Table of Contents

Italian idioms - Letter B,C,D


Baciamo le maniKiss the handsSayings typical of Southern Italy, especially in Sicily. It dates from the time when, as a sign of respect and submission, you actually kissed the hand of a lady or those who are considered by the community a powerful character. Over time it has actually stopped kissing her hand, but the phrase has come into common usage as a sign of reverence and respect.
Baciarsi i gomitiKissing the elbowsIt is said in relation to contexts of situations or events, thinking about how one might find if certain conditions occur entirely impossible, as it is impossible to kiss your elbows.
Bagnato come un pulcinoWet like a chickCompletely wet, soggy, like a chick hatched just hatched.
Banalità del maleBanality of EvilIt challenges the thought, because thought tries to reach the depth, go to the root, and when looking evil, is frustrated because it does not find anything. By contrast, we also talk about the banality of good if the person who does it for granted the imposition of one's conscience or does sense of duty, and in any case without expecting any reward.
Bando alle ciance'Nuff saidThe waffles are (in the Tuscan vernacular) the small talk and vain, from which “we're going to do four more talk.” It can have the meaning “enough with the words” (and maybe let the facts talk).But it also means more talk nonsense, so the meaning would be “enough with the nonsense!
Bastian contrarioContrarianWho taste test to oppose the opinion of others, saying or doing the opposite
Bastone tra le ruoteSpanner in the worksAn obstacle procured from other people.
Battere cassaCash inDemanding payment
Battere in ritirata o Battere la ritirataRetreat or Beating the retreatGive the signal for retreat or withdraw hastily
Battere la DianaBeat the DianaGive the military signal alarm
Battere la fiaccaSlacking offStand doing nothing
Batti e ribattiKeeps on hittingBetween the two was a beat and replies of accusations
Bava di ventoGentle breezeWind light and continuous, lower force in the breeze
Becco di un quattrinoAny moneyYou are very poor. E.g. Io non ho un becco di un quattrino = I don’t have any money.
Bell'e buonoReady-goodUnquestionably this, just, not deny it.
Bello/a come il soleBeautiful / a as the sunVery beautiful
Botta di vitaBotta lifeUnexpected burst of liveliness.
Botta e rispostaQuestion & AnswerQuick Exchange of questions and answers
Botte da orbiBeating of orb onesSentence typically Tuscan which means beating each hitting out wildly and furiously. The “orbs” signify the blind, unable to see, then blowing and blowing at random.
Braccia rubate all'agricolturaArms stolen agricoltureIronic motto with which apostrophizes a person who performs work without intellectual insight
Braccino cortoStingyIronic motto with which apostrophizes a stingy person.
Brancolare nel buioGroping in the darkIt means groping forward, is used when you do not know what to do in a given situation.
Brutto anatroccoloThe Ugly DucklingThe ugly duckling of the famous fairy tale of the same name by Hans Christian Andersen: it is actually a small swan whose egg is finished in a nest of ducks: its beauty will be revealed only in maturity. With this tale, Andersen has created a powerful metaphor for adolescence: the expression “ugly duckling” has remained in the Italian language to indicate a person apparently clumsy, but has yet untapped potential.
Brutto come la fame (anche Brutto come il peccato)Ugly as hunger (even Ugly as sin)Terribly ugly.
Buco nell'acquaHole in the waterActivities useless.
Buco neroBlack HoleIn reference to companies or lenders that, by analogy to blacks holes where matter disappears, cheat their customers getting rid of huge share of money. This term may also refer to entities that, despite receiving substantial public funds, provide low-level services, or worse, do not disburse.
Buonanotte ai suonatoriGoodnight to the musiciansIt is understood that the serenade or the party's over, or (metaphorically) that is now past the time to consult each other in agreement and all that remains separate without another word.
Buonanotte al secchioGood night to the bucket“Forget it, there's nothing to do.” The term probably derives from the way to tell when a bucket untied fell into a well and it was therefore impossible to recover.
Buono come il paneAs good as the breadUnquestionably good.
Buttare a mare qualcosa, qualcunoJettison something, someoneGet rid of someone or something.


