Italian American Slang


A linguistic analysis

Fabio Girelli-Carasi


This text contains vulgarities and foul language.

If you are offended by such speech-acts, please refrain from reading further.


Let's start at the beginning. Come stai? Molto bene. Bon giorno  Ciao. Arrivederci. Every Italian from Italy knows these words and every Italian-American should.
IT buon giorno
But what about the goomba? Those words and phrases that are a little Italian, a little American, and a little slang. Words every paesano  and Bacciagaloop  has heard, words we hear throughout our Little Italy neighborhoods of New York and New Jersey. From IT. compare = buddy.

Paesano= Person from the same paese, town

From Bacigaluppo  a common last name from the Piedmont region in Northern Italy. Probably it means "Northern Italian"


This form of language, the "Goomba-Italiano" has been used for generations. It's not gangster slang terms like "whack" or "vig", if that's what you are thinking---nope, this is real Guido tawk ! I think "Guido." is racist and derogatory. I object even more when Italian Americans use it to describe themeselves.


The goomba says ciao when he arrives or leaves. He says "Madonna Mia" anytime emotion is needed in any given situation. Mannaggia From It. male ne abbia, in dialect male ne aggia = may he have evil or may evil have him


meengya From Sicilian minchia = the male genital organ. Equivalent to a four-letter word to express anything from surprise to anger to admiration.


oofah, Uffa = sigh. when you are bored, exasperated or annoyed.


and of course, va fongool can also be used. From IT "vai a fare in culo," or, in the spelling of Pier Paolo Pasolini "vaffanculo" = go get f. in the ass.


Capeesh? From IT. capisci = do you understand, or 'you know what I mean?'


He uses a mopeen  to wipe his hands in the cuchina, gets agita  from the gravy (SAUCE to the NJ gang) moppina = from mop, towel

IT cucina =, kitchen

From IT acidita' = acidity. It also suggests a state of 'agitation, restlessness' that comes from an upset stomach - maybe with psychological implications

and will shkeeve (meatballs unless they are homemade from the famiglia. From IT schifo = disgust, here used as a verb, to shkeeve.
Always foonah  your bread in the pot of gravy (sauce ) or you will be considered a real  coogootz  or a Mezzo-finookio. foonah: from IT "affondare"= to sink, to dunk. In dialect it becomes 'affunnah', further shortened into 'foonah' .

From IT cucuzza = pumpkin, polysemic word indicating a blockhead, or in other contexts money etc.

From IT finocchio = fennel. Slang for homosexual. Mezzo finocchio = half fennel, sissy


There are usually plenty of mamalukes


From IT Mamalucco, originally Arabic for "slave" then the name of a Northern African militia that fought the Crusaders.  In Italian it stands for dumb and dumber

 and the girl from the neighborhood with the reputation is a facia-bruta, puttana  or a skifosa. IT faccia brutta = ugly face


IT schifosa=  disgusting one, i.e. whore.

If you are called gattiv,  cabbadost,  

IT cattivo = mean

capatosta = dialect for "stubborn" "heardheaded." It is a default insult for Calabresi (people from the Calabria region) who apparently have a reputation for being stubborn.


sfatcheem,   stupido or sfatcheem: dialect word that literally means "sperm." To call someone a   sfatcheem is actually a compliment as it means slick, smart, cunning individual (son of a gun.)
strunz , you are usually a pain in the ass. From IT stronzo = turd, i.e. asshole, jerk.
A crazy diavlo can give you the malokya but that red horn (contra malokya) will protect you if you use it right. IT diavolo, =devil

from malocchio = evil eye

Don't forget to always say per favore and grazia  and prego. Per favore =please

  IT grazie = thank you

prego you are welcome, lit. "I beg you."

If you are feeling mooshadd, stoonad or mezzo-morto (half dead), ammosciato = groggy, slumpy or deflated like a flat tire.

Stonato: this must be originally from STONED, whose sound suggested the Italian STONATO, meaning tone deaf, and more precisely someone who sings off key = the mixture of the two indicates someone who's not totally there
always head to Nonna's and she will fix you up with a little homemade manicott'

 cavadell'  or calamar ' or some ricotta cheesecake.

manicotti, in IT cannelloni.

cavatelli, homemade type of pasta

 calamari = squid
Mangia (eat) some zeppoles, canollis, torrone, struffoli, correct spelling is "cannoli"
shfoolyadell', pignoli cookies, sfogliatelle:  philo dough pastries with cheese
or a little nutella on pannetone . Nutella was launched in Italy in the '60. ItAm language keeps up!

panettone, typical Christmas cake from Milano. (How did it get in here?)
Delizioso! I think I will fix myself a sangweech (sandwich) of cabagol ' with some capocollo, salami typical of Calabria
proshoot prosciutto
and mozarell' (mozzarella) or maybe just a hot slice of peetza (no way, pizza is pizza.)  
So salud ' if you have any Italian blood in you and you understood anything written here! . IT salute = health, i.e. cheers.
Then, you are numero uno (number one) and a professore of the goombas  
If you don't get any of this, then fa Nabola


It literally means "do the Neapolitan way" i.e. the same as va fongool. The interesting thing is that in Italy we do not have expressions to suggest sodomitic proclivities on the part of Neapolitans. Not that I know of, at least. It must be peculiar to It-Am.


with the whole thing and you are a disgraziato Etymologically: "outside the grace of god", irresponsible, good for nothing.
Scuzi, mia dispiachay. I didn't mean that....... !....... Scusi = sorry

IT mi dispiace = sorry

 Just...... fugheddaboudit ... and you should know what this means.

2003 by Fabio Girelli-Carasi