Vocabulary

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Lesson Transcript

Intro

Hi everybody! Marika here. Welcome to Ask a Teacher, where I’ll answer some of your most common Italian questions.
The Question
The question for this lesson is: What are the top 10 most common Italian idioms?
Explanation
It might not be necessary to know idioms in order to communicate in Italian, but they’re very effective and fun! Also, if you can use some idioms, you’ll sound more fluent.
Are you ready to find out 10 of the most common Italian idioms? Let’s start!
1 - In bocca al lupo
This literally means “into the mouth of the wolf.”
The origin of this expression isn’t clear, but Italians use it very, very often to wish someone good luck. If someone says in bocca al lupo to you, you should reply crepi (il lupo)! “May (the wolf) croak!”
2- Costare un occhio della testa
Literally “to cost an eye of the head.”
This has basically the same meaning as the English idiom “to cost an arm and a leg.” It means that something costs so much that you’d have to sell a part of your body to be able to afford it!
3- Essere al verde
The literal translation is “to be at the green,” but it actually means “to be broke.” This expression is said to have originated in Florence, where the bottom half of auctioneer candles were painted green. When the candle reached the green, the flow of money would come to a stop.
Another theory is that the color refers to the inside of a wallet, which you could see once you were out of money.
4- Tra il dire e il fare c’è di mezzo il mare
Idiomatic expressions about the sea are quite common in Italian. This one means “Between saying and doing there is a sea in the middle.” It means “easier said than done.”
Italians often shorten this expression and just say Tra il dire e il fare...
5- Una volta ogni morte di papa
“Once every time a pope dies.”
The English equivalent of this expression is “once in a blue moon.” Both are used about something happening very rarely.
6- Essere al settimo cielo
This idiom has the perfect analog in English: “to be in seventh heaven,” meaning “to be extremely happy.”
This expression comes from the philosophy on which Dante's Comedy is based. According to this philosophy, the earth is in the center of the universe, surrounded by seven concentric heavens. 7th heaven was the highest degree of elevation for man.
7- Dormire come un sasso
Literally, “to sleep like a stone.” This idiom is basically the same as the English “to sleep like a log.” It means that someone is sleeping so soundly that they look like an inanimate object. You can also say Dormire come un ghiro, “to sleep like a dormouse.”
8- Acqua in bocca!
The literal translation is “water in your mouth.” If someone says acqua in bocca to you, they want you to “keep it a secret.” Because, of course, you can’t say anything if your mouth is full of water!
9- Il gioco non vale la candela
“The game isn't worth the candle”
This expression is of medieval origin. Back then, people used candles at night, and candles could be expensive. Card players used to repay the owner of the house that hosted them with either money or a candle. The saying started to spread among players to indicate games where the winnings were so low that they wouldn’t even cover the small expense left for the candle.
10- Tagliare la corda
“To cut the rope”
This expression means to run away from a situation. It originates from the rope that was used to keep boats tied to the shore. To sail, it was necessary to free the boat first, but if someone was in a great hurry, the rope could be cut.

Outro

Pretty interesting, right?
That's all for this lesson and this series. Thank you for listening, and we'll see you in another series.
A presto! “See you soon!”

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