Wordy Wednesday – Italian non-words

Italian, just like English and probably every other language in the world, is full of non-words. Little mannerisms and interjections. Things you won’t find in the dictionary and won’t learn in a class, but which will help you to understand the Italians and to fit in with them.

photo credit: pedrosimoes7 via photopin cc
photo credit: pedrosimoes7 via photopin cc

Here is a very brief list to get you started:

1. Boh – Pronounced like “bow” with an extra emphasis on the B. Emphasised by a shrug of the shoulders and raised eyebrows, it essentially means “I have absolutely no idea”.


– Ma secondo te chi vince alle elezioni?
– Boh!

– Who do you reckon will win at the elections?
– I have no idea.

2. Mah – pronounced like “ta” or “ma”, but said with more emphasis. A look of dismay or disgust is often employed and it expresses negative judgement, usually of someone’s behaviour. More often than not, it is used when talking about the things the government do.


Aumentano di nuovo la TARSU. Mah!

-They are putting the rubbish tax up again. Ugh!

3. Uffi / Uffa – pronounced “oofy” or “oofah”, often with an elongated vowel. It expresses displeasure at a situation, exasperation with someone or something, “what a pain in the butt”


– Uffa, devo lavorare fino a tardi di nuovo venerdì sera.

– I have to work late again on Friday night. What a pain in the butt.

4. Suvvia – pronounced “sooveeya”. It means “come on” or “hurry up”

– Siamo in ritardo ancora una volta, suvvia, muoviamoci.
– Suvvia, mica ti aspetti che io credi una simile sciocchezza?

– We are late again, let’s get a move on
– C’mon, you don’t expect me to fall for that do you?

5. Tiè – pronounced “tee-eh” with a strong emphasis on the final syallable. It is usually used when someone gets their just deserts, and means something along the lines of “take that!”


– I tifosi della Juve si sono bullati tutta la settimana, ma la partita l’abbiamo vinta noi – tiè!

– The Juve* fans were so sure of themselves, but in the end we won the match – take that!

There are lots more, but these are a few of the more common – try them out and impress your Italian friends with your use of Italian expressions… or just have some fun 😉

*I Always use Juve in these examples because for some reason the only thing that all of the other football team fans in Italy seem to be able to agree on is that they don’t like Juve. Why? Boh!

With love, from Italy

4 Comments Add yours

  1. chef mimi says:

    Hysterical! I’ll save this for a future visit!

    1. Hope it comes in handy 🙂

  2. Very true. I am a fellow Scott and have been here for more than 30 years. Will be following your blog!

    1. Thanks, both for your words and for following 🙂


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