Italy for the vowel “o” to be replaced by “u” and for the consonant “t” to be replaced by a “d”.

      • “Spusdada” however spelled and whatever its literal translation is not usually intended or meant as a descriptive compliment by any means. “Half asleep”…”out of it”…”undone”…”confused”…”totally unaware of what is going on around him/her”…”not all together”……..perhaps begin to approach in American English how that term is sometimes used in describing a particular person.

      • The original post mentioned “spusada” whereas you are referring to the phonetic pronunciation “spusdada” (variation of official Italian “spostata”). The two words are different in pronuncation and meaning in both official Italian and in southern Italian dialects. It is common in southern Italian dialects to replace the vowel [o] with [u] and the consonant [t] with [d]. Hence the word which you are referring to is most likely a variation of the official Italian ‘spostata’ which means exactly what you said in your post. However, the absence of a [d] or a [t] after the first poster’s second [s] (check his spelling of “spusada” versus your “spusdada”) leads to me to believe that the corresponding word in official Italian is in fact “sposata” (married status of a female, for example on an Italian passport.)

      • Maybe the Latin root for the English word, “spouse”?

      • After a little research in Garzanti’s Italian Thesarus and commensurate with Mark’s explanation of “o” sometimes becoming “u” and “t” becoming “d” south of Rome I believe that in “spusada” we are likely dealing with a variant of the Italian ” spossato” indicating a now weak or spent person….lacking in vigor..In the context I have heard what sounds something like that used that would be about right….”all worn out” might be another way to state the case in American English.

  139. My grandmother was from a village near Naples……..she used to say ,when ever one of us spoke too loud with the Windows open ” basteched”
    And other one she used to say was ” gi de mort” ???????

    • This is just a guess, but your comment reminds me of two words I heard frequently as a kid in Southern Ontario from my Calabrese parents. “Basta” means “enough (already)”, and your phonetic writing “ched” reminds me of “cheet-o’ meaning “be quiet already”. So basta and chitto (a variation of “zitto” in official Italian are logically combined into one expression.

      “Basta e “Chito” – “Enough chatter already – and be quiet”. Remember that [t] in official Italian is often replaced by the sound [d]. Hence your recollection of “ched” which I think represents ‘zitto’ in Italian with the final vowel omiited (zitto > chitto > chid(o), which you have represented as ‘ched’.

      • When we got too loud, my dad would say, with a rising inflection (and some frustration), “Stai zitto!”

  140. “Spusdada” however spelled and whatever its literal translation is not usually intended or meant as a descriptive compliment by any means. “Half asleep”…”out of it”…”undone”…”confused”…”totally unaware of what is going on around him/her”…”not all together”……..perhaps begin to approach in American English how that term is sometimes used in describing a particular person.

    Mike – August 3, 2014 at 2:39 PM

    Are you sure you’re not confusing this with, “stunad”, meaning out of it, dazed?

    • I am inclined to agree with both of your posts. I haven’t researched it but clearly there is some connection between the English “spouse” (probably from Latin at some point) and the Italian word “sposata” (“married female”). In many southern Italian dialects the vowel [o] is replaced by [u], so it makes perfect sense for there to be a connection between “sposata” and “spusada”. Another post comments on the Italian dialect word “spusdada”, but other than sounding similar has no connection at all that I can see with the term “spusada”.

      On the other hand “spusdada” does look like it has a connection with another Italian word “spostata” (Remember [t] frequently becomes [d] and the vowel sound [o] frequently becomes [u] in dialect). This leads me to believe that the case for making a connection between “spusdada” and “spostata” is much stronger than assuming that “spusdada” and ‘spusada’ are referring to the same thing. Official Italian spostata > spustata > spusdada (southern Ital. dialect). However, spusada, which is what the first post was all about, evolves from official Italian “sposata” > spusata > spusada (Ital. dialect). Just the thoughts of someone who grew up speaking dialect first, and later learned the official Italian (Florentine) at university.

    • I am inclined to agree with Karen. The poster’s description is more appropriately linked to the official Italian word “stonato’ which has probably evolved into Italian dialect along the line of stonato > stunatu > stunadu > stunad (Ital. dialect).
      There is no connection at all that I can see with “spostata” (Ital.) or its variation in Ital. dialect “spusdada”.

  141. “Stunad”…or “stonato is still heard very very frequently and is used as the equivalent of our American English term “stoned”..meaning as you correctly indicate “out of it”…or “dazed”. The other term “spusdada” or “spustato” encountered much less frequently and in the context spoken (referring to a spouse) seemed to mean as indicated…basically “out of it”…The term sounds phonetically something like “scustamata” (“itch”…”pestlike” but that was not the meaning intended to be conveyed.

  142. My grandma used to say shacod (written how it sounded) for something that was a mess.she was napolitan from avellino.yours is very similar I guess the sound changes slightly from town to town.

  143. Thank you for this. I remember a lot of these. It’s fun to compare these with my knowledge of book italian.

    I’m looking for one other phrase, something my grandfather said when he was given food that he thought lacked salt or was too bland. It’s something like “scia bid'” or maybe “scia vid” (b’s and v’s tend to sound similar). Maybe something slang about “the wake of life?”

    Belle cose :)

    • This is just a hunch, but I believe the word you heard was most likely a version of the official Italian word “dissapita” (something bland and unappealing). My late father (who liked salt more than the rest of us) would complain by labelling something “dissapita” (not enough salt). Based on the context you described, the possible omission of the first and last unaccented syllables, and the tendency to replace [p] with [b], and [t] with [d], it is quite possible that your grandfather was saying “dissapita” in his own tongue. dissapita> sapit(a) > sabida > sabid.

  144. My mother made braggiol exactly the way you describe it! My sisters, my brother and I have all tried to duplicate hers but we never have. I miss her cooking soooo much. My brother, who is the oldest, is the best cook out of the four of us.

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