10 insulting ways to describe someone in Italian

Ten insulting ways to describe someone in Italian

Photo: Deposit Photos

Here’s what to say when people get on the wrong side of you in Italy.

By:Clare Speak/The Local

When living in Italy, you’ll no doubt come across a dodgy character or two before long. And you’ll want to use a few colorful words when later describing such encounters to your Italian friends.

The Italian language offers us endless vulgar anatomical expressions, and countless ways to call someone a moron. But if you want to get a bit more specific about exactly what is wrong with the person who just crossed you, we’re here to help

These aren’t the rudest words in the Italian language. My family uses them at the dinner table (although that might just be my family). But as you’d expect of a good Italian insult, they’re all extremely descriptive, very satisfying to say, and always good to know.

Furbacchione – sly or cunning person

In Italy, the concept of la furbizia (cunning or slyness) or the need to be furbo – the overwhelming desire to get one over on other people – is very well known. It sounds a bit like “furtive”, because it has the same root. A particuarly sly and slippery character could be described as un furbacchione. Stress it like this: fur-bak-YOH-neh. Now, doesn’t that feel good?

Imbroglione – trickster, cheat, con artist, fraud

This is one I hear a lot in southern Italy, where being furbo (see above) is an elevated art form. If you’re involved in any sort of financial transaction or business deal, you may soon start feeling like everyone’s out to screw you over. That’s a sure sign the person you’re dealing with is an imbroglione. Depending on context, this word can mean anything from “cheat” to “bullshitter”, but it’s definitely never a compliment.

Bugiardo – liar

Are you noticing a theme here? If someone has gone beyond being a bit slippery and is just telling you outright porkies, here’s the word to use. Una bugia (pronounced boo-jia) is a lie, and the person telling them is a bugiardo/a.

Bonus weird language fact: bugiardino is not a “little liar”, as you might imagine, but in many regions of Italy the word has come to mean a “leaflet” or “instruction booklet” which is jokingly acknowledged to be unhelpful, either because it contains lies or omits important information. It’s most commonly used by Italians to describe the instruction leaflets found inside packs of medication (make of that what you will).

Fannullone – layabout

Literally “a big do-nothing”, the fannullone (from fa nulla, or “do nothing”) probably can’t even be bothered to indulge in a spot of furbizia. You could also use the word ozioso, meaning “idler”

Perditempo – timewaster

A difficult concept in Italy, as wasting time is often seen as so completely normal that there’s no need to comment on it. But many foreigners in Italy will quickly find use for this word (particularly those of us of from countries where being “hard working” is seen as a positive trait, rather than a ridiculous shortcoming). Perdere tempo means “to waste (literally “lose”) time” and un perditempo is a person who does just that.

Malalingua – gossip-monger

If you live in a small (or not so small) town in Italy, you’ll have noticed that everyone knows everyone else, and that few people mind their own business. While un pettegolo is the word for a garden-variety gossip, someone particularly fond of spreading malicious or scandalous tales could be called una malalingua (literally “bad tongue”).

Chiacchierone – blabbermouth

Someone who can’t keep secrets, or just simply can’t stop talking, is a chiacchierone. From chiacchierare (to chatter), this person tells long rambling stories and just loves the sound of his or her own voice

Scroccone – freeloader

That person who stayed at your house gratis for several weeks, ate all your food, and didn’t even say grazie? Feel free to describe them as a scroccone.

Approfittatore – exploiter, opportunist

From the word approffitare, which roughly means “to take advantage” or “to benefit from”, an approfittatore is a person who takes advantage of others at every possible opportunity.

Menefreghista – someone who couldn’t care less

This one doesn’t translate easily into English. It’s connected to menefreghismo, the word used in Italian to describe a culture of people just not caring. This in turn derives from the Italian phrase me ne frego, which roughly means ‘I don’t give a shit’ – a phrase no doubt used often by the menefreghista.

Looking for something a bit stronger? We’ve also got a guide to the gestures and insults you’ll need when arguing like an Italian, as well as a list of the most creative insults the language has to offer