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Italian word of the day: ‘Sfigato’

Italian word of the day: 'Sfigato'
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond
Only losers don't know this word.

This word is… unfortunate, in more ways than one. 

Sfigato means “unlucky”, or if you mean it as an insult, “loser”. Click here to hear it pronounced.

To understand where it comes from you have to know a word that can get you into trouble, as some of our readers have found out for themselves: figa, the Italian equivalent of the c-word for a woman’s private parts. (The masculine form of the word, figo, means either “fig” or “cool” and isn’t vulgar in the least: find a full explanation here.)

Then you need to know that adding an s~ to the beginning of words in Italian can turn them into their opposite, the same way we add dis~ in English to make something a negative.

So sfiga literally means “without c***”, or to put it another way, someone who isn’t getting any action. Given how terrible people judged this fate to be, sfiga became slang for “bad luck”.

È caduto e si è rotto la gamba. Che sfiga!
He fell and broke his leg. What rotten luck!

Someone afflicted by sfiga is sfigato, or “unlucky”. 

Mia sorella ha vinto alla lotteria ma io sono sempre stata sfigato.
My sister won the lottery, but I’ve always been unlucky.

If you’re not exactly sympathetic to this plight, you can use sfigato as a derogatory term: “loser”. What else to call someone who never wins?

Lui è il ragazzo più sfigato della scuola.
He’s the biggest loser in school.

You can use it for anyone who isn’t cool – like a “nerd” or a “dork”. The same word can be an adjective (“dorky”) or a noun (“dork”): just remember to change the final vowel to match the person or people you’re talking about.

Non portarti dietro la tua amica sfigata.
Don’t bring your dorky friend along with you.

Sta sempre davanti al computer e non esce mai di casa, è una sfigata.
She’s always on the computer and never goes out, she’s a dork.

It applies not only to people who are unattractive or uncool, but to things that are similarly unappealing – like calling them “lame” or simply “crappy”. 

Mi ha invitato in un posto davvero sfigato.
He took me to a really lame place. 

As you’ll have gathered by now, the word is slangy at best and at worst a bit vulgar, so it’s not one to use in formal situations (or with anyone over a certain age). 

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


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