Italian expression of the day: ‘Fare le corna’

With any luck, you won't need this phrase too often.

Italian expression of the day: 'Fare le corna'
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond

Have you ever spotted an Italian 'making horns'? 

Here's a demonstration in case you're not sure what that looks like:

No, they're not telling you to 'rock on'. In Italy the gesture is a sign you're hoping for good luck, similar to crossing your fingers in English-speaking countries.

Le corna ('horns') invoke bull-like strength and they're thought to ward off il malocchio or 'evil eye' – any kind of curse or ill fortune. (Note that one horn, il corno, is masculine, but the plural mysteriously becomes feminine and ends unusually in ~a.)

You mime them whenever you want to ward off something bad happening or your plans being derailed, for instance…

Vengo in Italia per Natale… facciamo le corna.
I’m coming to Italy for Christmas… fingers crossed (literally: 'let's make horns').

It's similar to touching wood for luck or protection (though Italians also have another equivalent of that superstition: tocca ferro or 'touch iron', referring to rubbing a horse shoe for luck).

READ ALSO: Unlucky for some: Thirteen strange Italian superstitions


Especially in the south of Italy, le corna are performed with your fingers pointing down towards the ground.

It's safer to do the gesture that way round since 'the horns' can also be an insult: they invoke the bull's horns that in ancient times were said to symbolize a betrayed lover. Miming them derisively at someone else is a way to imply they've been cheated on.

For the same reason, be sure not to confuse fare le corna ('make horns') with fare le corna a qualcuno ('put horns on someone'): the latter means 'to be unfaithful'.

Mi ha fatto le corna ma l'ho perdonata.
She cheated on me but I forgave her.

And if today's date has you worrying about misfortune, don't worry: Friday the 13th isn't considered unlucky in Italy. The bad news, though, is that Friday the 17th is. So save those horns for January.

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

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Italian word of the day: ‘Delusione’

We hope this word doesn't disappoint.

Italian word of the day: 'Delusione'

Experiencing a delusione (deh-loo-zee-OH-neh) in Italian may not be pleasant, but it doesn’t mean you need escorting to the psychiatrist’s chair.

That’s because while delusione may look and sound like its English cousin ‘delusion’, the word actually means something quite different: disappointment.

Disappointment Disappointed GIF - Disappointment Disappointed Food Review GIFs

The two nouns actually have the same root in the Latin dēlūsiō, meaning a deceiving or deluding, and delūdō, meaning to deceive, dupe, or mock.

But while the English ‘delusion’ has hewn close to the original Latin meaning over the centuries, delusione at some point branched off to its current, quite different, definition.

There’s not much in the way of information about exactly when and how that happened, but it’s clearly a short associative hop from feeling ‘deceived’ or ‘duped’ by things turning out differently to what you’d expected to feeling ‘disappointed’.

Che delusione.
How disappointing.

La festa era, purtroppo, una grande delusione.
The party unfortunately was a big disappointment.

Mike Ehrmantraut Breaking Bad Che Delusione No Che Vergogna GIF - Disappointment Disappointed Oh No GIFs

The adjective for ‘disappointed’ is deluso for a single masculine subject, changing to delusa/delusi/deluse if the subject being described is feminine singular/masculine plural/feminine plural.

Era delusa da come era venuta la torta.
She was disappointed with how the cake turned out.

Devo dire che siamo davvero delusi dal fatto che siamo stati trattati in questo modo.
I have to say that we’re very disappointed to have been treated this way.

A word you’ll often see used in combination with deluso/a/i/e is rimanere (ree-man-EH-reh): rimanere deluso.

You might correctly recognise rimanere as meaning ‘to remain’, and wonder why we’d use that word here – but rimanere also has an alternative meaning along the lines of ‘to become’, ‘to get’, or simply ‘to be’.

For example, you can rimanere incinta (get pregnant), or rimanere ferito (get hurt or wounded, for example in a car accident).

It’s also very often used with emotions, usually those experienced in the moment rather than long-term ones: you can rimanere sorpreso (be surprised), rimanere triste (be sad), rimanere scioccato (be shocked)… and rimanere deluso (be disappointed).

Sono rimasto molto deluso quando mi ha detto di aver abbandonato la scuola.
I was very disappointed when she told me she had dropped out of school.

Siamo rimasti delusi dalle condizioni della stanza d’albergo al nostro arrivo.
We were disappointed by the condition of the hotel room when we arrived.

With that, we wish you a weekend free of delusioni (disappointments)!

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