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Learning Italian For Members

Nine of the most popular Italian 'bottom' expressions

Giampietro Vianello
Giampietro Vianello - [email protected]
Nine of the most popular Italian 'bottom' expressions
People sunbathe on the beach in Ostia, west of Rome. Photo by Andreas SOLARO / AFP

From being lucky to pulling someone’s leg, the Italian language has several popular expressions based on the word 'culo'. Do you know all of them?

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From sedere (bum, butt) and fondoschiena (bottom) to chiappe (buttocks), the Italian language has no shortage of options when it comes to talking about the human behind.

But the term culo (the Italian equivalent of ass or arse in English) also features in a number of popular expressions that have very little to do with human anatomy.

While you won't find these in language textbooks or online courses – mostly because some of them are pretty coarse – these phrases are extremely common in everyday Italian and are well worth getting familiar with if you’re looking to add some panache to your speaking skills or simply know what people are talking about.

Avere culo

Avere culo, which literally translates as 'to have ass', is very different from avere un culo, which simply means 'to have an ass'. 

Though the exact reasons behind this are unclear, culo (hear it pronounced here) is a metaphor for 'luck' in Italian, so avere culo means 'to be lucky'. 

READ ALSO: Boh, mah, eh: Five strange noises Italians make and what they mean

This is also why Italians often refer to strokes of luck as botte di culo (though you can still use colpi di fortuna if you’re looking for a more gracious option).

Prendere per il culo

Prendere per il culo is one of the most popular bottom-related expressions in Italy, and you may have already overheard it in some random bar conversations while sipping on a cappuccino or seen it on social media. 

But what do Italians really mean when they’re ‘taking someone by the ass’?

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It means they are teasing, mocking or making fun of them just for the purpose of having a laugh at their expense.

Credo ti stia prendendo per il culo. Non e’ serio.

I think he’s just playing with you. He’s not being serious.

By extension, a presa per il culo is a joke or prank played on someone else.

Pararsi il culo

Pararsi il culo is the Italian equivalent of the English 'to cover your ass’. 

Just like its English counterpart, it refers to any type of action aimed at dodging accountability and blame should anything at any point in time go wrong. 

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Italians are quite fond of the CYA strategy, which is why many like to mettere le mani avanti before undertaking any sort of difficult task.

Essere culo e camicia

This is a very strange expression, which you’ll also find in French as comme cul et chemise

Essere culo e camicia directly translates as 'to be ass and shirt', but it means that two things or people are similar and fit perfectly together.

READ ALSO: Etto, ino, ello: How to make Italian words smaller

It is the Italian version of the English expression 'like two peas in a pod’.

Sappiamo tutti che quei due sono culo e camicia. 

We all know that those two are like two peas in a pod.

Farsi il culo

If you’ve been working or studying overtime lately and have been doing everything you can to reach your goals, you could definitely say that you’re working your ass off, or ti stai facendo il culo.

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If you’re planning on using this phrase, make sure to use the verb fare in its reflexive form (note the presence of the reflexive pronoun ti above) as fare il culo means a completely different thing. 

Fare il culo a qualcuno, which literally translates as ‘to make someone’s ass’, means to beat them up or humiliate them in a contest or competition. 

Leccaculo

What you don't want to be called in Italy is a leccaculo (pronunciation available here).

It means 'butt licker' and is a cruder alternative to leccapiedi, literally ‘boot licker’. 

As you may have already grasped, this is the Italian version of the English ‘ass-kisser’ or ‘suck-up’.

Quel leccaculo non riesce mai a contenersi dal correggere tutti davanti all’insegnante. E’ insopportabile.

That suck-up can never stop himself from correcting everyone in front of the teacher. He's unbearable.

Muovere il culo

Easily enough, muovere il culo means ‘to get off your ass’ and start doing whatever you’re supposed to do.

As rude as it may sound to language learners, this phrase is far from uncommon in everyday conversations, especially between people that know each other well.

Faccia da culo

Avere un faccia da culo roughly translates as ‘to have a face like an ass’ and it’s used to refer to people that have the cheek (pun intended) to do things that most would consider shameful.

It’s a very common phrase to express contempt for someone.

Come osi rubare i soldi a tuo figlio? Hai una faccia da culo.

How dare you steal money from your own son? You have no shame.

Vaffanculo 

This is possibly the most popular Italian insult as it’s often well known even among foreign nationals.

Though it’s generally translated as ‘fuck off’, it is actually the short form of vai a fare in culo, which is a very crude invitation to go and have anal intercourse.

While we definitely don't recommend you use this Italian expression, it may be good to know what people are talking about.

Do you have another popular Italian 'bottom' expression that’s not on this list? Let us know in the comments section below.

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Comments (1)

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James Dion 2024/06/06 19:24
What about Che culo!!! How lucky!!

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