Italian word of the day: ‘Mannaggia’

Italian word of the day: 'Mannaggia'
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash
Do you know the origins of this common exclamation?

Today’s word was requested by readers, who presumably enjoy saying it as much as we do. 

With two sets of double consonants, mannaggia is a mouthful – but a satisfying one. It’s an exclamation you can use when you’re impatient, irritated, frustrated or disappointed, much like ‘damn!’

Mannaggia, che guaio.
Damn, what a mess. 

Mannaggia, se mi potessi ricordare!
Damn, if only I could remember!

While these days it’s a pretty mild expression, its origins are a little darker. Linguists believe the phrase started off in southern Italy as either “male ne abbia” (or in some southern dialects, “aggia”), which translates roughly as ‘cursed be’ or ‘bad things to [someone/something]’.

Another theory is that mannaggia is a contraction of “malanno aggia”, or ‘have a bad year’. Either way, the phrase is pretty similar to ‘damn’ when it’s a verb: like when you say ‘damn them!’

You can still use mannaggia this way today, usually by specifying just who or what you’re wishing ill.

Mannaggia a te!
Damn you!

Mannaggia a tutti quelli che buttano le cartacce in terra!
Damn anyone who litters!

Alternatively, you can add some flair by combining mannaggia with another poetic Italian lament: miseria

Mannaggia la miseria!

It means the same thing, it’s just a bit fancy. And is there’s one thing Italian does well, it’s fancy insults.

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

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