Published September 7, 2012 by Tony


Swearword also known as profanity, curse, dirty words or spoken indecencies have existed since the birth of language. Across history and cultures, gestures, phrases, and single words have stirred controversy and today even, such “bad language” is under continual scrutiny for censorship by governments religions and groups. Whether one likes it or not, everywhere people use swear words, and there is nothing to be surprised or to turn up the nose.
In English, swears and curse words have etymologically a Germanic and Latin lineage mostly. In Italian, instead, the term “profanity” like blasphemy is referred to religious curse only, while we call “parolaccia” the usual “dirty word”  (literally bad word). In Italian language, profanities belonging to this category are called bestemmie (singular: bestemmia), in which God, the Virgin Mary, Jesus, the Saints or the Roman Catholic Church are insulted. This category is so strong it is usually frowned upon even by people who would make casual or even regular use of the profanities above or who usually say dirty words. The “bestemmia” is still considered a social taboo and more if pronounced on television or by mass media. By far the most common bestemmia used to insult God (Dio in Italian) is:
Porco dio
literally “God (is a) pig/filthy”. There is no meaning-equivalent in English while an expression somewhat similar, just for the frequency of its use, could be “goddammit”.
These profanities are also commonly altered to “minced oaths” with very slight changes in order not to appear blasphemies. For instance:
Porco cazzo” (litterally: pig cock), where it is uses cock instead of God (Dio).  Take into account that the adjectives in Italian follow the genre of the noun, so “porco” becomes “porca” if referred to a feminine noun. Other similar minced oaths can be created also replacing “Dio” with a series of existent or meaningless terms like “miseria” (poverty), “cane” (dog), etc.
Porca madosca”, using “madosca” instead of Madonna, which means nothing and it sounds like a Russian version of “Madonna”.
Dio cane”, where Italian “cane” means dog,  or “Dio buono”, where “buono”  means good. It also is very common to say “Benedetto Dio” o “Benedetto il Signore”,  meaning “Blessed God” or “Blessed the Lord”, uttered when someone is peeved or pissed off, as like as “Cristo!” (Christ) or “Cristo santo!”, used to express rage or disappointment (similar but strongest than “Oh my God” or “Holy Christ”).
Maremma maiala”, using “maremma”  instead of “Madonna”, where “Maremma” is a seaside zone of Tuscany.

In Italy, even any dialect has its own “dirty words”, differing from region to region, while several of them are cognates to other Romance languages, such as Portuguese, Spanish and French. However, many swearwords are so diffuse to be more closely associated to Italian language with some featured in all the more popular Italian dictionaries. Italian writers have often used dirty words for the spice it added to their pages, as we even find some of them in a seventeenth century collection of tales, the Pentamerone by the Neapolitan Giambattista Basile.
Usually, western society views swearing as more appropriate for men than for women. Women who swear appear to be more vulgar or violating more societal taboos than men who swear. People also tend to judge women more harshly than men for their use of obscenities.

Remember that most Italian obscene words come from the sexual organs as:
cazzo” [ka’tso, kat-zoh], penis, cock, prick, dick;
cogliogni” [koʎˈʎone] or “palle”, testicles, nuts, bollocks, balls;
figa” or “fica”, vagina, pussy, cunt.
Besides, a lot of Italian curse come from sex and sexuality as:
cornuto”, cuckold, cuckolded, it’s a major insult in Italy, often represented by the little finger and forefinger up (to jeer), because it means that your wife/girlfriend is betraying you.

finocchio” [fiˈnɔkkjo], or “frocio” [frɔtʃo], gay, faggot;
puttana” or “troia” [putˈtana, poot-tah-nah], prostitute, whore, slut, bitch.

With these dirty words a lot of short sentences are then built to get very offensive swear words. However, many others “slight” curse are usually used and from children even, as they are not so “dirty” or offensive. As:

Cacca”, similar to childish pooh, it means shit.
Cacata” or “cagata” from the verb “cagare” (to defecate), to mean it’s a shit, bullshit, while “va a cagare” [vah ah cah-gah-reh], (go to defecate) means take a shit or fuck yourself, and “è una cagata” means it’s a bullshit or it sucks,  while we say “fa cagare sotto” (literally, it brings you to defecate down), implying either “because of the fright” when something is frightful, or “because funny”, when the event is too hilarious.
bastardo” [bastardoh], bastard, swearword that sometimes can acquire a friendly “cleaner” meaning if with friends, as to mean “you are an asshole”.
Citrullo” or “cetriolo”  (literally: cucumber), to mean turkey, doofus  or dummy.