C'è del marcio in DanimarcaThere's something rotten in DenmarkSomething is rotten in the state of Denmark.” It is a famous phrase uttered by Marcellus, official Danish, in Hamlet by William Shakespeare (Act I, Scene IV), during the first appearance of the spectrum. Today the phrase is used to suggest that in a certain environment someone is conspiring against others.
C'è un giudice a BerlinoThere is a judge in BerlinTo remember that sooner or later justice takes its course.
Caccia al ladro / all'uomoResearch in order to catch a Thief / manThe pursuit of a criminal by the police. It may refer to the parody of a very laborious search request.
Caccia alle stregheWitch HuntRuthless persecution, unwarranted, preposterous. The expression refers to the judicial practices widespread in Europe in the late Middle Ages and early modern period, which allowed the courts to imprison, torture and put to death men and women merely the accusation of witchcraft or trade with Hell, most of the time challenged members to more or less restless of the popular classes.
Cadere (cascare) a fagioloFall as a bean
Cadere (cascare, scendere) dal peroFall (fall, down) from the pear treeThe expression may derive from the phrase to be on the tops of the trees, used to designate those who spoke so difficult or too opinionated: hence the invitation to “come down from the pear tree” and come back to communicate with their fellow humans.Those who “falls” from the pear tree, experiences a painful impact with reality, after having been too long in the illusory world of his thoughts.
Cadere (cascare) dalle nuvoleFall (fall) from the cloudsAt one time the term had two meanings: arrive suddenly, without warning; discovering with disbelief something obvious to everyone. In both cases, the “clouds” refer to the deity: the clouds, for example, comes the thunderbolt of Zeus, who strikes without warning. But the clouds also reside the angels and saints of the Christian paradise, which fell on the earth today would find themselves immersed in a world completely new and amazing for them.
Cadere nelle braccia di MorfeoFalling into the arms of MorpheusFalling asleep. Morpheus, the Greek god of dreams.
Calcare la manoLimestone handExaggerate
Calende grecheIndefinitelyThe Kalends (Kalendae) festivities were Latin, not in the calendar greek. So putting something “until doomsday,” means to postpone it forever. The term is a pun on the Latin phrase Ad Kalendas graecas, attributed by Gaius Suetonius Quiet Emperor Augustus.
Calma e gessoKeep calmIt tells you when it calls for calm and not to act too quickly. It derives from the language of billiard players, before making difficult shots that give a touch up to the tip of the cue, which is precisely covered with plaster.
Calzare a pennelloFit like a gloveIt is exactly what you need
Cambiare i connotatiChange the featuresBeat up someone till you change the traits his face (the traits are the hallmarks of the face)
Camminare sulle uova / Andare con i piedi di piombo / Andarci cautiWalking on eggshells / Go with feet of lead / Going there cautious. It means to do so with extreme caution, to deal with a situation with the utmost prudence, typically by not giving anything for granted and / or avoid all boldness.
Campa cavalloStay alive horse Wait and see. It tells you when an event is sent back to the desired positive indefinitely into the future. The expression comes from the traditional proverb “bell horse that the grass grows” - where obviously you do not know what it could get by the horse while the grass is growing.
Candido come un giglioWhite as a lilyPure. The lily is a white flower, the color that symbolizes purity and virginity.
Cane bastonatoHangdogDepressed-looking person.
Cane scioltoLoose dogMaverick. Nonconformist person, which does not follow the crowd, unwilling to comply.
(Aspettare a) cantar vittoria(Wait a) claim victory(Do not be so sure, do not say too much before time) cheer for the result of final validity.
Canto del cignoSwansongLast sign of greatness before the final decline: according to a legend, the swan - notoriously dumb animal - can finally sing just before death.
Capitale moraleMoral capitalIn 1864, when Florence became the new capital of the Kingdom of Italy, the Milanese newspapers coined for their city the definition of “moral capital of Italy” Milan was in fact considered the richest city in the Kingdom and modern.
Capitare a tiroBe very closeBe affordable, accessible.
Capire l'antifonaUnderstanding the antiphonUnderstand an allusion, to understand the whole situation from a phrase. The antiphon is the prefatory part of the psalms, recited in the Liturgy of the Hours, Catholic prayer.
