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Merda, the Italian term for shit
Merda, the Italian term for shit

Italian profanity (bestemmia, pl. bestemmie, when referred to religious topics; parolaccia, pl. parolacce, when not) are profanities that are blasphemous or inflammatory in the Italian language.

The Italian language is a language with a large set of inflammatory terms and phrases, almost all of which originate from the several dialects and languages of Italy, such as the Tuscan dialect, which had a very strong influence in modern standard Italian and is widely known to be based on Florentine language.[1] Several of these words have cognates in other Romance languages, such as Portuguese, Spanish, Romanian and French.

Profanities differ from region to region, but a number of them are diffused enough to be more closely associated to the Italian language and featured in all the more popular Italian dictionaries.

List of profanities in the Italian language

Frocio, a translation of faggot
Frocio, a translation of faggot

Profanity in literature

Italian writers have often used profanity for the spice it adds to their pages. This is an example from a seventeenth century collection of tales, the Pentamerone,[48] by the Neapolitan Giambattista Basile:

Ah, zoccaro, frasca, merduso, piscialetto, sauteriello de zimmaro, pettola a culo, chiappo de 'mpiso, mulo canzirro! ente, ca pure le pulece hanno la tosse! va', che te venga cionchia, che mammata ne senta la mala nuova, che non ce vide lo primmo de maggio! Va', che te sia data lanzata catalana o che te sia dato stoccata co na funa, che non se perda lo sango, o che te vangano mille malanne, co l'avanzo e priesa e vento alla vela, che se ne perda la semmenta, guzzo, guitto, figlio de 'ngabellata, mariuolo!

This tirade could be translated from Neapolitan like this:

Ah, good for nothing, feather, full of shit, bedpisser, jack of the harpsichord, shirt on the arse, loop of the hanged, hard-headed mule! Look, now also lice cough loudly! Go, that palsy get you, that your mom get the bad news, that you cannot see the first of May. Go, that a Catalan spear pass through you, that a rope be tied around your neck, so that your blood won't be lost, that one thousand illnesses, and someone more, befall you, coming in full wind; that your name be lost, brigand, penniless, son of a whore, thief.

Francis Ford Coppola had some characters in The Godfather use untranslated profanity. For instance, when Sonny Corleone found out that Paulie Gatto had sold out his father to the Barzinis, he called Gatto "that stronz'". Also when Connie Corleone learned Carlo Rizzi was cheating on her, Carlo snapped: "Hey, vaffancul', eh?". Connie yelled back: "I'll vaffancul' you!".

Blasphemous profanity

1633 plaque in Venice forbidding gambling, selling goods and blaspheming
1633 plaque in Venice forbidding gambling, selling goods and blaspheming

Profanities in the original meaning of blasphemous profanity are part of the ancient tradition of the comic cults, which laughed and scoffed at the deity.[49] In Europe during the Middle Ages, the most improper and sinful "oaths" were those invoking the body of the Lord and its various parts – as the expression of the dialect of Bergamo pota de Cristo ("Christ's cunt") – and these were precisely the oaths most frequently used.[50]

Nowadays, the most common kind of blasphemous profanity involves the name of God (Dio), Christ (Cristo), Jesus (Gesù) or the Virgin Mary (Madonna) combined with an insult or sometimes an animal, the most used being porco ("pig") as in porco Dio ("God is a pig") or cane ("dog") as in Dio cane ("God (is a) dog") or porca Madonna ("the Virgin Mary (is a) pig").

Common blasphemous profanity in Italian are: porco Dio (often written porcodio or also porcoddio), Dio cane (lit. "God (is a) dog"), Dio merda, Dio bestia, Dio maiale, porco Gesù, Gesù cane, Madonna puttana, porco il Cristo, Dio stronzo, Dio Fauss (or Dio Fa', more colloquially).

In some areas of Italy,[51] such as Veneto, Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Umbria, Marche, Lazio, Abruzzo, Emilia Romagna, Piedmont, Lombardy and Tuscany, blasphemy is more common, but not because of a strong anti-Catholic feeling.[citation needed]. Tuscany and Veneto are the regions where bestemmiare is most common, and in these areas blasphemy appears in the everyday speech almost as an ordinary interjection.[52] The historical reasons for this are the various conflicts that these two regions have had with the Vatican.[citation needed].

