Irresistibly Creative Italian Idiomatic Expressions

We love the rich stories these comic and creative idiomatic expressions tell. We can only hope that the English language can evolve to emulate these charming and picturesque expressions. They begged our little cartoons.


Ha le braccine corte. — He has little short arms.

His arms are so short he can’t reach his wallet. He is cheap!

Tra il dire e il fare c’è di mezzo il mare. — There is an ocean between saying and doing.

The expression in English is “There is many a slip twixt the cup and the lip.” Meaning that good intentions don’t always come to fruition.


Sputi il rospo. — Spit out the toad.

This expression means to tell the truth or the secret you’ve been keeping. In English we have the expression “Spill the beans!”

Ad ogni morte di Papa. — Every time a pope dies.

The equivalent in English is ‘Once in a blue moon.’ This expression means an infrequent occurrence.

Vai a farti benedire. — Go get blessed.

The equivalent in English, well it would be impolite to say, but the closest, in English, is “Get lost!”


In Bocca al Lupo. — In the Mouth of the Wolf.

The meaning is Good Luck, as you would wish someone “Break a leg,” but you can use in any situation, not just theater. The response is always “Crepi il Lupo.” Meaning ‘may the wolf die’, or “Crepi” for short. We have even heard that responding with “Grazie” reverses the luck!

Si chiama Pietro e torna indietro. — It is called Peter and it comes back.

A clever rhyming idiom that means ‘I am lending you something and I want it back’. If someone lends you their key and they say “Its name is Jack and it comes back!” it’s the Italian way of saying they expect it to return. It is so common in Italy that the second part is often omitted, so “Si chiama Pietro.”

Tirare gli schiaffi dalle mani. — To pull slaps from your hand.

This expression refers to someone who is so annoying they seem to pull slaps from your hands.

Illustrations by M.M. Gaman

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