Capro espiatorioScapegoatBiblical quote from the Book of Leviticus. In Jewish liturgy, the scapegoat is sacrificed to God in reparation for the sins of the one who offers himself in sacrifice. In Christianity, the scapegoat is Jesus Christ, called the Lamb who was slain, who takes upon himself the sins of the world. In current with this expression refers to someone who takes the sins of facts he did not commit.
Carità pelosaCharity hairyIt is called “hairy” charity is done for interest. The expression is most probably derived from the manner of speaking, very popular in the nineteenth century, have the hair on the heart (to be insensitive), and finds himself in The Malavoglias by Giovanni Verga.
Carne da cannoneCannon meat The “cannon fodder. The “cannon meat” is one of the soldiers (and more precisely of the foot)), intended to deal with the artillery as the animals are destined for slaughter (slaughter and meat is in fact often used with the same meaning). The term comes from an unscrupulous metonymy: the individuals are depicted as meat indistinct.
Carne della mia carneFlesh of My FleshExpressed and strongly emphasizes the close kinship. Biblical quotation from Genesis, where in fact the words are spoken by referring to Eva of Adam.
Carneade! Chi era costui?Carneades! Who was he?It is the opening sentence of the eighth chapter of The Betrothed by Alessandro Manzoni, pronounced by Don Abbondio, while reading the text of a eulogy in honor of St. Charles Borromeo, in which is mentioned the philosopher Carneades. The luck of the expression at Manzoni's contemporaries was such that even today a historical or fantasy or real little known is called a “Carneades”.To express or confess ignorance of a historical or fantasy.
Carta BiancaWhite PaperAn expression that indicates the possibility given to someone to deal with a situation or a problem in any way it believes appropriate without constraints writings.
Carta cantaPaper speaksThe documents speak for themselves, what is written you can not deny.
Casa e chiesaHouse and churchPerson who has no other interests or activities if you do not take care of household chores and, as a social activity, only the religious practice.
Casalinga di VogheraHousekeeper of VogheraVery common expression in the lexicon of journalism, with which they will represent a stereotype of the Italian section of the population petty-bourgeois, the low level of education and work generally has a very simple and humble.
Cascasse il mondoEven if the world fallsTry to reach a goal with the utmost commitment, even in the face of seemingly insurmountable obstacles.
Castelli in ariaCastles in the airBuild castles in the air means designing without foundation, without a plan, fantasizing.
Cattedrale nel desertoCathedral in the desertWhite elephant. It is said of a major project useless, like a cathedral built in a desert without there being a community of people to attend. It has often been said major investments in southern Italy uncoordinated and made a global project (eg new factories in depressed areas without being connected by roads and railways)
Cavalcare la tigreRiding the TigerTry to use a dangerous process.
Cavallo di battagliaHorse for the battleIt indicates the best part of a performance.
Cavallo di razzaHorse racePersonal exceptional qualities to accomplish a certain task.
Cavallo di TroiaTrojan HorseQuote from Homer's Iliad. Your best tool used to accomplish the mission or task.
Non cavare un ragno dal bucoDon’t take away a spider from the hole Do not accomplish anything.
Cavar sangue da una rapaDraw blood from a turnipAn impossible task.
Cavar sangue dal muroDraw blood from the wallStrive to no avail, doing a job that can not give any fruit.
Ce ne passa di acqua sotto i pontiThere goes the water under the bridgeUp to the time to reach a particular purpose, or get to a certain situation, we will take a long time.
Cento di questi giorniOne hundred of these daysExpression greeting used mainly for birthdays or other recurring festivals in general (typically every year). Who wishes to bring himself to turn to spend a hundred more happy days like the one you are celebrating then, by implication, for the birthday wishes a long life.
Che mangino briochesLet them eat briocheExpression attributed to Queen Marie Antoinette of Austria, delivered in response to one of his subjects and he said, “the people is hungry, he has no bread.” This expression indicates that the topic we are talking about do not care much.
Che mi venisse un colpoMay I have a shotAn expression that indicates a state of disbelief.
Che vale un PerùWhat is worth a PeruThat has a lot of value, which is used both for people and for things. The saying comes from the gold which the Spanish conquistadors found in Peru and brought to Europe
Chi c'è c'è (e chi non c'è non c'è)Who is there (and who is not there)In common use, it means that those who participate (eg. at a party or a dinner or an initiative of any kind), will be welcome and will enjoy the company of others, those who will not be present, do not know what they have lost, but no one will miss them.