Che cavolo”, literally, what a cabbage, to mean damn. With this word we often also say “Sono cavoli tuoi” to mean that’s your problem o headache, or “son cavoli amari” to mean there’ll be trouble.
Culo” [kulo, koo-loh], ass, arse or bottom, and can be used to say  “Avere una faccia da culo“, To have an arse-like face, or “prendere per il culo”, to mean “to take the piss out of sb”, to bull(shit) sb. or  to fuck sb. about o around; but we also use this word to mean a lucky person by the expressions “avere culo” or “che culo!”, weird sentence I know, as if having a good “ass” becomes a lucky thing…. but who knows why.

Gnocca” [ɲɔkka],  typical Bolognese word, a “clean” version of “figa”, mostly used towards girls to mean “very sexy or alluring” (look what a gnocca, i.e).
Incazzato”, angry, pissed off; note that this word comes from “cazzo”.
Mannaggia” [manˈnaddʒa], this word has no direct translation and is a generic expression of frustration, mostly used in Southern Italy that could be translated as “damn”.
Me ne frego” or “me ne fotto”, I don’t give a damn, and its similar variations: ”Che me ne frega” or “Non me ne frega niente”. It becomes more vulgar if added with the word “cazzo”: “che cazzo me ne frega”, or “non me ne frega un cazzo”, as to say “I don’t give a damn fuck”. Note that the verb “fottere” which the first person “fotto” comes, is a synonymous of “to fuck” (see below the word “fottere”).
Stronzo” [strontso], turd, asshole, sod,  used as adjective to indicate that somebody is really a bad, cruel, idiot or silly person.
Maledizione”, literally: curse, to mean hell’s bells, damnation,  and often replaced by the most vulgar word:
merda” [mehr-dah], crap, shit, used as damn or to mean that someone is a shit!

Here’s now a list of single dirty words or short sentences most used in Italy.

avere i coglioni pieni” (literally, to have filled testicles) which means to be pissed off, exhausted. We also say “Levati dai coglioni!” that in a kind way means “Go away”. That’s enough! I can’t stand you!. Similar sentences are:
essere un coglione”, asshole, to behave like a prick or to be a fool. Note that when it’s said to a close friend the sentence is not really offensive.
Brutto figlio di puttana”, ugly son of a bitch or bastard.
Che cazzo”,  what the fuck!
Che cazzo vuoi/fai/dici?  (literally what the dick), What the hell  do you want/are you doing/are you saying?
Che palle” (literally what balls) to mean too boring, similar to “avere i coglioni pieni“.
Coglione” that means testicle and is often used in a phrase such as “che coglione,” what a jackass.
Finocchio” [fee-nohk-kee-oh], (literally, fennel), frocio, ricchione, culattone, all used to mean faggot in a derogatory, homophobic way.
Figlio di Troia” (literally son of Troy, but here intended as bitch) and similar to  “Figlio di puttana” or “figlio di mignotta”,  to mean son of bitch, son of a whore.
Figlio di un cane”, literally son of a dog, to mean a son of a bitch.

