10 Italian expressions that become nonsensical if translated literally

Many people think of Italian as one of the most romantic and beautiful languages in the world.
Sonorous, melodic and even poetic, this language can definitely make people shiver. It doesn’t matter what the topic of conversation is, it all sounds better in Italian! 🇮🇹 🍕

We already know that a bad translation can lead to serious misunderstandings. Literal translations are part of what we call “mistranslations”, especially when it comes to national or regional expressions.

We have prepared for you a list of Italian expressions that become nonsensical if translated literally. We hope you enjoy them!

1. Chi non risica non rosica

Translated literally: Who doesn’t risk doesn’t bite
Meaning: It’s better to risk than to lose the opportunity, better to have loved and lost than to never have loved at all


2. In bocca al lupo

Translated literally: In the mouth of the wolf
Meaning: Good luck!, break a leg!


3. Che figata!

Translated literally: What a big fig!
Meaning: That’s cool!


4. Sono alla frutta

Translated literally: I’m in the fruit
Meaning: I’m almost done


5. Cogliere la palla al balzo

Translated literally: Pick the ball while jumping
Meaning: Seize the opportunity


6. Avere le mani in pasta

Translated literally: Having the hands in the pasta
Meaning: Mind other people’s business


7. Facciamo il chilo

Translated literally: To do the kilogram
Meaning: When you stay at the table after a lunch, chatting


8. Conosco i miei polli

Translated literally: I know my chicks
Meaning: I know what I’m doing


9. Minestra riscaldata

Translated literally: Reheated minestrone
Meaning: When a couple goes back together after a break-up


10.Ha molto sale in zucca

Translated literally: There too much salt on your pumpkin
Meaning: When a person has a lot of common sense



If you come up with other examples, you can write them down in the comments section! And don’t forget, translation is a serious matter. To work with a quality professional translator, visit www.eazylang.com 😉


6 Responses to “10 Italian expressions that become nonsensical if translated literally

  • Each language has such expressions that man can’t use the word-to-word translation, and even the literary translation.

  • Isn’t riscaldata RE-heated? Not PRE-heated?

    • Laura Fernández Calzada
      3 years ago

      Thank you for the feedback! We will correct it 😉

  • Aidan D.
    2 years ago

    There are several errors here:
    “In bocca al lupo” means to put oneself “in a risky situation”.
    “Avere le mani in pasta” means “to participate actively” to or “be involved” in something
    “Conosco i miei polli” means “I know who I’m dealing with”.

    • In bocca al lupo means Good Luck, indeed someone is wishing you to end up in the mouth of a wolf, and you have to respond “Crepi” that means ‘May he die’, that is the way you are lucky

  • Paige Dygert
    2 years ago

    “There too much salt” should be “There is too much salt.”
    “Prepared for you a list of Italian expressions” should be “prepared a list of Italian expressions for you.”
    “Than to never have loved” should be “than never to have loved.”
    “Goes back together should be “gets back together.”
    Punctuation issues as well.

    Aiden, I live in Itlay and everyone says “In bocca al lupo” for “Good Luck.”

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