Italian word of the day: ‘Evvai’

Hooray for this Italian word of encouragement.

Italian word of the day: 'Evvai'
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It's easy to get discouraged when you're learning a language. After the first steep learning curve, when conjugating the present tense correctly feels like a triumph, it's almost inevitable you'll slow depressingly down when it comes to picking up the harder stuff.

To anyone stuck on that miserable plateau, we say: evvai

It's an Italian term of encouragement, translating roughly as 'come on!' Some say it's an updated variation of evviva ('hurrah'), the somewhat old-fashioned term you'd use to wish health and happiness to, say, a reigning monarch.

Evviva la regina!
Long live the queen!

Alternatively you can translate evvai as a contraction of e vai: 'and go'. In fact it's both coming and going: the expression is used to encourage, like 'come on', but also to congratulate – like 'way to go!'

Hai avuto il lavoro? Evvai!
You got the job? Way to go!

Evvai is also, simply, a way to express happiness at something. It's the Italian 'yay!'

Ho vinto! Evvai!
I won! Yesssss!

So stick with it – and keep reading our Words of the Day, of course – and we promise progress will come. And you'll know exactly what to say when it does.

Do you have a favourite Italian word, phrase or expression you'd like us to feature? If so, please email our editor Jessica Phelan with your suggestion.


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Italian expression of the day: ‘Conosco i miei polli’

We know what we're dealing with with this Italian phrase.

Italian expression of the day: 'Conosco i miei polli'

You don’t have to be a poultry farmer to go around telling people ‘conosco i miei polli’ – literally, ‘I know my chickens’ – in Italian.

There’s no perfect translation, but it means something along the lines of ‘I know who I’m dealing with/ what they can get up to/ what they’re like’; I know what to expect from them, for better or worse.

It usually implies slightly mischievously that the people or person being discussed could be troublemakers, and that the speaker has the necessary knowledge to deal with them effectively.

You might think of it as ‘I know what those little devils/rascals are like’ if referring to naughty children, or ‘I know how those jokers/b******s operate’ if discussing petty officials or difficult colleagues.

Saranno tornati entro la mattinata; fidati, conosco i miei polli.
They’ll be back by morning; trust me, I know what I’m talking about.

Conosco i miei polli; vedrete che arriveranno alla riunione con mezz’ora di ritardo e daranno la colpa al traffico.
I know them: you’ll see, they’ll get to the meeting half an hour late and blame it on the traffic.

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According to at least one source, the full original phrase is ‘conosco i miei polli alla calzetta‘, or ‘I know my chickens by their stockings’.

It refers back to a time when chickens roamed the streets or shared courtyards freely.

So they didn’t get mixed up, each bird had a little scrap of coloured cloth tied around their foot that allowed each owner to quickly spot their chicken.

The next time you’re dealing with some tricky characters, you’ll know just what to say.

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