Whether you’ve been studying Italian for years now or you’re a beginner, Italian exclamations are an essential addition to your vocabulary.
Probably you won’t find them in books, but you’ll surely hear them all over the streets, among Italian people.
But, first of all, what are Italian exclamations?
Interjection or exclamation is a part of speech that expresses a particular emotional attitude of the speaker, in an extremely concise way. In written language, the interjection is generically followed by the exclamation point, which underlines its emphasis and immediacy. You can use Italian exclamations to express wonder, excitement, annoyance, anger and other sudden emotions with more emphasis.
No doubt, using Italian exclamations in the right context make you sound more like a local.
So, let’s get started!
You can also see one of these books in order to improve your vocabulary:
1. Mamma Mia!
Probably one of the most well-known and commonly used interjections in the Italian language, Mamma mia! can be translated as ‘My goodness!’. It covers a wide spectrum of strong emotions: from shock and horror, to wonder and surprise, or even dismay. Italians do say this for almost everything – and sometimes it could be considered as a perfect Italian stereotype.
Thus, depending on different tones, it can take different meanings and describe various moods.
Mamma mia! Non ci credo!
Oh my! I can’t believe it!
Mamma mia! che paura mi hai fatto!
Oh God, you scared me!
Mamma mia, oggi è stata una giornataccia.
Oh man, today was rough.
This Italian exclamation is pretty versatile and can be used to express some urgency or disappointment. The most common way to translate it is ‘Come on!’, to urge someone to hurry up or to give it a break.
However, in some other contexts Dai! or Ma dai! can also show some frustration in front of something stupid, meaning more like ‘Seriously?’.
Non puoi venire con noi. – Dai! Voglio venire!
You can’t come with us. – Come on! I want to go!
È un idiota! – Dai! Smettila.
He’s an idiot. – Come on! Cut it out.
Magari is a one of the Italian exclamations that could have different meanings depending on the context.
On one hand it is aimed at expressing a desire that cannot be fulfilled.
On the other hand, you can use it when wishing that something was true and your desire may be actually satisfied.
You can definitely sound like a native when saying it.
Hai mai vinto alla lotteria? – Magari!
Have you ever won the lottery? – I wish!
L’esame di Italiano ti andrà alla grande. – Magari!
Your Italian exam will be just fine. – I wish!
This is a polite way to convey annoyance, frustration or dismay. It can be translated as damn or what a pity. You may use it in different situations: when you can’t find something, when a plan ends up canceled or when you get to your favorite pizza place forgetting it’s the day off – that is surely ‘too bad!’.
Mannaggia is a way to curse someone and wish him/her bad things. So, that’s why sometimes you can even hear Italians say mannaggia a te! (damn you, you will be damned) or mannaggia tutto (damn everything) – although it’s a bit ruder than the common use.
Otherwise, you can add some dash by combining mannaggia with another poetic Italian wail: mannaggia la miseria! means ‘dammit!’ and is another widely used Italian exclamation to swear in a fancier way.
Mannaggia, che casino!
Damn, what a mess!
Mannaggia, se solo potessi dirglielo!
Damn, if only I could tell him!
Italian expressions with che
You should know that a very common type of Italian exclamations is the one made using che combined with an adjective. This little word usually translates to ‘how’ in this context.
5. Che buono!
If your nana has just cooked plenty of delicious food for you at dinner, Che buono! – meaning ‘How tasty!’ – is the perfect way to show appreciation for it.
Mm che buono questo polpettone!
Mm how tasty is this meatloaf!
In addition, if you want to learn more about Italian phrases for food, you can read our article about phrases for food or even buy some useful book we suggest:
6. Che scemo!
If your friend tells you a joke you don’t really feel like laughing at, Che scemo! – meaning ‘How silly!’ – could be the right answer. And be sure that the list could go on and on.
Un uomo entra in un caffè: splash! – Che scemo!
A man enters a coffee(shop): splash! – How silly!
7. Che bello!
Che bello! means literally ‘How beautiful!’ or ‘How nice!’ and suits a lot to show how much you find someone/something attractive or exciting.
Domani andiamo tutti al mare. – Che bello!
Tomorrow we’re going to the sea. – How nice!
Come sto con questa camicia? Che bello!
How do I look with this shirt? – How handsome!
