Italian expression of the day: ‘Porca miseria’

Memorize this expression for when learning Italian gets all too frustrating.

Listen, we get it: a lot of things in Italy can get your blood pressure up.

Whether it's swerving for triple-parked cars or dodging deranged scooter drivers, attempting to convince anyone of the virtues of queuing or being told to go back to the post office for the correct revenue stamp to stick on your official documents (only to find that it's 1pm so naturally the post office is closed), the sources of frustration here are many.

Next time you feel your irritation rising, don't swallow it back down: just do things the Italian way and give a hearty “Porca miseria!”

The phrase means literally 'pork poverty', from porco (pig) and miseria (poverty). More figuratively it's the equivalent of 'for god's sake', an American English 'goddammit' or a British 'bloody hell'. 

– Ma porca miseria, cosa stai facendo?!
– For god's sake, what are you doing?!

Just like its English versions, porca miseria isn't only used in anger: it can also have a tone of incredulity, surprise or even wonderment. 

– Porca miseria, che freddo!
– Bloody hell, it's freezing!

Yes it's weird that it involves pigs, but then we say 'holy cow', don't we?

And like that phrase, porca miseria is relatively mild – definitely not to be confused with porca troia or porca puttana, which serve the same purpose but, substituting 'poverty' for some unsavoury terms for women, are a lot more vulgar.

It's safer to stick to unhappy pigs.


This article was originally published in 2018.

Do you have an Italian word you'd like us to feature? If so, please email us with your suggestion.