Italian word of the day: ‘Mangia’

In Italy, if you're not eating, you're probably talking about eating.

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

If you ask people who’ve recently arrived in Italy and are learning the language what their favourite Italian words are, this one comes up a lot.

It’s probably one of the first words you’ll learn if you spend any time around Italians, mainly because it will be repeated a lot at every mealtime.


As you might know, it means ‘eat up!’

It’s pronounced ‘man-jah‘, and is the imperative form of the verb mangiare (‘man-jar-eh’): to eat.No matter how old you are, you’re very likely to find that Italians (not just nonna, but the entire family) will constantly implore you to eat more of everything, whether you’re at their home or in a restaurant.

Apparently concerned that you might be wasting away after eating a mere three plates of pasta a day for the last week, they’ll just keep on saying it while piling more food onto your plate.

Mangia, mangia!

And, while everyone else has mastered the art of shouting across the table while eating at the same time, you haven’t, so every time you pause to join in the conversation, guess what you’ll get?

– Mangia, sta andando a freddo!

– Eat up, it’s going cold!

One of the first phrases I ever managed to string together in Italian was this rather feeble defence:

– Grazie, ma sono piena (pieno if you’re male)

– Thanks, but I’m full

But they simply took this to mean I was ready for the fruit course, and then several desserts.

My Italian family is from rural Puglia, where feeding people appears to be a competitive sport. But you’re going to get this treatment to some degree wherever you go in Italy.

Be aware that saying ‘no grazie‘ to food is often something people do out of politeness, before finally accepting another helping after some pressing from the host.

So if you really don’t want any more, you may need to say so three or four times – if you have the energy to argue.

You may also hear ‘mangiatelo‘ – which means ‘you can/have to eat it’, depending on the context. This is usually used within a sentence, rather than as a stand-alone instruction.

Another food-related phrase you’ll hear constantly if you’re staying with an Italian family is this:

– Cosa vuoi mangiare oggi/dopo?

– What do you want to eat today/later?

Don’t be surprised if you’re quizzed on what you’d like for dinner while you’re still trying to fend off a third plate of pasta at lunch.


And if you want a restaurant recommendation, don’t ask for a “good” place to eat, but for somewhere you’ll “eat well”.

– Conosci un ristorante dove mangiamo bene?

– Do you know a restaurant where we’ll eat well?

When you get home, you’ll need to reassure your Italian family:

– Si, abbiamo mangiato benissimo

– Yes, we ate very well

They’re likely to want you to describe the meal in detail, including how different items were cooked – so we hope you were taking notes in the restaurant.

And not forgetting that the word appears in various Italian idioms and sayings, for example reader Chris suggests ‘l’appetito viene mangiando‘: which literally translates as ‘appetite comes with eating’ and means something like ‘the more you have, the more you want’.

Whether you’ve just eaten, are eating later, or are still eating, food is always a popular topic of conversation in Italy.

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


Italian word of the day: ‘Inciucio’

Here's a word you'll need to deal with ahead of Italy's elections.

Italian word of the day: 'Inciucio'

With two days to go until Sunday’s general election, there’s talk of a potential ’inciucio’ everywhere from the pages of newspapers to the heated conversations at sports bars up and down the country.

So what is an ‘inciucio’ and why does the word seem to be on everyone’s lips whenever Italy faces elections?

Briefly, ‘inciucio’ is political jargon that describes any type of dubious agreement or, if you will, compromise reached by two or more political parties generally holding opposite views and ideals.

There’s no direct translation into English, though a native speaker would probably refer to it as something of a dodgy backroom deal.

Non c’è una maggioranza chiara. 

Eh, figurati. Faranno il solito inciucio.

There isn’t a clear-cut majority.

Oh, that’s not new. They’ll go for the usual deal.

Such an agreement is usually necessary when forming a large coalition government, with terms largely assumed to be based on the “you scratch my back, I scratch yours” principle. 

READ ALSO: Salvini vs Meloni: Can Italy’s far-right rivals put differences aside?

With that definition in mind, it’s hard not to see why ‘inciucio’ is such a commonly-used word in Italy, a country whose political class has historically been partial to improbable alliances with their previously hated rivals. 

Cosa pensi delle prossime elezioni?

Preferisco non pensare. Ne ho avuto abbastanza di questi inciuci. 

What do you think of the next elections?

I’d rather not think. I’ve had enough of these political deals.

Purtroppo, con questa legge elettorale, l’inciucio tra partiti è l’unica via per avere un governo…

Fammi un piacere. Gli inciuci esistevano anche 60 anni fa, molto prima di questa legge elettorale.

Sadly, with the current electoral system, a compromise between different parties is the only way to form a new government.

Do me a favour. These types of agreements existed 60 years ago, well before the present electoral system.

While the noble art of the inciucio goes back a long way in the history of republican Italy, the term itself was only coined in 1995 by Massimo D’Alema, then secretary of the left-wing Democratic Party (PD). 

The expression only rose to popularity a couple of years later, when the founder of the term thought it fit to put the word to good use and reached a ‘non-aggression pact’ with the then-leaders of Italy’s right-wing coalition – the agreement went down in history as the patto della crostata or ‘pie pact’ – but we’ll keep that story for another time.

Ever since then, the term ‘inciucio’ has been regularly used by political commentators as well as the wider public to discuss the various power plays of the country’s major political forces.

For instance, the most classic of inciuci was at the foundation of Giuseppe Conte’s first cabinet back in 2018, when Matteo Salvini’s League and Luigi Di Maio’s Five-Star Movement unexpectedly found sufficient common ground to form a coalition government.

So, will we see another inciucio this time around?

Given the unpredictable nature of Italian politics, you’ll forgive us for not ruling out the possibility of another inciucio just yet.