8. Che schifo!
On the contrary, Che schifo! means ‘How gross!’ or ‘That sucks’. This expression might be involved when tasting, seeing, or touching something considered disgusting to experience. You can also use it when feeling upset about a general situation.
Che schifo questa pasta!
This pasta sucks!
9. Mi raccomando!
Even though it sounds a lot like recommend, in Italian, it means to beg, to implore. You use Mi raccomando! when you want to express a certain emphasis in asking for something. Doubtlessly sounding a bit dramatic when translated to English, it can mean ‘Please!’ , “let’s make this happen”, or even ‘Don’t forget!’.
Teniamoci in contatto, mi raccomando!
Let’s keep in touch, please!
Mi raccomando, vai a prenderla da scuola!
Don’t forget to pick her up from school!
Mostly used by younger generations, this Italian exclamation is the equivalent of the English ‘cool’.
In addition, figo – or figa when referring to a woman – can also be used to point out that someone is very attractive, fashionable, or even popular. In general, that’s what you would hear when Italian people want to show how surprised or excited they are about something in one single expression.
Che figo quel tipo!
How cool/handsome is that guy!
11. Che figata!
A related one is Che figata! which can be translated with ‘How cool!’ or ‘That’s awesome!’ and it’s used to react to something you like very much – anything from a new item bought during your weekly shopping session to the tickets for your favorite band’s next concert your best friend has got for you two.
Il mese prossimo andremo a vedere i Gorillaz. – Che figata!
We’re gonna see Gorillaz live next month. – That’s awesome!
Bless you! That’s what it means when you hear Italians saying it after a sneeze. In addition, you can use it to toast ‘Cheers!’.
You can also say it after someone did something impressive for themselves, like walking more than 8 miles in an hour. In this case, you’re congratulating and showing your sincere surprise.
Alla vostra salute!
Cheers to you, guys!
13. Ma va’!
Very informal, popular among younger people. It stands for ‘Really?’ or more specifically, for ‘You don’t say?’, and it qualifies as an Italian exclamation of surprise when hearing something hard to believe – but you use it also to underline a plain self-evidence.
Nevertheless, in different contexts Ma va’! means also ‘Surely not’, like I’m showing you in these sentences below.
Mi sposo a giugno. – Ma va’!
I’m gonna get married in June. – Really?
Sono appena arrivato! – Ma va’!
I just arrived! – You don’t say?
Mi hanno detto che hai avuto una promozione! – Ma va’!
They told me you got a promotion! – Surely not.
14. Sei fuori!
This interjection is quite spread amongst Italian people, as it shows a mixture of exasperation and wonders when someone does something crazy, weird, or stupid. Italians won’t tell you that you’re crazy, but just that you are out – meaning you’re out of your head or mind.
Sei fuori! Fa così freddo e tu esci senza giacca.
Are you crazy? It’s super cold, you can’t go out without a coat.
Non dovevi farmi un regalo così costoso. Sei fuori!
You shouldn’t buy me that expensive present. Are you out of your mind?
This Italian exclamation can take on different meanings according to the context. The most recurrent is when you must answer a thank you or excuse someone from his/her apologies in a nice way. Therefore, Figurati! is naturally translated into ‘You’re welcome!’ or ‘Don’t worry about it!’ and is widely spread in the Italian informal language.
Scusa, ti disturbo? – No, figurati!
Sorry, am I bothering you? – No, don’t worry about it!
the plural form does not serve this purpose as it’s used to deny something emphatically, saying that you’re not surprised at all. When someone suggests something you think has no chance of coming to pass, you’re basically saying a big fat ‘No way!’.
But if you’re feeling sarcastic, Figuriamoci! shows that things happened in fact exactly in the way you’d expect. It means ‘What a surprise!’ – or even implying an obvious tone to the answer.
Mi ha detto che non trova il tuo libro. – Figuriamoci!
He told me he can’t find your book. – What a surprise!
Ti ha telefonato? – Figuriamoci!
Did she call you? – Of course not!
This one probably doesn’t need any explanation, as it is also used in the English language to congratulate someone for having accomplished something well. It can be translated as ‘Great job!’.
Still, you should remember that you need to say brava in Italian if you’re referring to a girl.
La tua tesi era molto interessante. Bravo!
