Continuing our journey through idiomatic expressions, this week we’ll look at twelve common Italian idioms. As in English, idiomatic expressions are phrases whose literal meanings bear little, if any, relation to their figurative meanings. These basic idioms will help increase your Italian comprehension and acceptance by native speakers. Like our other idioms lessons, we’ve included a literal translation, the figurative meaning, and an equivalent English idiom.
If you need more help with idioms, or any other aspect of the Italian language, contact the Language Island in Atlanta. Our caring, passionate Italian teachers can create a lesson plan that is tailored to your individual needs.
Buono come il pane
Translation: Good as bread.
Figurative: Someone or something that is absolutely fantastic.
English equivalent: He/she/it is the bee’s knees.
Costare un occhio della testa
Translation: Cost an eye.
Figurative meaning: Something that is very expensive.
English equivalent: Cost an arm and a leg.
Dalle Stelle alle Stalle
Translation: From the stars to the stables.
Figurative meaning: To go from great wealth to great poverty.
English equivalent: From riches to rags
Hai voluto la bicicletta? E adesso pedala!
Translation: You wanted the bike? Now ride it!
Figurative meaning: You got yourself into this situation and will have to deal with the consequences.
English equivalent: You made your bed, now lie in it.
Inghiottire il rospo
Translation: Swallow the toad.
Figurative meaning: Admit that you have been proven wrong, even if doing so is difficult or humiliating.
English equivalent: To eat crow.
Mettersi nei panni di qualcuno
Translation: Get into someone’s clothes.
Figurative meaning: Try to see something from another’s perspective.
English equivalent: Put yourself in his/her shoes.
Nero di rabbia
Translation: Black from anger.
Figurative meaning: To be absolutely furious
English equivalent: Seeing red.
Non fare il passo piu’ lungo della gamba
Translation: Don’t make your steps longer than your leg.
Figurative meaning: Don’t take on more than you can handle.
English equivalent: Don’t bite off more than you can check.
O bere o affogare
Translation: Drink or drown.
Figurative meaning: Total success or total failure.
English equivalents: Sink or swim. All or nothing.
Rosso come un pomodoro
Translation: Red as a tomato.
Figurative meaning: To be incredibly embarrassed by a situation.
English equivalent: To turn beat red.
Stomaco da struzzo
Translation: Stomach of a goose.
Figurative meaning: Indicates that someone can eat anything without suffering any ill effects.
English equivalent: Cast iron stomach.
Un Pollo da Spennare
Translation: A chicken waiting to be plucked.
Figurative meaning: Someone who can easily be taken advantage of.
English equivalents: A fool and his money are soon parted. There’s a sucker born every minute.