Six words that change meaning in informal Italian

Six words that change meaning in informal ItalianIn Italian there are many common words that carry one meaning in standard Italian and another one in informal Italian.

So, let’s see six words that change meaning in informal Italian.


Palla can have different meanings in standard Italian. However, one of the most common is ball.

a. Giochiamo a palla
Let’s paly ball

Instead, in informal Italian palla can mean at least two things. It can mean boring, and it can mean lie.

b. E’ davvero una palla!
He’s really boring!

c. Quindi Marco mi ha detto una palla. Non era a casa con l’influenza!
So, Marco lied to me. He wasn’t at home with the flu!


Cavolo is one of those words that change meaning in informal Italian. Indeed, in standard Italian cavolo is something you eat and means cabbage.
Instead, in informal Italian, cavolo can have different uses. One of these uses is to add emphasis.

a. Oggi mangiamo minestra di cavolo
Today we’re going to eat cabbage soup

b. Che cavolo fai?
What the hell are you doing?


If you like Italian cooking, I’m pretty sure you already know what gnocco in standard Italian is: a delicious type of food.

a. Ho mangiato gli gnocchi al pesto
I ate gnocco with pesto

In informal Italian, instead, the word gnocco is generally used to indicate that a male is handsome. There is also a version for females – gnocca – but be sure to use it with the verb essere, not avere, unless you really want to mean something very, very different!

b. Daniele è uno gnocco pazzesco
Daniele is incredibly handsome


Here’s the name of another Italian dish that acquires another meaning in informal Italian. If in standard Italian trippa means tripe, in informal Italian it means belly.

a. Oggi mangiamo la trippa
Today we’re going to eat tripe

b. Oggi ho visto Marco…gli è venuta una trippa!
I saw Marco today…he’s grown a big belly!


Fusto in standard Italian can mean different things. One of its meanings is trunk.

a. Il fusto della betulla di solito è bianco
The trunk of the birch tree is usually white

In informal Italian, instead this word is generally used to say that a male is large, strong and attractive.

b. Tuo fratello è proprio un fusto
Your brother is a total hunk


Also pizza is one of those words that change meaning in informal Italian. Indeed, if in standard Italian pizza refers to one of the most famous Italian food around the world, in informal Italian it means boring.

a. Questa pizza è buonissima
This pizza is really good

b. Che pizza sto film!
How boring this film!

Do you usually use one of these six words that change meaning in informal Italian? If not, try to use them during the conversations wou’ll have with your friends.


Original image by igorovsyannykov

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