Your dissertation was very interesting. Bravo!
One of the most contentious Italian exclamations is ‘Zitto!’ or even ‘Sta’ zitto!’ which contains the imperative verb.
It’s basically translated with ‘Shut up!’ or ‘Be quiet!’ in the English language.
It is not very polite, but super common – especially between parents and children, or siblings. You can use it when you’re in a familiar relationship with the person you’re pointing to.
Otherwise, it can turn out to be a bit harsh, surely rude. Just as with bravo, the form to use depends on the gender and number of referred people.
Zitto! Non fare rumore.
Shut up! Don’t be noisy.
This is one Italian exclamation that recurs in various other ways, such as Accidenti! or Urca! – the last is only used in the Northern regions of the country (mostly Milan really), while in Center/South it’s out of fashion. It can both have a positive or negative connotation, depending on the context.
Usually, if you’re astonished in front of something cool, it means ‘Oh boy! Oh wow!’. Another possible meaning in English could be yikes, gosh.
Anyway, when you have to convey sorrow or discontent about one thing or another – as if you’ve just missed the bus – you might let it out as ‘damn!’.
Caspita! Non me l’aspettavo.
Wow, I didn’t see it coming.
Caspita! Il weekend è già finito.
Damn! The weekend’s over already.
20. Meno male!
Here’s what you would hear when you survive a massive disaster or when you remember it’s not your turn to do the cleaning at home. This is a great expression of relief. There’s not a literal translation to do, but in the English language, you usually say ‘Luckily!’ or ‘Thank goodness!’ to comment on things that went better than expected.
Ho ritrovato il tuo portafogli! – Meno male!
Hey, I found your wallet! – Thank goodness!
21. Piantala! / Falla finita!
Does ‘Give it a break!’ sound familiar to you? That’s what these two Italian exclamations mean. They’re synonyms and basically used when you want someone to stop doing something bothering you, like talk, cry, complain, and so on.
Oh, falla finita!
Oh, give me a break boy!
Piantala di parlare a vanvera!
Stop talking no sense!
22. Che palle!
Speaking of something a bit naughty, che palle! is literally translated as ‘What balls!’ but it’s just the short equivalent for ‘What a pain in the ass!’. In the Italian language this is not really a curse word – you will find a list of swearing words here if you’re curious, and I know you are.
But you can use che palle! to show your frustration, boredom, or disappointment without any fear.
È già lunedì… Che palle!
It’s Monday already… How lame!
23. Chi se ne frega!
A slightly rude way of saying it, but actually ‘Who cares!’. That’s how friends in very informal situations or angry people react to something that really doesn’t matter. Be careful when using this one, as kindness is always the key. A softer version is chi se ne importa.
Chi se ne frega di cosa dice!
Who cares what he says!
Bonus: non-verbal Italian exclamations
There are some Italian exclamations that are named non-verbal expressions, as they recall sounds we make which don’t form any words.
Italians also have these interjections, but they’re completely different from the English ones.
This expresses uncertainty. Basically, it means ‘I don’t know’ but in the shortest and most informal way, as if you’re saying ‘I dunno’.
-Dov’è Maria? – Boh
Where is Maria? – I don’t know.
The correspondent to ‘Ouch!’ expresses pain, especially when you hit your toe against the table leg.
Ahia, che dolore!
Ouch, how painful!
There’s no such meaning in English for this interjection. It’s pretty much used to show boredom or annoyance.
Tu non vieni con noi – Uffa! Volevo venire!
You are not coming with us. – Uffa! I wanted to come!
A sound you make with your mouth open, ending in a grimace with your tongue sticking out. It helps you to express your deepest disgust about something. You can pair it with che schifo!
Pizza con l’ananas? Bleah, che schifo!
Pineapple pizza? Yuck, how gross!
You would hear it a lot everywhere in Italy when you’re not paying attention and they call you out.
Oh, ma mi stai ascoltando?!
Hey, are you actually listening to me?
Oh, sono qui!
Hey, I am here!
Why use Italian exclamations?
Italian exclamations are a huge part of the culture. You need to dare while speaking if you want to experience a real Italian conversation. And even if your Italian isn’t great, you can still learn Italian exclamations and use them as a lifeline when hitting the local bars over there. Be ready to get your seat at the table!