Chi ha orecchie per intendere, intendaHe who has ears to hear, let him understandWho wants to listen and understand what I say, do it. To emphasize that there may be persons to whom speech can not to please or annoy and then they'll pretend not to hear or do not understand.
Chiagni e fottiCry and f*ckIt is a vulgarism which constitutes a proverbial saying of the Neapolitan tradition. Is usually used to emphasize a typical human attitude, opportunistic and hypocritical, exhibited by some people when they usually complain in those moments when things for them is booming. The phrase has entered the dialect vocabulary and journalistic of political communication, while the underlying behavior is often stigmatized as a failure of the average.
Chiudere la stalla dopo che sono scappati i buoi Close the stable door after the horse has boltedMaking the right action, but too late now and then unnecessarily.
Chiudersi a riccioClose like a hedgehog Close like a clam. Turn in on themselves and avoid socializing with others.
Chiudi il beccoShut youe beakShut your mouth. Expression used rudely to urge someone to shut up. The use of the word “beak”, instead of “mouth”, is given by the implied comparison between the person who is speaking and chickens. Moreover, since it is believed that the chickens are animals from the little intelligence, by extension, the phrase also means that it is better to remain silent, because you are saying things that are not serious and / or of little interest.
Ci fai o ci sei?Or are you doing there?You pretend to be or act like that, but are you really?
Ci vedremo a FilippiWe'll see you at PhilippiIn a passage of Plutarch - then taken up by Shakespeare in his Julius Caesar - Brutus receives a visit from a ghost dream (probably Caesar) turned to him utters the famous phrase, history tells us that just in the battle of Philippi Cesaricida die at the hands of Antonio: This expression is then used to give notice, boldly, an adversary the certainty of victory or to announce a future showdown.
Cieco come una talpaBlind as a mole Blind as a bat.It is said both in the pathological sense and figuratively (meaning a person is not aware of reality).
Ciurlare nel manico Clump in the handleClump in the handle a person or thing that is uncertain and unreliable. If the blade of a knife is not properly inserted in the handle or if it is disconnected for long use, the tool becomes useless, because the blade loses all resistance to turning (ciurlando) in the handle.
Cogliere in contropiedeSeizing on the breakTake aback someone who suddenly finds himself without defense. Borrowed from the football jargon, in which you define a counter sudden reversal of the action, in which those who were attacking is forced back heavily on defense.
Coi fiocchiWith flakesSlap.They say one thing particularly successful or otherwise excellent.
Colpo di fulmineBall of FireThe expression is usually endeavored to indicate a love at first sight, sudden and unexpected
Colpo di spugna Stroke of spongeCoup de Torchon.Eliminate problems or faults in a decisive manner and indistinct.
Col senno di poiIn hindsightIt means “knowing what happened later.” Hindsight is the intellectual capacity integrates a person. Generally said when commenting a decision later proved wrong, unwise or short-sighted.
Coltivare il proprio orticelloGrow your own backyardFocus on your particular interest, without caring of other’s needs and interests.
Comandare a bacchettaPushed aroundCommand without giving the slightest margin of discretion to subordinates.
Come volevasi dimostrareAs it turnedConcluding sentence of the theorems in Euclid's Elements. Said metaphorically of an event that was expected (and perhaps to emphasize that its recommendations were ignored.
Come cercare Maria per RomaHow to search for Maria RomeSee looking for a needle in a haystack.
Come i cavoli a merendaAs the cabbage at snack time“We're like the cabbage”, used to express the inadequacy of something of a context.
Come il cacio sui maccheroniLike cheese on macaroniAn event that occurs on a very opportune time, or at the right time, or a combination especially suitable, can be described metaphorically as the cheese (cheese) on macaroni: a combination of typical Italian cuisine.
Come Noè con i dinosaurLike Noah with dinosaursBeing falsely accused. Noah would have left the dinosaurs walk according to the popular imagination, but the dinosaurs went extinct for science alone.
Come se piovesseLike rainIt means abundant in quantity.
Compagni di merendeFellow snacks
Con beneficio d'inventarioWith the benefit of inventoryEeserving the right to object later.
Con la coda dell'occhioWith the tale of the eye With one eye.To see or notice someone or something for a moment in passing.
