Top 10 Italian Slang Words: Roman Edition
Living in Rome, regardless if you’re staying in San Lorenzo or in Centocelle, definitely requires some language practice, especially when it comes to interacting with the local population. Rome has lost its dialect more than one century ago – the last testimonies surviving in songs and poetry – but the Italian slang spoken in Rome is anyway scattered with peculiar forms and words.
Here’s a list of 10 Italian Slang Words you want to be able to use (carefully) while in Rome!
Read also: “Mamma Roma, addio!” di Remo Remotti.
A polysemic word that can actually work boh as an interjection (for example, when supporting your football team) or as a sentence word, with the meaning of “hurry up” or “come on”. It can also be used to show agreement or as a call to action.
Examples: Daje che je la fai! ("Come on, you can make it!") - È tardi, daje un po'! ("It's late, hurry up!")
Strongly related to the hip hop subculture, the expression bella, often accompanied by the appellative Zio (“uncle”) or rega’ (“guys”), actually stands for “Hey bro”. It is supposed to be the shortened form of bella storia (“cool story”), expressing agreement and, more generally, a greeting.
Examples: Bella zi', che stai a fa' stasera? ("Hey bro, what you up to tonight?") - Bella rega', io me sto a da' ("Bye guys, I'm gonna leave")
Roman slang can be so blunt that it might sound brutal, and that is precisely the case of Mortacci: coming from the idiom li mortacci tua (basically a curse to the listener’s dead relatives), it is considered to be highly offensive outside of the Grande Raccordo Anulare, while in Rome it is used also to express amazement, surprise or even… affection!
Examples: Mortacci che casa che c'hai! ("Wow, what an amazing house you have there") - Limorté che gol che ha fatto Immobile! ("What an astonishing goal from Immobile!")
The Roman equivalent of “so what” actually comes as a crooked form of the Italian ebbene, but unlike its counterpart in the Standard Language, this Italian Slang word cannot be used as a conjunction, but just at the beginning of interrogative sentences.
Example: Embè, che problema c'hai? ("So what? What's your problem?")
A newcomer, this word (meaning “keep calm” or “chill bro”) has become so famous that someone even used it in a movie title. Its etymology is uncertain, but suggestive speculations infer that it might come from Arabic inshallah. Should this be true, it would confirm that language is always less resistant than people in embracing other cultures and habits.
Example: Scialla frate', studiamo domani! ("Chill bro, we can study tomorrow!")
The expression hai voglia (meaning “you bet”) is fairly common in the spoken Standard Italian. The Roman version of it, though, is univerbated with the <gl> softened into the typical Roman <j>, smoothening the sound and turning this expression into a stronger version of sì.
Example: "Annamo a balla' stasera?" "Avoja!" ("Are we going out to dance tonight" "You bet!")
The informal imperative of ammazzare (“to kill”) is often used by Romans as a sentence word, meaning “wow!”, or followed by che to build up a sentence.
Example: Ammazza che bella 'sta canzone! ("What a beautiful song!")
The Italian interjection magari in the dialectal form changes in its desinence becoming one distinguishing mark of roman slang. It is so used (and so expressive) that someone even turned it into a nickname.
Example: Magara c'avessi li sòrdi pe' 'na macchina nòva! ("I wish I had money for a new car")
Just like ammazza, this Roman Slang expression is used as an exclamation of surprise, after seeing something remarkable (or even ridiculous), this expression means literally “Can’t you see?”, as it is the shortened and crippled form of the Standard Italian ma non vedi? and it is often followed by a sentence introduced by che or come.
Example: Anvedi come balla Nando! ("See how good is Nando at dancing!")
The King of all Roman interjections, a truly polysemic word, comparable to the Japanese Hai or Korean Ne. Aò can be used to address someone, to protest, to show satisfaction and agreement, to call for attention.
Example: Aò, ma 'ndo vai? ("Hey, where are you going?")
11) NSFW bonus: Sticazzi
Yes, this one is NSFW, but nevertheless, we had to include it as, according to some eminent Roman citizen, the Roman Slang answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything. Sticazzi, simply meaning “I don’t care/who cares”, is an epitome of the Roman way of life: rather than being a vulgar display of indifference, it is a refined strategy to cope with the dysfunctional life of the Eternal City.