At the same time, it is not an entirely uncommon pastime to come up with creative and articulated bestemmie [53][54] especially among the lower social classes such as dockers.[55]

Since the dawn of the World Wide Web several websites[56][57][58] have come and gone that feature a user-submitted or machine-generated collection of complex bestemmie and manuals have been printed.[59]


In the 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.[citation needed]

Bestemmiare ("swearing") is a misdemeanor in Italian law, but the law is seldom enforced. However, it is still considered a strong social taboo at least on television. For example, anyone caught uttering bestemmie in the Italian Big Brother (Grande Fratello) "must be immediately expelled" because they offend "millions of believers".[60]

Legal status

Until 1999, uttering blasphemies in public was considered a criminal misdemeanor in Italy (although enforcement was all but non-existent), while nowadays it has been downgraded to an administrative misdemeanor. Some local administrations still ban the practice. For example, after the curate complained about the frequency of blasphemous profanity in the parish recreation centre, the comune of Brignano Gera d'Adda banned the practice in the civic centre and in all places of retail business, be it public or private.[61] Only obscenities that are directly related to God are classified as a bestemmia under Italian law as of July 2011. Any insult to Mary or the various saints do not actually represent a bestemmia or any violation of existing laws and rules.[62]

Minced oaths

These profanities are also commonly altered to minced oaths with very slight changes in order not to appear blasphemies.[63] For instance:

Other minced oaths can be created on the fly when people begin to utter one of the above blasphemies, but then choose to "correct" them in real time. The principal example is somebody beginning to say Dio cane (where cane means "dog") and choosing to say instead Dio cantante[66] ("God (is a) singer") or Dio cantautore ("God (is a) songwriter"). Also it is very common to say Dio caro (typically used in Veneto, Lazio and Umbria), meaning "dear God" or Dio bono (with bono being a contraction of buono, that means "good") or Dio bonino (same meaning, typically used in Tuscany) "Dio bon" or Dio bonazzo (same meaning used in Castelfranco Veneto) instead of Dio boia (where boia means "executioner"). Another minced oath is "Dio mama" (mum God), common in Veneto. A peculiar minced oath created on the fly, especially popular among Italian teenagers, has the form of a rhyme and read as follows: "Dio can...taci il Vangelo, Dio por...taci la pace!" and it means "God, sing to us the Gospel, God bring us peace!".

Cristo! or Cristo santo!, used to express rage and/or disappointment (similar to "Oh my God" or "Holy Christ"), is usually not considered a bestemmia, though it may be assumed to violate the second commandment of not making "wrongful use of the name of the Lord Thy God". Same for "Dio Cristo".