Con le pive nel sacco / Con le unghie e con i dentiWith empty-handed / With nails and teethDefending something with stubborn energy. Also used in a metaphorical sense, referring to his own ideas, which are defended “with nails and teeth.”
Con un palmo di nasoWith an inch of his noseVery close to the person.
Conciare per le feste / Conciare per il dì delle festeMolest / Tanning for the day of the holidaysBeat up, providing visible damage to the skin.
Conoscere i propri polliKnow your chickensKnowing who you are dealing with and therefore know how to handle the situation in the best way.
Contare come il due di briscola / il due di picche / il due di coppeCount as two trump / the two of spades / the two cupsDo not count anything. The two trump trump is the lowest in the game of cards. In bridge the two of spades is absolutely the paper from the lower value. It is also used to say: “It counts as two sticks when reigns denier”, or even “counts as two cups when the trump is sticks.”
Contare fino a dieciCount to tenReflect or contain himself before speaking.
Contento come una pasquaHappy as a Easter Happy as a clam. Way of saying that it refers to those who express great happiness and joy. Derives precisely from the fact that on Easter Sunday is a day of great joy.
Contrordine compagniCountermand companionsExpress something of an afterthought. The expression remained as a synonym for critical obedience “blind, ready, absolute” to an ideology.
Convergenze paralleleParallel convergencesOxymoron invented by Aldo Moro. During the “Government of abstentions” the Christian Democrats agreed to support the PCI but had to remain outside the government. Moro thus supported the dialogue between the two major parties, without prejudice to the positions in the Parliament (majority of the first, the opposition seconds).
Convitato di pietraStone GuestIt's a phrase borrowed from the opera “Don Giovanni,” which indicates an absent person whose presence hangs over the present. A person to whom everyone thinks, but no one dares mention it directly.
Correre la cavallinaRunning the filly
Cospargersi il capo di cenereSprinkle ashes on their headsMake an act of penance. Sayings related to Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent, when the priest sprinkles ashes.
Costruire sulla roccia / sulla sabbia Building on the rock / sandBuilding on the sand means “to build on weak assumptions on something uncertain and accommodating.” In the Gospel, as opposed to build on the rock, that is, on something solid and secure.
Crepi l'avariziaCrack avariceAbound in doing one thing.
Culo e camiciaBottom and shirt Thick as thieves. It is said of two people who are perfectly in tune with each other. The reference is the time when the 'culottes', the pants were not widespread the vulgar, and the shirt was left in direct contact with the intimate parts.


Da capo a dodiciFrom zero to twelveFrom the end of twelve. Expression typically Roman who wants to mean “start over” and that twelve is reported to the months of the year, then the beginning of a new year.
Da che mondo è mondoFrom the beginning of the worldFrom time immemorial.Since the creation of the world. Always.
Dai e daiBy and byExpression used to express that, repeating something several times, eventually something could happen, beautiful or ugly. The repetition of the word from the stresses in the repetition of a certain action over time.
Dalla padella nella braceFrom the frying pan into the fireThe expression means “from bad to worse,” and is used to describe or comment on the situation in which it is proposed a remedy worse than the disease. Comes from an old traditional tale: a tench invited her friends to jump from the frying pan: in this way the boiling oil were saved only to die in the fire.
Dalle piccole coseFrom the little thingsIn phrases like “starting with the little things”, “you see the little things”
Dalle stelle alle stalleFrom the stars to the stablesFrom riches to rags. From fortune to a downwards disgrace.
Dammi un cinqueHigh-FiveAlso widespread with the English equivalent Give me five (or Gimme five), is an expression that someone asks his interlocutor to beat each other with their right hands, palm open, producing a sharp sound.It is a type of gestures typically American, which took hold in Italy in the eighties, perhaps through the broadcasts of NBA basketball games that had a certain popularity among the young. To further disseminate the expression was Jovanotti, with one of his first successes, Gimme five. The gesture indicates understanding and friendship between the two people, but it is also used to emphasize the positive outcome of a gesture or an event, a sort of “Congratulations.” Five naturally refers to the fingers of the hand.
