Five Favorite Italian Words

I’ve been in Italy for over a week now and figure now is as good a time as any to give you my five favorite Italian words.  A while back, Melanie over at Italofile started a meme as a result of Jessica’s guest post “Five Favorite Italian Words” and challenged fellow bloggers to post their own five favorite Italian words.

Here are a couple blogs that rose to the challenge:

Cherrye @ My Bella Vita ~ My Five Favorite Italian Slang Words
2 Baci in a Pinon Tree ~ My Five Favorite Italian Words and Five More Words

I am currently spending time in the south of Italy, in the small Calabrese town my father was born in, so as you can imagine, I am immersed more in the town’s dialect than in “proper” Italian but there are still some Italian words that have popped up in conversations that I’ve taken note of and have made me smile whenever I hear them.  There are many Italian words that I just love to hear, but if I were to list them all, I’d be here forever.  Instead, I have condensed the list to five words (I know!  Trust me, it wasn’t easy).

magari (mah-gah-ree)

This particular word caught my interest when I was in Italy a couple years ago.  I kept hearing it in conversations and it always seemed to stand out to me.  I heard it in various sentences and scenarios, so the meaning of the word was always a bit cloudy for me.  You see, this word means different things depending on the context in which it is used.

As an adverb, it means “perhaps” or “maybe”.  When used as an exclamation, it is similar to saying “I wish!” in English.  If can also be used as a conjunction in which it means “if only”.

Regardless of how it is used, it is one of the words that always seems to fit so nicely into a sentence.

assai (ah-sigh)

When I first heard this word, I had to know what it meant.  It was such a pleasant sounding word.  I came to learn that it means “very much” or “plenty of”.  Needless to say, this word has come in handy when my Zia is scooping enough pasta in my plate to feed the entire Italian army and I need to tell her that one spoonful of pasta is plenty.

guai (goo-why)

You don’t necessarily want to hear this word, because in English it means “troubles”.  It is used when you want to say you are in a fix, in a hole, or in a tight spot.  In Italian, you would say “nei quai”.  If you are “out of the woods” you would say “fuori da quai”.

quindi (queen-dee)

There always seems to be words that you hear all the time and you know what they mean but for some reason or another the meaning always seems to slip your mind and when you remember the meaning you can’t figure out how you forgot it.  For me, this is one of those words (I may have to make a list of unforgettable forgettable words).

Quindi is the Italian word for “therefore”.  There is a popular saying “I think, therefore I am” which in Italian translates to “penso, quindi sono”.  I am trying to use this saying as a way to remember what this word means.  I’ll let you know how it works out.

farfalla (far-fah-le)

This word is on my list of favourites because its meaning holds a special significance for me.  Farfalla is Italian for butterfly.  Growing up, and still to this day, I see the butterfly as a reminder that those who were special to me who have passed are watching out for me.  It brings a smile to my face whenever I see a butterfly and here in Calabria, they seem to be everywhere.  It’s beautiful!


So, I’m sure I will have more favorite words to add to this list as time passes.  In the meantime, I welcome you all to share some of your favorite Italian words.  It’s also a great way to learn the language! 🙂


  1. Justine

    September 25, 2010 at 10:18 am

    Assai is used as a tempo indicator in music: Allegro Assai and Lento Assai. It is an intensifier: even faster/even slower.

  2. Jen

    September 6, 2010 at 12:25 pm

    Hi! I found your site a year ago and not knowing how to use the subscribe feature in wordpress I never confirmed it. I rediscovered it today and am so happy. I love your writing. I laughed because I always forget what quindi means too! I will use, penso, quindi sono to help me remember too. I will be traveling to Calabria next summer, July 2011. We are going to Villa San Giovanni the home of my fiance where I will meet his family and we are having a wedding ceremony. I will be avidly reading your site until then for a taste of Calabria! Grazie!

  3. Valerie

    August 9, 2010 at 8:15 pm

    Great list! Farfalla is such a happy word! I love your personal interpretation of butterflies – beautiful thought!

  4. Rose

    July 6, 2010 at 6:03 pm

    Assai is a beautiful word! And I have seen an italian nonna’s version of a serving!! Is your little Calabrian town anywhere near Nicastro? That is where our relatives are from, although here is Vermont we are having very southern Italian weather, so as not to miss it too much. Assai! Assai heat!

    1. LuLu

      July 7, 2010 at 6:05 pm

      @Rose – Nicastro is in Catanzaro which a good hour and a half south of where my town is….I think it is near Lamezia Terme (where the airport is). My nonna’s serving is rather big and of course her own personal serving is never quite as much as mine 😛 Southern Italy has been a bit colder than usual…I know right before I left for Rome I was wearing sweaters during the day. In Rome, the weather is super duper hot…I’m anxious to get back to cooler and breezier climates! 😛

  5. Cherrye at My Bella Vita

    July 5, 2010 at 3:44 am

    LOVE your choices. How long are you here? Think you can head down to Catanzaro??

    1. LuLu

      July 7, 2010 at 6:08 pm

      @Cherrye I’m going to be around through to October and keeping my fingers crossed it will end up being longer. Are you staying in Italy through the summer? or heading to the States?

  6. lucy

    June 28, 2010 at 11:45 am

    My favourite is dunequay (I don’t know how you spell that in Italian) I think it means anyway, they said it like every five minutes. I love Magari, to me I translated as even though, or even if.

    It’s spelled “dunque” and usually means “therefore”, “well (now)”, and “well (then)” depending on how it’s used. It’s another one of those words that I always have to think about when trying to figure out what it means. 🙂

  7. Ariana from Chicago

    June 27, 2010 at 6:26 pm

    How wonderful for you that you are in Calabria! I hope you are having a wonderful time! Look forward to pictures, and maybe some favorite food stories or recipes……..

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