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 word of the day: ‘Morboso’

Don't get overly attached to this Italian word.

Italian word of the day: ‘Morboso’

Most Italian adjectives have more than one single possible meaning and some of them can be used in completely different contexts and situations. 

Morboso (pronunciation available here) happens to fall under that category. 

As you might have already guessed, today’s adjective comes from the word ‘morbo’, which is generally used to indicate any type of contagious disease that is highly infectious and potentially lethal (cholera, plague, etc.).

So, in its primary meaning, morboso describes anything related to or caused by a contagious disease. As such, it’s generally rendered into English as ‘contagious’ or ‘infectious’.

Questi sono chiaramente i sintomi di una malattia morbosa.

These are clearly the symptoms of an infectious disease. 

But morboso is barely ever used in this way outside of the medical field and, even in that case, some native speakers might perceive the word as being too formal or somewhat archaic.

The adjective is far more popular in ordinary conversations when given its secondary and, if you will, less literal meaning. 

Italians also use morboso to refer to any emotion, feeling or behaviour that is considered excessive, especially in a way that might be seen as unhealthy or even pathological.

For instance: 

Marco ha sviluppato una ossessione morbosa nei confronti di lei.

Marco has developed an unhealthy obsession with her.

In this case, the Italian adjective might be translated into English as ‘unhealthy’, ‘unreasonable’, ‘disproportionate’ or, at times, even ‘morbid’.

But while the English ‘morbid’ only refers to an unnatural, excessive interest in disturbing or unpleasant things, especially death, the Italian ‘morboso’ has a much wider scope as it potentially refers to any over-the-top feeling or behaviour, even a positive one.

Ha un affetto morboso per la madre.

He has an unreasonable affection for his mother.

Finally – and this is perhaps the most common use of the adjective nowadays – morboso is also used to indicate people, and especially romantic partners, who are unbearably clingy.

So a ‘persona morbosa’ is a person who, for whatever reason, tends to be overly attached to someone else, depending on them emotionally or in some other way.

When intended in the above sense, the adjective may also be used jokingly:

Vedi che sei morboso?

Ma come morboso? Cosa stai dicendo?

Can you not see you’re being clingy?

Clingy how? What on earth are you talking about?

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