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Italian Proverbs and Idioms Posted by on Jan 17, 2020 in Culture, Italian Language

Ciao a tutti!

Come state voi oggi? Parliamo dei proverbi e degli idiomi! Una conversazione interessante per sollevare il morale. How are you all today? Let’s talk about proverbs and idioms! An interesting conversation to lift your spirits.

Qualche dei miei preferiti, some of my favorites:

Non tutti i mali vengono per nuocere = Not all bad comes to hurt. 

The English version would be “every cloud has a silver lining”. Or even more simply, “everything happens for a reason”.

Natale con i tuoi, Pasqua con chi vuoi. = Christmas with yours, Easter with whoever you want.

This is a really popular Italian saying. It is very traditional that Christmas is spent with the family, and then Easter can be spent with whoever you would like! We don’t have a saying that reflects this in English.

In bocco al lupo! Crepi!= In the mouth of the wolf! May it die!

When someone wishes you “in bocca al lupo” in Italian, you always respond with “crepi!” This is like saying break a leg in inglese, which is a popular way to wish someone good luck.

Meglio un uovo oggi che una gallina domani. = Better an egg today than a hen tomorrow. 

In inglese si dice “A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush,” meaning it is better to appreciate what you have now, than to pursue what is only a possibility; è un avvertimento contro l’avidità, it is a warning against greed.

Quando a Roma vai, fai come vedrai. = When to Rome you go, you do as you will see. 

When in Rome, do as the Romans!

Chi molto pratica, molto impara. = Who practices a lot, learns a lot. 

Practice makes perfect.

O la va, O la spacca. = Either go at it or break it.  

We say “make it or break it” in English, or “all or nothing.”

O mangiar questa minestra o saltar questa finestra. = Either eat this soup or jump out the window.

Take it or leave it.

Tra il dire e il fare c’è di mezzo il mare. = Between saying and doing there is the sea.

Easier said than done.

Tocca a voi! Have you heard any other Italian sayings and idioms before? Of course, there are hundreds! List out your favorites in the comments!

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  1. Rick:

    Ho mangiata la foglia (I know what’s going on)

  2. Tom Dawkes:

    How best to translate “Mal commune, mezzo gaudio” when “A trouble shared is a trouble halved” doesn’t seem appropriate?

  3. Jesscet:

    Thanks for these “simple” yet practical idioms! Love the fact that they all have an English equivalent so it helps to remember them! Grazie mille!

  4. jnchkim:

    meglio tardi che mai = better late then never
    tutti i gusti son gusti = there is no accountig for taste
    ‘ delle idiome ‘ ??? idioma e` sm e ‘ idiomi ‘ in plurale

  5. Luisa:

    Ad ogni uccello il suo nido e bello.

    • Mercedes:

      @Luisa This so beautiful and true but I’m trying to think of an English equivalent.

  6. Paulo:

    Sono solo un principiante, ma ho dovuto ridere quando ho visto Google Translate offre questo uso per la parola mutandine: mutandine in un mazzo. Devo ricordare questo.

    Questo è un comune idioma italiano?

  7. jnchkim:

    meglio tardi che mai = better late than never
    tutti i gusti sono gusti = there is no accountion for taste
    idioma e’ sm , pl e’ idiomi

  8. Mercedes:

    Brilliantly useful article, Thank you AND to those who have added even more!

  9. Paul:

    chi lo fa lo aspetti – or something like that – basically what goes around , comes around.

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