‘Zitti e buoni’: The Italian vocab you need to understand Italy’s Eurovision winner

Italy's winning Eurovision song might have you rocking out, but do you know what it means? Here's a closer look at the lyrics to "Zitti e buoni" by Måneskin.

'Zitti e buoni': The Italian vocab you need to understand Italy's Eurovision winner
You'll be singing along with Maneskin in no time. Photo: KENZO TRIBOUILLARD / AFP

No doubt you’ve heard Måneskin’s Zitti e buoni a few times by now: viewers of the Eurovision Grand Final were treated to two performances on Saturday night alone after the glam rockers from Rome won the song contest for Italy thanks to a massive public vote.

READ ALSO: Italy wins Eurovision: ‘We just want to say to the whole world, rock’n’roll never dies!’

But even after several listens, non-native Italian speakers probably won’t have caught all the words. That might be to do with the breakneck pace of frontman Damiano David’s singing, or there might be a few words and phrases in there you’re not familiar with yet.

To help you sing along – with feeling – we’ve picked out the most useful Italian vocabulary you can learn from Måneskin’s lyrics.

Zitti e buoni: the lyrics in English

Let’s start with the title: Zitti e buoni means “quiet and good”, but in the context of the song the words are more like a command – “shut up and behave”.

The next thing to know is that there are actually two sets of lyrics to the song – a clean version and one that’s slightly more risqué. The band performed both at the Eurovision final: the family-friendly version first, and the original (ruder) lyrics once they’d won.

The video below shows the original lyrics, which feature some choice words you’re very likely to hear used in Italy. Just be warned, some of them aren’t exactly polite.

Give Zitti e buoni another listen, this time with the Italian lyrics side-by-side with their English translation:

The song is essentially about refusing to conform – and finding other misfits to keep you company. In other words, classic glam rock.

The most useful words and phrases to remember

fra’ – short for fratelli, “brothers”. It’s like saying “bro”.

siga’ – short for sigarette, “cigarettes”. As you’ll have noticed, spoken Italian often drops a few syllables from the ends of words.

scusami – “sorry” or “excuse me”. Find out more about how to apologise in Italian here

ci credo – “I believe (in it)” or “I’m sure”. It’s a phrase that can be said sincerely or sarcastically.

tanto – this word can mean everything from “a lot” to “many” to “very much”, depending on how it’s used. Here it means “so much”. Find out the different ways to use tanto here.

vi conviene – the verb convenire, “to suit” or “be convenient”, can also be used to tell someone what their best (or most advisable) option is, in your opinion. It’s like saying “you’d better” do such and such. In this instance, the band is saying: “you lot had better” behave.

i coglioni – “balls” or “nuts” (and not the edible kind). Touching them, as described here, can be a good-luck gesture in Italy, which is why the line is translated as “you better touch wood”. 

Damiano David of Måneskin not quite touching his “coglioni”, but close. Photo: KENZO TRIBOUILLARD / AFP

zitti – the plural form of zitto, “quiet”. You can also use it as an instruction, in which case it becomes “zip it” or “shut up”. Find a full definition here.

buoni – the plural of buono, “good”. Just like in English, the word can be used in different contexts to mean everything from “nice” to “kind” to “tasty” to “capable”. Here it means “well-behaved” – just like you’d tell someone to “be good” when you want them to follow the rules.

tipo – this word can mean either “guy” or, as it does here, “like”. Find out the difference here. 

mo – “now”, or simply “well”. It’s a dialect word that’s pure Roman, just like Måneskin themselves. Read a full explanation here. 

‘sti – spoken Italian doesn’t just chop off the end of words, sometimes it gets rid of the beginning. ‘Sti is short for questi, “these”. 

quindi – “so” or “then”. This word comes up all the time in conversation: find a full definition here

fuori (di testa) – by itself, fuori means “out(side)”, like in the line sto sempre fuori (“I’m always out”). But fuori di testa means “out of your mind” or “crazy”. Find out more here.

diverso/a/i – “different”. One aspect that’s tricky to translate from Italian to English is how the ending of an adjective tells you who it describes: in the chorus, this adjective starts off applied to the singer himself (sono diverso), then to a woman (sei diversa), then to a whole group of people (siamo diversi). 


lacrime – “tears”. You’ll hear this lovely, tragic word more than you might expect in Italy: find out why here

l’ebrezza – “intoxication”, both in the sense of being under the influence, and euphoria. A negative drug test proved that Måneskin’s lead singer was high on only the latter the night of the Eurovision final.

purtroppo – “unfortunately”. Find out exactly how to use it here.

a galla – “afloat” or “on the surface (of water)”. Stare a galla can have a figurative sense too, like “keeping your head above water”.

mi manca l’aria – “I can’t breathe”. Literally translated, it means “I’m lacking air”. 

cazzo – this is one of the words that was edited out for the band’s first Eurovision performances: it means literally “dick”, but is frequently used as an interjection more like “fuck”. The line (la gente… non sa di che cazzo parla) means “people don’t know what the fuck they’re talking about”. A family-friendly alternative you can use instead is cavolo (literally, “cabbage”). 

