I have two teenagers in my house, so I hear slang (in both English and Italian) a lot and I won’t lie: I can’t keep up with most of it. Slang is the spice of any language, adding nuance and flair to speech—a constant reminder about how language and pop culture are inexorably intertwined. But if you aren’t soaking up the latest songs, shows, memes, and other here-today-gone-tomorrow fads all day, every day, it’s likely that you, like me, are stuck in the parlance of your teen years long after they have ended.
Modern Italian can be traced back centuries to Dante Alighieri, known as the father of the Italian language (currently being feted in Italy to mark the 700th year since his death). But the language has evolved dramatically since the “Divine Comedy” was published and slang is as much a part of Italian today than it is for any other vibrant, living language.
It may be tricky to keep up with the hottest contemporary slang out there, but there are some great expressions for showing enthusiasm or agreement that fall into the category of “timeless slang”: not words Dante would have used but also not so cutting edge that you have to be an adolescent to say them without sounding ridiculous.
Here are some classic slang terms to pepper through your speech to keep it fresh:
How to Say Cool, Awesome, Epic, and More in Italian
Italian is a deeply regional language, with local accents, dialects, and vocabularies. This regionality applies to slang, as well. There are certain slang expressions that are very popular in Tuscany, for example, but rarely heard in Naples or Milan. Generally, everyone can figure out what you mean by the context and tone, but the best way to pick up the local slang is to keep your ear to the ground and listen to what the people around you are saying.
Grande - big, but meaning great or awesome
“Grande!” is used to congratulate or compliment someone for an accomplishment or performance. You can call someone “grande” or “grandissimo” or use it as an exclamation of satisfaction or excitement.
- “Siamo riusciti a comperare i biglietti per il concerto!” “Dai, grande!” - “We were able to find tickets for the concert!” “No way, that’s great!”
- “Ha superato l’esame con il voto massimo. È stato grandissimo!” - “She got full marks on her exam. She was awesome!”
Forte - strong, but meaning cool or amazing
Like “grande”, forte and fortissimo are used to praise or congratulate someone on a feat or personal milestone. They can also be a stand-alone expression of enthusiasm or agreement.
- “La mia amica è stata ammessa nella migliore facoltà di chimica d’Italia. È fortissima!” - “My friend was accepted into the best chemistry department in Italy. She’s amazing!”
- “Ho comprato quelle Nike vintage che cercavo da tanto.” “Forte!” - “I bought those vintage Nikes that I’ve been looking for for ages.” “Cool!”
Mito/mitico - mythic, but meaning epic or legendary
One of the most popular slang phrases you might hear among younger Italians, this one piles on the praise and elevates a person or event to legendary status. You’ll spot both terms on soccer (football) fan banners and even in pop songs.
The noun form is “mito”:
- “Francesco Totti ha portato la Roma a un’altra vittoria! È un mito!” - “Francesco Totti got another win for Roma. He’s a legend!”
- “Guarda, ho trovato le tue chiavi.” “Sei un mito!” - “Hey, I found your keys.” “You are a legend!”
The adjective is “mitico”:
- “Il mio quinto anno di liceo è stato mitico!” - “My senior year of high school was epic!”
- “La vittoria della Luna Rossa è stata mitica!” - “The Luna Rossa win was legendary!”
Figata - cool, awesome, the bomb
Used to indicate the highest category of cool, “figata” is a slang term used mostly by younger people similar to “the bomb” in English.
- “Che figata la nuova macchina di Valeria!” - “Valeria’s new car is the bomb!”
- “La sua festa per il diciottesimo è stata una vera figata!” - “His 18th birthday party was the bomb!”
Togo - cool in center and southern Italy
Once largely fallen out of use, this old-school Italian word was used to describe something elegant or luxurious but resurfaced over the past few years to indicate something cool. It is used mostly in central and southern Italy
- “Sai suonare la chitarra? Togo!” - “You know how to play the guitar? Cool!”
- “Lei ha un sacco di stile nel vestirsi. È molto toga.” - “She always dresses very stylishly. She’s cool.”
Ganzo - cool in Tuscany
In the Tuscan dialect, “ganzo” is used like “togo” or “grande” in dialects from other parts of Italy.
You can use “ganzo” as an adjective:
- “È molto ganza questa Ducati!” - “This Ducati is very cool!”
Or you can use “ganzo” as a noun:
- “Sei un vero ganzo con quella giacca!” - “You’re such a cool guy with that jacket on!”
Fico - cool or awesome, but use with caution!
“Fico” (or “figo” in some regions) is perhaps the most common word to indicate cool or awesome, but you need to be careful when using it. The feminine form (“fica/figa”) is a vulgar slang term for female genitalia and saying a woman is a “fica” is extremely offensive. For this reason, I recommend only using the masculine form so you won’t trip up.
As an adjective:
- “Che fica questa spiaggia!"- “What a cool beach!”
- “È fichissimo il mio professore.” - “My professor is a really cool guy.”
As a noun, which is more a comment on a person’s attractiveness:
- “L’amico di mio fratello è un gran fico.” - “My brother’s friend is hot.”
- Do not use it in the feminine form “Carla è una figa!”, as it is offensive.
We hope you sound cool and are the bomb when you use these Italian slang words!