What's the one Italian word that English speakers find alarming?

Clare Speak
Clare Speak - [email protected]
What's the one Italian word that English speakers find alarming?
This is one word Italian speakers won't want to shout too loudly when in English-speaking countries. Photo by Antonio Lapa on Unsplash

The Italian language may sound like music to the ears of those who don't speak it - but there's one Italian word that doesn't sound so pleasant.


The Italian language doesn't have all that many words that sound rude or shocking to Anglophone ears (unlike, say, Danish and other Germanic languages, which have no shortage of words which sound either comical or potentially offensive.)

But there is one Italian word in particular that readers say has earned them some funny looks when they've used it outside of Italy.

When we asked readers on our Facebook page which Italian words sound wrong to them in English, the one that came up again and again was dai.

"Bilingual kids going "daddy dai!" in the park!" said Laura Jayne Farminer.

Michelle Heron wrote: "I’m constantly having to tell my husband who’s Italian to stop shouting dai when we’re out walking our dogs."

Innocently enough, dai means 'come on' in English, but with the pronunciation being so similar to 'die' it's no wonder readers reported some horrified reactions.

And when combined with other, equally innocent Italian words, it can sound even more alarming.

"True story: Italian mom yelling “Dai, basta” in Italian at her kids running in a US store to stop running," commented Linda D'Alessandro.


Sara Rovetto said: "Dai Giù! I’ve said that so many times to the dog or the kids before realising that ooooooops the bad looks were not directed to them but me."

"Half my family is Jewish so that’s the very last thing I would shout on a bus or... anywhere."

In Italy, dai is a word you'll hear used very frequently by Italians, and it has a few possible uses.

But no matter how good your Italian is, as these examples show, it's one word you might not want to use when you're out and about in an English-speaking country...

Do you know any other Italian words that sound shocking to non-Italian speakers? Let us know in the comments below.


Join the conversation in our comments section below. Share your own views and experience and if you have a question or suggestion for our journalists then email us at [email protected].
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Michelle Reid 2024/02/01 18:24
I was never comfortable when my children had an 'interrogazione' at school. It sounds far scarier than just being asked questions about a subject!

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