fottere” a verb whose the first person “fotto” comes, is a synonymous of “to fuck”, to screw (see the following word).
Fottiti“, (from the verb “fottere”that means to fuck or having sex), means fuck you, but sometimes it also is used to mean “you did it on your own, so now blear the blame, as it is your own business now”.
fottuto“, (past participle of the verb “fottere”), it means to rip-off or being cheated if we say:  “io sono fottuto“, similar to “essere inculato” (see below).
Inculare”, literally put in the asshole, and as verb it means to sodomize or having anal sex, whose past participe is “inculato“, but when it’s used as swearword can mean to rip-off or being cheated (“essere inculato“, similar to “io sono fottuto“).
Puttana”, “mignotta”, “prostituta”, “meretrice”, all words meaning whore, slut, bitch, prostitute.
Maledetto”, cursed, damned, often we use this word to reinforce a dirty word, as “maledetto idiota!”, “maledetto bastardo”,  as to say damned idiot, damned bastard, similar to bleeding idiot, or bloody bastard.
Minchia” [minkja], the same meaning as cazzo (cock), but notably a feminine name, it originates from Sicilian language and nowadays it is common anywhere in Italy, where it is also used as exclamation of surprise, or even appreciation. It is used in the expression “testa di minchia” similar to “testa di cazzo” (dickhead, asshole). It is also featured in a song by American musician Frank Zappa, named Tengo na minchia tanta (I’ve got a dick this big).
Pezzo di merda”,  piece of shit, shithead.
Porca puttana” or “porca troia” or “porca vacca”, literally pig whore, pig slut, pig cow, to mean bugger, oh shit!, dammnit!
rompere il cazzo” or “mi hai rotto il cazzo”, literally “to break the cock”, when someone is giving us annoyance, as to say “You’ve busted my balls!
Stronzo”, shit, bugger, or literally a turd.
Vaffanculo” [vaffanˈkulo, vahf-fahn-cooloh], literally, go and fuck in the bum, the most used italian swearword perhaps, a strong way to say “go away”, as “fuck you!”, “fuck off!”. It’s a contraction of “vai a fare in culo” (as to say “go to be sodomized”). “Vattela a pijà ‘n der culo” is the Romanesco form for vaffanculo, while in Northern Italy is also used “Vai a cagare” (lit. “go to shit”), meaning go away, fuck you, fuck off.

For sure we have others swearwords but these are the most common and I’m ready to help anybody of you if the case. 


  • I dont know if im spelling this right but I will spell it how it sound, Strayger, this is a itailian curse eord, what is it in English

  • Hi Tony, how would you say, “oh, Jesus Christ” or “for fucks sake”? Like when someone is saying something stupid. Google is not doing it for me 😉 thanks- Jess

    • I assume you wanna know how Italians say those curse…. well, we express “oh Jesus Christ” kinda in the same way (Oh…Gesù, or oh Madonna Santa, or mentioning some known Saint). Same thing “for God’s sake” (per amor di Dio), while “per Dio” is a more offensive way to say.

  • Great site Tony, Love it!
    Unfortunately, my parents and grandparents didn’t teach us any Italian, so how would you phrase – He grew a pair – He finally grew i testicoli.

    • Glad you like it!
      Well, in Italian I would say, “egli ha le palle!” if I wanna say that someone became mature or got more courage. Let me know if you wanted to mean a different thing. Email me if you wanna learn some Italian words…. LOL

      • Tony, thank you for the quick response!
        I’ve been using this post of yours for all the dirty words I need for an erotic novel I’m writing. If you got the time and are willing, I can e-mail you the few lines of dialogue for you to make sure they are correct. 🙂

  • A waiter in Napoli told me the bad word for bathroom there was something that sounded like “o chase” with the s sound drawn out a little. Apparently it is quite offensive, because when I used the word in a Sorrento restaurant, the bartender told me to not use the word around there whatsoever, as a word of advice.

    Anyone know the correct spelling and how it loosely translates?

  • I don’t know the correct spelling, but it sounds like it should be spelt like this (Fa-cheem) how does it translate to english. Friend of mine says it, but we don’t know the Italian meaning.

    • Sounds like American-Italian slang Oo-Gotz = nothing.
      Here’s a short vid on it –

      PS – Ciao Tony! This year has slipped by me, sorry 😦
      Can you believe it’s December first and I still have 4 tomato plants alive and growing. So far, they have survived two bouts of night-time temperatures in the high thirties. I am going to can another batch of tomato sauce tomorrow!

      • Ok, I understood and it’s the word: “o’cazz” that refers to the male genital organ (cazzo=cock) as the vocal “o'” in Neapolitan refers to the article “the”. This vulgar term is very common for Neapolitans and used in various circumstances. The sentence “o’cazz” is instead used when you wanna offend or criticize someone or something.

  • My friend of many years ago tried to teach me his, and his family’s favorite expression.

    I always mangled it badly. Still use it often, and mangled even worse now.

    “mannaggia putana spacci mats/mach/mat(?)”

    The last word is lost to me.

    Anyone here know the prase?

    • This is not an old said but a sequence of single dirty words and none can know those that you do not remember. Mat/Mats or Match tells me nothing! “mannaggia a puttana sfaccimm” for us is already a complete curse!

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