4 Italian Words That Snuck Into My English Vocabulary

written by Tiana Kai
Frances on a red vespa

Do you catch yourself saying the most ridiculous things once you’ve learned another language? Besides screwing up words and their meanings, you also have to battle with switching back to your mother tongue fluidly.

Here are the random Italian words that somehow squeezed their way into my English vocabulary.


No matter which language I’m speaking you will definitely catch me whispering a few Mammamia’s around.

I forgot a poop bag for my dog. Mammamia!

This girl is taking too long to order her coffee at the bar. Mammamia!

The bus driver loves to speed up right before he needs to stop at the light, causing everyone to get thrown around. Mammamia!


This is one of those really weird words that don’t work as well in English. Golosa, meaning gluttonous, is often used when someone likes to indulge in food. I’ve been called golosa more than once, not gonna lie.

Since I would sound ridiculous saying “you are such a glutton” I can say “golosa!” and be on my chubby little way.


Ok, this one is actually annoying. Italians use protagonista in ever press release, article—you name it, they have inserted it somewhere, anywhere in the copy.

Then low and behold, when it is translated poorly you get protagonist. Is this a Jane Austin novel or something? Am I in English class, which I sooo did not do well in? I may have had protagonista slip out of my mouth, but only because I was talking to Italians.


I think we can all agree that basta is a mighty fine word! I love it. It goes with any irritating scenario known to man, just as well as asparagus goes with eggs. P.S. That’s one killer foodie combo!

Your friend is going on and on about her shopping spree. Bastaaah!

Your date is serving you way too much pasta. Basta!

Two people are fighting. BASTA!

Now a moment of truth, do you say pronto when you answer the phone no matter if you’re in Italy or back home? 

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4 Italian Words That Are Now In My English Voca... December 19, 2014 at 3:09 pm

[…] 4 Italian words that are now a part of my English vocabulary, not necessarily by choice but out of habit.  […]

robbin_g December 19, 2014 at 4:17 pm

I totally agree with the mistranslation of “protagonista…” The protagonists of the wine tasting are…. *gag* But then, in Italian, I get it. :-/

Tiana Kai December 20, 2014 at 2:17 pm

But even in Italian it seems to be such a heavy word, too serious, but then again their writing is more fluffy than ours.

Silvia December 19, 2014 at 5:28 pm

What does “protagonista” mean in the Italian sense? Since living in France, my English is not so good anymore. 😉

Tiana Kai December 20, 2014 at 2:16 pm

Like the main character or product or whomever is the center of the story. You never hear it in English since we use it only relating to literature, but the word in Italian seems to expand to real life too.

Nadia Koski December 20, 2014 at 1:23 pm

“Basta” and “mammamia” are definitely on my list too! 🙂 Back home when I have to give a contemplative answer I tend to start my sentence with “Allora….” with a good dash of “quindi…” thrown in to wrap up the convo.

Tiana Kai December 20, 2014 at 2:15 pm

I absolutely love quindi, but have noticed I don’t use allora as much as everyone else does. I’ll have to change that!

Becky Padmore December 20, 2014 at 10:14 pm

Ha ha brilliant Mammamia is my favourite, if I lived in Italy I’d be using it all the time! 🙂

Tiana Kai December 21, 2014 at 5:10 pm

It’s a good word!

Kaley December 24, 2014 at 1:04 am

Haha, in Spanish, goloso/golosa means you have a sweet tooth! Interesting how in Italian it’s just a glutton, not just for sweets!

Tiana Kai December 24, 2014 at 4:08 pm

Ya in English it can be used for excess of anything, but I guess we use it more for food. It’s such an awkward word in English, cracks me up.

Yousuf Ali December 26, 2014 at 3:09 pm

What about “makaay?” (pretty sure that’s not the right spelling but it’s pronounced that way)

I have been out of Italia for over a decade now but I still catch myself whispering makaay, and the hand gesture just comes naturally with it.

Tiana Kai December 27, 2014 at 4:33 pm

Haha, “ma che” is a good one I find saying often too!

Yousuf Ali January 10, 2015 at 12:20 am

Ah yes! Ma che!!
I presume hand gestures are settling into your system well too.

Tiana Kai January 12, 2015 at 9:02 am

Yes, it’s always been hard not to move my hands when talking!

Escape Hunter December 31, 2014 at 10:18 am

Local words and slang have always intrigued me.
Love Italian words, love Italy! 🙂

Tiana Kai December 31, 2014 at 8:57 pm

Me too! 🙂

Marco January 27, 2018 at 6:00 am

You can use Ghiotta too.


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