The most persistent stereotype of Italian speech is that it’s heavy on the hand gestures. The second most persistent is that it’s “bloody and passionate” — unrestrained, genuine, and argumentative when the situation calls for it (and even, occasionally, when it doesn’t). If you’re learning to speak this expressive language and decide to take your budding abilities for a spin on the streets of Rome, it’s only a matter of time before you encounter Italian insults and invectives. You’ll probably want to at least understand how badly you’re being owned, even if you never intend to fire any shots back.
You can also tell a lot about a culture based on how they diss each other. Many Italian insults are variations on the theme of “stupid” or “scammer,” and pretty much the worst thing you can say to someone is to curse or insult their mother or their ancestors (if you really want to make an impact, implicate their entire lineage).
You’ll also encounter the usual sex and bathroom humor, but interestingly enough, the masculine form of the colloquial term for “vagina” is actually a compliment in Italian. Calling someone fico (or figo) is basically like saying they’re fine or cool as hell. (Note: in the wrong context, fica (or figa) essentially means “c*nt” and will likely be received with offense.)
But you’re not here because you want to make someone feel nice. You’re here to attack. Here are some Italian insults that you can weaponize.
Attaccati a sto cazzo — When you want someone to buzz off and leave you alone, tell them to “cling to their own cock” so they know they’re on their own.
Coglione — Lit. “testicle,” but this is best reserved for a dummy or a doofus, not a perfectly functional body part that’s just doing its job.
Cretino — “Fool.” Perhaps this one feels super satisfying rolling off the tongue because it sounds like “cretin.”
Deficiente — “Moron.” As in: you’re so dumb, you’re deficient!
Dito nel culo — If someone is a “finger in your butt,” it means, well, that they’re a real pain (or annoyance) in the ass.
Imbroglione — If you want to snub someone for being full of it, tell them they’re a crook. This is a good term to have on hand if you’re negotiating with someone with strong used car salesman vibes, but it can also apply to your average bullshitter.
Li mortacci tua! — “Your dishonored dead ancestors!” This one’s a bit rude. Use with caution.
Mammalucco — If you want to call someone stupid or naive and do it in an especially patronizing way, this is a good word to know.
Prendila in culo da un ciuccio imbizzarrito — “Take it in your ass from a runaway donkey.” This is one example of the many different things you can tell people to put up their butts.
Scroccone — Hospitality? A good thing. People who overstay their welcome? You may be entitled to let them know that they’re a freeloader.
Sfigato — In the most basic sense, this means “loser,” but if you recall our earlier language lesson on the word “figa,” there’s a reference to female genitalia woven in here too.
Va’ in malora — “Go toward ruin” (in the sense of: may you be ruined forever). You know, if you like your Italian insults with a dose of Shakespearean gravitas.
Vaffanculo a chi t’è morto — “Go fuck your dead family members.” This might be the nuclear option among Italian insults — a scorched-earth approach, if you will.