Language and culture For Members

Italian word of the day: 'Rompiscatole'

Jessica Phelan
Jessica Phelan - [email protected]
Italian word of the day: 'Rompiscatole'

Don't go breaking my... boxes?


I can guarantee you’ve encountered a few rompiscatole in your time.

Maybe it’s the person who insists on paying by cheque at the front of a lengthy supermarket line. It could be the bureaucrat at town hall who decided they’d like four copies of each document today, please, even though yesterday they said just one would do.

Or perhaps it’s the bank manager who insists that all forms must be signed in person, even when you’re on the other side of the country. In a heatwave. During a strike.

What such charming folk have in common is that all of them, as Italians would put it, bust your boxes.

Yes, that is a euphemism. Rompere le scatole a qualcuno (‘to break someone’s boxes’) is a polite way of saying that they bust a certain tender part of the male anatomy, i.e. they get on your nerves or they’re a real pain in the... er... neck.

Questa storia mi ha proprio rotto le scatole!
This business really got my goat!

Someone who performs said action, then, is a rompiscatole (pronounced "rom-pee-ska-toh-leh"): a ‘nuisance’, ‘pest’ or ‘pain in the neck’.

È un vero rompiscatole.
He’s a real nuisance.


Note that as a compound noun rompiscatole is invariable: its ending doesn’t change whether you’re talking about one 'box-breaker' or several, male or female.

Liberami da quella rompiscatole!
Will someone get rid of this pain in the neck...!

I rompiscatole non sono ben accetti in questa casa.
Pests aren’t welcome in this house.

If you’re looking for the ruder version, meanwhile, you’ve got a whole assortment to choose from: rompicoglioni, rompipalle, spaccamaroni... They all mean, literally, ‘ball-breaker’. Use with caution. 

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


Join the conversation in our comments section below. Share your own views and experience and if you have a question or suggestion for our journalists then email us at [email protected].
Please keep comments civil, constructive and on topic – and make sure to read our terms of use before getting involved.

Please log in to leave a comment.

See Also