See also


  1. ^ Cory Crawford. "A Brief History of the Italian Language". Retrieved 15 January 2007.
  2. ^ Collins English Dictionary. "English Translation of "accidenti"". Retrieved 26 September 2018.
  3. ^ "Language Log". Retrieved 28 February 2016.
  4. ^ Alexis Munier; Emmanuel Tichelli (2008). Talk Dirty Italian: Beyond Cazzo: The curses, slang, and street lingo you need to know when you speak italiano. Adams media. ISBN 9781440515835. Retrieved 31 March 2016.
  5. ^ "voce cazzeggiare" (in Italian). Garzanti. Retrieved 5 April 2020.
  6. ^ BBC (8 April 2006). "Berlusconi's poll fight ends with a bang". BBC News. Retrieved 16 May 2007.
  7. ^ BBC. "BBC Languages — Lost in words". Retrieved 9 June 2007.
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  9. ^ See the corresponding French porter des cornes; deriving from the mating habits of stags, who forfeit their mates when they are defeated by another male.
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  11. ^ "Dizionario di Inglese". Culattone. Retrieved 16 November 2017.
  12. ^ "inculare". Retrieved 30 October 2017.
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  14. ^ "figo". Collins Italian-English Dictionary. Collins. Retrieved 8 April 2017.
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  16. ^ Giovanni Dall'Orto. "G. Dall'Orto: checcabolario (in Italian)".
  17. ^ Cambridge Dictionary. "Translation of "fottere" — Italian–English dictionary".
  18. ^ Soffici, Caterina (2014). Italia yes Italia no: Che cosa capisci del nostro paese quando vai a vivere a Londra. Feltrinelli Editore. ISBN 9788858817209. Retrieved 16 November 2017.
  19. ^ BBC. "BBC Languages — Cool Italian". Retrieved 9 June 2007.
  20. ^ University of Vermont. "Language Log". Retrieved 9 June 2007.
  21. ^ "merda". Retrieved 6 January 2017.
  22. ^ "On-line dictionary, "smerdare" entry". Corriere della Sera. Retrieved 25 February 2018.
  23. ^ F. Ravano, Dizionario romanesco, Roma, 1994.
  24. ^ "Etimologia : mignotta;".
  25. ^ Speziale-Bagliacca, Roberto (1991). On the Shoulders of Freud: Freud, Lacan, and the Psychoanalysis of Phallic Ideology. Transaction Publishers. p. 55. ISBN 0-88738-409-9. Minchia Sicily.
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  27. ^ a b c Gabrielle Euvino (2012). Dirty Italian: Everyday Slang from "What's Up?" to "F*%# Off!". Ulysses Press. ISBN 9781612430225. Retrieved 22 April 2016.
  28. ^ "Andare a puttane". Retrieved 30 October 2017.
  29. ^ "puttanata". Retrieved 30 October 2017.
  30. ^ "On-line dictionary, "puttanaio" entry". La Repubblica. Retrieved 25 February 2018.
  31. ^ "Translation of "puttanaio" in English". Reverso context. Retrieved 25 February 2018.
  32. ^ "On-line dictionary, "puttaniere" entry". Corriere della Sera. Retrieved 25 February 2018.
  33. ^ "sputtanare". Retrieved 30 October 2017.
  34. ^ "pompinaro". Retrieved 6 January 2017.
  35. ^ "Language Log". Retrieved 28 February 2016.
  36. ^ "Language Log". Retrieved 28 February 2016.
  37. ^ "Language Log". Retrieved 28 February 2016.
  38. ^ Pat Bulhosen; Francesca Logi; Loredana Riu (2013). Compact Oxford Italian Dictionary. OUP. ISBN 9780199663132. Retrieved 31 March 2016.
  39. ^ "Fare una sega". Retrieved 21 June 2017.
  40. ^ segaiólo,
  41. ^ Traduzione di "segone" in inglese,
  42. ^ "be a pipsqueak" traduzione italiano,
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  44. ^ "sfigato". WordReference. Retrieved 8 April 2017.
  45. ^ "Stronzo". WordReference.
  46. ^ "troia". Retrieved 6 January 2017.
  47. ^ "Language Log". Retrieved 22 February 2013.
  48. ^ Gianbattista Basile, (1634) Lo cunto de li cunti, also known as The Pentameron. The title can be translated as The Tale of Tales.
  49. ^ Bakhtin 1941, "Introduction", p. 5–6.
  50. ^ Bakhtin 1941, chap. 2 "The Language of the Marketplace in Rabelais", p. 188–194.
  51. ^ "Sindaco di Novara bestemmia durante il consiglio comunale". Quotidiano Piemontese. 29 March 2017. Retrieved 25 April 2017.
  52. ^ Grassi, Giulia; Tartaglione, Roberto (1985). Lingue italiane: materiale didattico per un corso superiore di lingua e cultura italiana (in Italian). Ci.Elle.I. p. 30. Retrieved 5 April 2020.
  53. ^ "Blog | Porno, bestemmie e lato B: il nostro prossimo cambio della guardia". Il Fatto Quotidiano (in Italian). 15 July 2020. Retrieved 11 February 2021.
  54. ^ Turina, Isacco. "Maledire Dio (M.A. Thesis)" (PDF).((cite web)): CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  55. ^ "Conversioni in punto di morte: il Gabibbo e la Hack". Piovono rane (in Italian). Retrieved 11 February 2021.
  56. ^ "Manuale della Bestemmia". Retrieved 11 February 2021.
  57. ^ "". Retrieved 11 February 2021.
  58. ^ "Bestemmie Generator - Generatore di bestemmie". Retrieved 11 February 2021.[permanent dead link]
  59. ^ "Bonus cultura, quei manuali delle bestemmie nella categoria Top di Amazon". (in Italian). Retrieved 11 February 2021.
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  61. ^ "Troppe bestemmie all'oratorio. E Brignano mette il divieto" (in Italian). Il Giorno. 11 February 2011. Retrieved 6 July 2011.
  62. ^ "Bestemmia" (in Italian). UAAR, Unione degli Atei e degli Agnostici Razionalisti. 21 September 2008. Retrieved 28 July 2011.
  63. ^ it:Bestemmia#Eufemismi
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Bibliography and sources