Italian word of the day: ‘Accipicchia’

Wow, this one's fun to say!

Italian word of the day: 'Accipicchia'
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond

In Italy, you really must expect the unexpected. The only thing we know for sure is that every day here will be full of surprises.

So here’s a handy word that you can use in all of those eye-opening situations – good or bad.

Put simply, accipicchia means “wow!” or “gosh!”

A bit like caspita or cavolo, it’s the kind of inoffensive euphemism that you might use in front of children.

It comes from accidenti, which means something like “damn!” and is itself pretty mild by today’s standards.

But accipicchia has stuck around, maybe because it’s such fun to say.

So how do you say it exactly? ‘Ah-chee-pick-ya’, with a very slight stress on the third syllable.

The wide range of words dictionaries translate it to include the likes of “blimey” “crikey” “shoot” “jeepers”, “jeez” and even “cool beans”. And like these words, accipicchia sounds very mild, even twee.

But we think it’s charming, and it can definitely come in useful.

Whether you’re delighted, frightened or just mildly bewildered, this is an exclamation you can use without fear of causing offence.

– Accipicchia! Mi ha spaventato

– Jeez! You really scared me

– Accipicchia, che cosa cavolo è?

– Gosh, what on earth (literally ‘what the cabbage’) is that?

– Accipicchia! Guardate che traffico!

– Yikes, look at this traffic!

As you can see, this exclamation is usually used at the beginning of a sentence, or alone.

So next time something takes you by surprise, we hope you’ll get some use out of this fun Italian word.

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

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Italian expression of the day: ‘Avere un diavolo per capello’

No need to blow your top about this Italian phrase.

Italian expression of the day: 'Avere un diavolo per capello'

At one point or another, we’ve all had un diavolo per capello – ‘a devil by the hair’.

This isn’t a devil on your shoulder – the little voice encouraging you do so something bad or mischievous.

The demon is this phrase isn’t devious but seething, making the person whose locks it is clutching furious, enraged, or extremely irritable.

State attenti alla signora Russo, ha un diavolo per capello stamattina. 
Watch out for Mrs. Russo, she’s in a foul mood this morning.

Ha abbandonato la riunione con un diavolo per capello.
He walked out of the meeting in a fury.

You might picture someone tearing their hair out in rage, or a furious djinn perched on someone’s head directing their movements.

Angry Inside Out GIF by Disney Pixar

Another common Italian expression involving the devil is fare il diavolo a quattro.

This phrase can mean any of raising hell – either by causing a ruckus or kicking up a fuss – or going to great lengths to get something.

Ha fatto il diavolo a quattro quando le hanno detto che l’orario di visita era finito e non l’hanno fatta entrare.
She screamed blue murder when they told her visiting hours were over and wouldn’t let her in.

Ho fatto il diavolo a quattro per ottenere quel permesso.
I fought like hell to get that permit.

It’s unclear quite how a phrase which literally translates as something along the lines of ‘doing the devil by four’ came to have its current meaning – according to the Treccani dictionary, there are a couple of explanations.

One is that in some profane medieval art that involved religious imagery, the devil was often depicted along with the number four.

Another is that when the devil was represented on stage, he had so many different guises that four actors were required to play him in order to avoid having too long a time between costume changes.

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