For members


Italian word of the day: ‘Ammazza’

This expression's just to die for.

Italian word of the day: 'Ammazza'
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond

Look up ammazza in your Italian dictionary and you might find it translated as a sinister command: ‘Kill!’

Yes, technically it is the second-person imperative of the verb ammazzare, which does indeed mean to kill, murder or destroy.

But that’s not the meaning we’re interested in here. Instead we’ll tell you what ammazza means in Rome, which is much less chilling: ‘Wow!’

Ammazza, che bello ragazzo!
Wow, what a hot guy!

We can’t quite figure out why young Romans started using ammazza this way, but we’d guess it’s the same instinct that has made various English speakers over the years say things like ‘dead good’, ‘to die for’, ‘that kills’ or ‘it slays’. 

In Roman slang, the word has – somehow – come to serve as an exclamation of surprise, admiration, frustration or shock.

Ammazza che freddo!
Man it’s cold!

Ammazza, quanto è stato cattivo.
Damn, that was bad.

The term is common in the capital and throughout central Italy, but just bear in mind that people from other parts of the country might not be familiar with it. Your Italian nonna definitely won’t. When speaking to an older or more formal crowd, we suggest you use the slightly more genteel cavolo instead.

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

For members


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.