Da quale pulpito (viene la predica)From which pulpit (the letcure comes)Expression that emphasizes ironic that those who “preach” is the first to actually do what he says. The pulpit is where the machine is still present in many churches, on which the priest went up to get better listen during the sermon and place generally at the center of the nave. Currently this facility is rarely used, thanks to modern amplification systems that allow the priest to be heard clearly even from the altar.
Dare adito aGive rise toLiterally “give space”, then “allow” and also “arouse”. Could give rise to doubt “may leave room for doubt.”
Dare alla testaAffect the headConstitute an obsession, to lose it. “This music is giving me (affecting) the head.”
Dare aria ai dentiGive air to the teethSpeak much to talk about, to no avail, literally open my mouth only to refresh the teeth with air.
Dare i numeriGive the numbersUnreason, say foolish things, delirious. Hearer can translate sentences senseless in numbers through the face and gamble in the lottery.
Dare un colpo di telefonoPhone upCalling someone by phone.
Darla / DarloGive itColloquial (and vulgar), referring to female or male sexual organ. It is also used to indicate a woman of easy virtue (which gives it away) or more generally the sexual act (gave it to me / o).
Darle di santa ragione / Bastonare di santa ragioneGive her a thrashing / beating a thrashingBeating hard, no spare (beatings are implied). An expression that refers to the educational methods or repressive which include corporal punishment, recording somehow present in greater violence and systematic actions justified ideologically, in contrast to other species of their own qualms about the damage to their own kind.
Darsela a gambeCut and run(with your legs)Escape.
Darsi all'ippicaDedicate yourself to horseracingDevote themselves to anything else, than that in which it is engaged. Ironic exhortation aimed at emphasizing the inability of someone.
Darsi da fareMaking It HappenStrongly involved in an activity.
Darsi delle arieBullshittingHolding too much importance; attributed a value of capacity or illusory. The term “air” is used in the figurative meaning of “appearance”, “look”, etc..
Della MadonnaOf Our LadyExpression lexicon youth is already widespread in the eighties, later revived by singer Jovanotti, with the song “Muoviti Muoviti ” in 1991, with the meaning “exceptional”.
Della/per la serieOf / for the seriesExpression used to describe a phrase at the beginning of the sentence and / or an event by placing it in a “series” in fact. E.g. Per la serie arrivo presto = Of the series He arrives early (because He is always late)
Di buzzo buonoGood willOf good spirit, having no desire to work hard.
Di capo in colloAs a leader in neckImmediately, immediately, without preliminary or intermediate stages.
Di facili costumiOf easy virtueYou say to a woman is not very faithful.
Dietro le quinteBehind the scenesterm describes what is being done for the community without this being made public.
Di nicchiaNicheSomething turned on a small number, like a specific genre or food used or consumed by a small part of the population.
Dio patria famigliaGod family homeThe formula, originally nationalist, was adopted as the slogan from fascism during the conquest of power by Mussolini.
Di primo acchito / In prima battuta / Alla / sulla prima / Sulle primeAt first glance / At first glance / At / on the first / At firstAt first, at the first observation. Expressions born in sports.
Dire pane al pane e vino al vinoSay bread for bread and wine for wineCall things by their name.
(Dire) tra il serio e il faceto / (Fare) un po' sul serio un po' per burla(Say) between the half-jokingly / (Be) a little 'seriously a bit' for funSay something with playful attitude but understanding it seriously.
Distruggi famiglieFamilies destroyerIt tells of a woman who meddles in other people's marriages causing separation.
Dirne quattro a qualcunoName a four to oneHard to communicate to someone their own opinion.
Domani è un altro giornoTomorrow is another dayQuote from the movie Gone with the Wind, 1939: pronounced by protagonist Scarlett O'Hara, played by Vivien Leigh (“Tomorrow is another day, and you will see”). Has passed into common usage in the sense of “while we do so, then we'll see,” equivalent to the Spanish “Que Sera Sera”
Dopo di noi il diluvioAfter us the delugeNothing good after us
Due di spadeTwo of Spadesn many card games the two of spades is a card from the value close to zero. Take the two of spades by someone almost always means receive a rejection.
Due pesi e due misureTwo weights and two measuresTwo distinct criteria applied unfairly to similar situations.
Due piedi in una scarpa / Due piedi in una staffaTwo feet in a shoe / Two feet in a bracketDo not decide between two possibilities.


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