Italians have a reputation for being flirty, so these phrases could well come in handy if you’re navigating the Italian dating scene.
There are a few different terms for flirting: the reflexive verb ‘provarci‘ (roughly ‘to try it on with’), the phrasal verb ‘fare il filo a‘ or ‘corteggiare‘ (literally ‘to court’) are more formal alternatives, or you can use the Anglicism ‘flirtare‘, or ‘civettare‘, though the latter is generally restricted to women.
The noun ‘una civetta‘, which means ‘owl’, is used to talk about flirty women (in English you might say ‘vixen’), while for men you could say ‘un donnaiolo‘ for a heterosexual man (it translates more or less as ‘womanizer’) or ‘un cascamorto‘, which comes from the term ‘cascare morto‘ (to fall down dead), suggesting dramatic swooning.
You can also use the verbal phrase ‘fare il cascamorto‘ to refer to a man who is flirting, usually in an over-the-top way, with someone.
Italy’s elaborate piazzas provide a suitably romantic backdrop. Photo: londondeposit/Depositphotos
‘Buttarsi‘ (literally ‘to throw oneself) means ‘to have a go’ and is often used in a romantic context, while ‘abbordare‘ means ‘to approach’ and ‘rimorchiare‘ (literally ‘to haul’) is ‘to pick someone up.
And if someone isn’t responding to your flirting? The phrase ‘fare il prezioso/la prezioso‘ (literally ‘being precious’) translates as ‘to play hard to get’.
The usual term for a date is ‘un appuntamento‘, but this also means ‘a (non-romantic) appointment’, so make sure you don’t get your wires crossed.
If you’re talking about one date, you’d say ‘ho un (primo) appuntamento con un ragazzo/una ragazza‘ (I have a (first) date with a guy/girl), but if you’re dating regularly, you can say ‘sto uscendo con qualcuno‘ or ‘mi sto vedendo qualcuno‘ (I’m going out with/seeing someone).
A couple kiss in front of Rome’s Colosseum on Valentine’s Day 2017. Photo: Filippo Monteforte/AFP
Some other useful dating vocabulary to have up your sleeve: ‘un appuntamento al buio‘, literally ‘date in the dark’ is the Italian term for a blind date; ‘pagare alla romana‘ (to pay the Roman way) is to split the bill equally, and ‘bidonare‘ or ‘dare buca a qualcuno‘ is ‘to stand someone up’.
And if you’re feeling like a spare part on someone else’s date, you might need the phrase ‘essere l’ultima ruota del carro‘ (to be the last wheel of the cart) or ‘reggere la candela‘ (to hold the candle) which both refer to being the third wheel.
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Hugs and kisses
If the date goes well, you might find yourself engaging in any one of the following. ‘Andare a braccetto‘ is to walk arm in arm; ‘abbraciare‘ is ‘to hug’, also used in the platonic sense; ‘accarezzare‘ means ‘to caress’; ‘palpeggiare‘ is ‘to fondle’; and ‘coccolare‘ is ‘to cuddle’. ‘
Spooning’ uses the same imagery in Italian as in English: ‘fare il cucchaio‘ (literally ‘to do the spoon’).
The verb ‘baciare‘ means ‘to kiss’ and is related to the noun ‘un bacio‘ (a kiss). But if you want to get more descriptive, Italian has a rich vocabulary for talking about kisses. ‘Sbaciucchiarsi‘ is derived from ‘baciare‘ and might be rendered in English as ‘smooch’ or perhaps ‘snog’; it implies lots of repeated, romantic kisses.
A couple kiss in Milan. Photo: peus/Depositphotos
READ ALSO: Here’s how to do the Italian cheek kiss
French kissing is referred to either as ‘baciare alla francese‘ or ‘baciare alla fiorentina‘ (to kiss the Florentine way) — in fact, the latter variant has been recorded as early as the 17th century, when it appeared in an Italian erotic novel. There’s a good fact to impress your date with.
Some linguists actually believe that the term ‘French kiss’ arose from a misunderstanding by British and American soldiers during the Second World War who began to refer to the Florentine kiss as French, while others argue there’s a difference between the two types of kiss, with the French variety being more passionate.
To skip the etymological debate, you can always say ‘baciare con la lingua‘ (to kiss using tongues) or ‘slinguare‘ which means the same but is more fun to say.
‘Limonare‘ (literally ‘to lemon’) is another way of talking about a somewhat sloppy kiss, and probably derives from the action of lemon squeezers, while ‘pomiciare‘ comes from the noun ‘la pomice‘ (pumice stone), which gives some idea of the technique described.
Italian football supporters kiss while cheering on their team. Photo: Miguel Medina/AFP
Having sex can simply be referred to as ‘fare sesso‘ or ‘fare l’amore‘ (to make love). Much more vulgar alternatives, not to be used around Italian in-laws, are ‘scopare‘ (which also means ‘to sweep’), ‘fottere‘ (also meaning ‘to steal/swipe’), and ‘chiavare‘ (from ‘la chiave‘ meaning key, so more or less translating as ‘to unlock’).
In Italy, a one-night stand is known as ‘una botta e via‘, literally meaning ‘a bang and go’.
And if you’re short on time, it could be helpful to know that ‘farsi una sveltina‘ or ‘fare una cosina veloce‘ are two translations for ‘to have a quickie’.
Unfortunately we don’t know the Italian term for this manouevre. Photo: Stokpic/Pexels
Falling in love
Just as in English, in Italian it’s common to say ‘mi piace qualcuno‘ (I like someone) to talk about someone you have romantic feelings for. And just as in English, there’s a risk that the romantic undertone might not be picked up on, so if you want to be clearer, you can say ‘mi sono presa una cotta per qualcuno‘ (I have a crush on someone) or, stronger still, ‘mi sono innamorarto/a in qualcuno‘ (I have fallen in love with someone). Meanwhile, ‘sono pazzo/a per lui/lei‘ means ‘I’m crazy about him/her’.
If you’re talking directly to the object of your affections, make sure not to get confused by the verb ‘piacere‘, which is often tough for non-native speakers. ‘Mi piaci‘ is ‘I like you’, while ‘ti piaccio‘ means ‘you like me’. ‘Ti amo‘ or ‘ti adoro‘ are more emphatically ‘I love/adore you’, while if you’re letting someone down gently, you might say ‘ti voglio bene‘ (I like you a lot), which is generally reserved for platonic love.
Two of the most common pet names in Italy are ‘amore‘ (love) and ‘tesoro‘ (treasure), but there are plenty of more evocative alternatives, from ‘patatina‘ (little potato) to ‘cucciolotto‘ (little puppy). It’s also common just to modify the person’s name with an Italian suffix, so a ‘Stefano’ could become ‘Stefanino’.
This article was originally published in 2019.