Body parts may not come up much in general Italian conversation, but they’re important to know. Besides a visit to the pharmacy or doctor’s, you’ll find body parts used in Italian expressions, proverbs and way to describe someone.

 

If you need a reminder of body parts in Italian, you can have a look at our articles on health in Italian and what to say at the pharmacy

 

So, let’s start at the top and work out way down:

 

Costare un occhio della testa

Literal meaning: To cost an eye of one’s head

Real meaning: To cost an arm and a leg, to cost a fortune

 

Sognare ad occhi aperti

Literal meaning: to dream with one’s eyes open

Real meaning: to daydream

 

Non chiudere occhio

Literal meaning: to not close an eye

Real meaning: to not sleep a wink

 

Porgere l’altra guancia

This is the same in English – to turn the other cheek

 

Non avere peli sulla lingua 

Literal meaning: To not have hairs on one’s tongue

Real meaning: To speak frankly

 

There are lots of expressions using hands – le mani - and arms – le braccia, let’s look at some here:

 

Dare una mano

This is the same in English – to give or lend someone a hand

 

Essere alla mano

Literal meaning: To be at the hand

Real meaning: To be down to earth or approachable

 

Con il cuore in mano

Literal meaning: With one’s heart in their hand

Real meaning: From the bottom of one’s heart

 

Cogliere con le mani nel sacco

Literal meaning: To catch someone with their hands in the bag

Real meaning: To catch someone red-handed

 

Avere il police verde

Literal meaning: To have a green thumb

If you speak American English then this may be the same, whereas if you speak British English then it’ll mean ‘to have green fingers’. Either way, it means to be good at gardening.

 

Alzare il gomito

Literal meaning: To lift one’s elbow

Real meaning: To drink too much

 

There are some great expressions using the words for legs – le gambe – and feet – i piedi:

 

Essere in gamba

Literal meaning: To be in leg

Real meaning: To be very capable, to be on the ball, to be on top of things

 

Darsela a gambe

Literal meaning: To give to the legs

Real meaning: To leg it, to make a run for it

 

Fare il passo più lungo della gamba

Literal meaning: To take a step longer than one’s leg

Real meaning: To bite off more than you can chew

 

Il tallone d’Achille

This is the same in English, it means Achilles’ heel and represents a weakness or vulnerable spot.

 

Svegliarsi con il piede sbagliato

Literal meaning: To wake up with the wrong foot

Real meaning: To get out of bed on the wrong side

 

Un lavoro fatto con i piedi

Literal meaning: To do a job with one’s feet 

Real meaning: To do something badly, to make a mess of something

 

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading some of these expressions with body parts, and that they come in handy for your Italian conversation!