… and the Danish word you need to know too

The band’s name is not Italian but Danish: it means “moonlight” and was picked at the suggestion of their half-Danish bassist, Victoria De Angelis. We’re reliably informed by our colleagues at The Local Denmark that the correct pronunciation is “morn-eh-skin”.

Måneskin with the Italian and Danish flags. Photo: Kenzo TRIBOUILLARD / AFP

In Italy you’ll hear the band referred to as i Måneskin, or “the Måneskins”. 

Discover more Italian vocab in The Local’s language section.

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‘I’m not Onassis’: Seven things Italian dads say and what they mean

As world-famous promoters of tough love, Italian dads have a repertoire of phrases ready for 'creatively' scolding their children. Here are just a few of of their favourite lines.

'I'm not Onassis': Seven things Italian dads say and what they mean

From doors being carelessly left open to requests for unreasonably expensive items, there are countless things that are guaranteed to upset an Italian dad.   

And whatever the misdeed, they’ll have a snarky remark suited for the occasion. 

Here are just seven of the favourite set phrases you’re likely to hear an Italian dad come out with.

Ma ti sembro Onassis?

Usually uttered after a request to buy something indecently pricey, “Do I look like Onassis to you?” is one of the best comebacks in the Italian dad’s repertoire. 

Onassis was a Greek shipping magnate who established himself as one of the richest men on the planet in the 20th century. 

READ ALSO: Ten phrases to talk about cold and wet weather like a true Italian

We might never get to know where exactly Italian fathers’ obsession with the Greek tycoon stems from, but we are sure that countless generations of young Italians will continue to be reminded that their father isn’t nearly as opulent as Onassis. 

Countless alternative versions of this expression exist, including non sono la Banca d’Italia (“I’m not the Bank of Italy”) or those referring to Italy’s very own cavaliere, Silvio Berlusconi, such as: “non sei la figlia di Berlusconi” (“You’re not Berlusconi’s daughter”)

Io non vado a rubare!

Roughly translatable into English as “I don’t steal for a living!”, this is another parenting staple for requests involving the purchase of expensive items. 

The phrase is generally uttered with sheer indignation and accompanied by various expressions of outrage. 

Financial prudence is top of Italian dads’ priorities. Mess with that at your peril. 

Come ti ho fatto, ti distruggo.

The “I’ll destroy you just as easily as I made you” ultimatum is not used lightly but, whenever the circumstances call for it, the real Italian father will not hesitate to pull out this verbal ace.

Generally triggered by grave displays of disrespect or (very) bad behaviour, the expression is nothing short of a psychological warfare masterpiece.

READ ALSO: These are Italy’s most popular baby names

A family of four posing for a photo.

Italian dads are world-famous promoters of tough love but most also have a soft side to them. Photo by Jean-Pierre CLATOT / AFP

Questa casa non e’ un albergo.

Here’s one for the rogue adolescents having a hard time abiding by the sacred rules of the house, especially those turning up late for meals or getting home late at night. 

Italian fathers don’t like to beat around the bush, so any breach of the law of the land is met with a stark reality check: “This house is not a hotel”. 

The phrase might sometimes be followed by “You cannot come and go as you please” (Non puoi andare e tornare come ti pare e piace) but the first part is usually sufficient to get the message across.

Hai la coda?

Very few things upset Italian dads as much as an open door does. 

It doesn’t really matter what type of door – whether that be the front door, a bedroom door or even a car door – as long as it’s one that their unfailing judgement commands should be shut at all times.

READ ALSO: Puns and plot spoilers: How English movie titles are translated into Italian

As a result, any Italian boy or girl forgetting to close a door behind them should expect to be asked whether they have a tail (coda).

It nearly goes without saying, having a coda would theoretically explain why the guilty party didn’t close the door in question.

Perche’ no. 

If you’ve had the luck (or misfortune – you decide) to be raised by an Italian father, you’ll know this one all too well. 

When mercilessly turning down yet another one of his children’s requests, the quintessential Italian dad doesn’t remotely bother coming up with a plausible reason for doing so. 

It’s not happening “because I said no”. That’ll be all.

Ma da chi hai preso?

It’s only right for us to wrap up with Italian dads’ darkest moment of doubt. That’s when the actions of their children make them question whether they actually are the fathers of the misbehaving brats after all.

The phrase in question, which is roughly translatable into English as “Who did you get this from?”, is usually said with a mixture of dismay and bewilderment. 

The Italian father cannot fathom where his offspring’s disposition to reprehensible behaviour comes from but refuses to accept that his genes might be responsible. 

Several hours of silent introspection generally follow the utterance of this phrase.