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Italian is a very rich a complete language, full of very specific terms to define almost everything. However, a vocabulary of more than 120.000 seems to be not enough for Italians since they use a much used parallel vocabulary: Italian gesture language can be considered as a complement to the spoken vocabulary used by all Italians to add meaning to their words and sometimes to add meaning to their silence.

This one pretends to be a short guide to Italian Gestures Language and to how you can understand it.

  • “Che vuoi?” “Che dici?” – “What do you want?” “What the hell you say?”
italian gesture
what the hell you say

This Italian gesture is the most typical cliché of Italians. It’s when someone connects all the fingers of one or both hands with the fingers pointing upwards and produces an oscillatory movement of the hand/s from bottom to top and vice versa. This Italian gesture expresses incredulity or frustration about what someone is saying.

  • “Madonna!” “Che dici?” – “What the hell you say?”
italian gesture what the hell you say
what the hell you say

Another gesture to express “what the hell you say?” consist in joining the palms of the hands and shaking the tips of the fingers forward and backwards, pivoting it on the palms. This means “what the hell you say” but with an added desperation meaning compared to the previous sign.

  • “solo come un cane” – Alone like a dog”
italian gesture -alone
Alone like a dog

This gesture is also made connecting all the fingers of one hand with the fingers pointing upwards but the oscillatory movement must be turning around. This means “your left me alone like a dog” or “I was there alone like a dog”.

  • “Me ne frego” – “I don’t care about”
I don’t care about

Another very common Italian gesture is made when the back of the hand wriggle down from the neck to the chin. This gesture means the person is not interested in what are you telling him/her, literally “se ne frega”, he doesn’t absolutely care about it.

  • “Sei Furbo” – “You are crafty” or “Occhio” – “Be careful”
You are Crafty or Be Careful

Depending on the situation this gesture can have one or another meaning. It consists in put your forefinger under the eye. It can mean someone is telling you are very crafty or someone is suggesting you pay attention to something or someone.

  • “Che palle!” – “This is Boring!”
This is Boring!

This Italian gesture is to put your hands up to the lower abdomen with the palms facing upwards and move the arms (sometimes even the knees) slightly from bottom to top and vice versa. The meaning of this gesture is a very deep boredom.

  • “Vattene” – “Go Away”
italian gesture language - go away
Go away!

This is one of Italian gesture language sign you have to know better. If you see an Italian making this sign to you, It would be better for you to go away fastly! It means directly “Go Away!” and It’s made by hold your hand perpendicular to the body with the fingers extended and swing your fingertips up and down.

  • “Mannaggia a te!” – “Damn!”
italian gesture - mannaggia

This is another sign which expresses anger toward someone. You should put your hand with fingers extended sideways in your mouth like you are going to bite it.

  • “se la intendono” “sono papa e ciccia” – “They understand each other”
Pappe e Ciccia
They Understand each other

This Italian hand sign has to be made when you want to express that someone has a special connection with someone else when they understand each other very well. You have to bring both forefingers together to the centre with the top down.

  • “Le corna” – “to ward off bad luck”
Ward off bad luck

This is another one of the most typical gestures of Italian culture, the horns. To make this sign you should raise the little and forefinger of the same hand. This Italian gesture is intended to ward off back luck. However sometimes is also used to offend male people suggesting to them that their wives “sleep” with other men.

  • “ho fame” – “ I am hungry”
I am Hungry

When someone hits his/her belly with the hand with the palm facing down and fingers extended, it means that he/she is hungry, it’s time to go for lunch or dinner.

  • “Che peso” – “I cannot stand this person”
italian-gesture-cannot stand
I cannot stand you!

If you cannot stand someone and want to make him understand clearly, what you can do is to lay your hand vertically with fingers extended downwards and hit the centre of the sternum two or three times.

  • “Perfetto” – “Perfect”
italian gesture language - perfect

To produce this typical Italian gesture you have to connect your forefinger to your thumb on one or both hands with the palm of the hand/s facing upwards and move it from inside out.

  • “Rubare” – “he’s a robber”
italian gesture language - robbery

 This gesture is the most commonly used to address politics. You have to put your hand with palm facing down and the fingers a little separated. Then you have to move your fingers as if you were screwing in a light bulb.

  • “Soldi” – “Money”
italian gesture language - money

 With this gesture, you will indicate the money. To achieve this meaning, you have to bring the forefinger and thumb closed fist to the other fingers and then rub the two fingers forward and backwards between them.

  • “bello” “bella” – “beautiful”

 This gesture is produced by taking your chin between forefinger and thumb of the same hand and sliding the hand down to rejoin the two fingers. It is used to indicate to a third person the beauty of somebody or a good situation.

  • “Niente” – “nothing”
italian gesture language - L

 This gesture is used when you want to tell to someone there’s nothing left of something. You have to put your forefinger and thumb in the shape of “L” and shake the hand pivoting on the palm.

If you want to know more about Italian gesture language you can have a look at this funny video, where more signs are explained:

Now it will be surely easier to understand Italians when you’ll travel to Italy.

Don’t forget to practice the Italian gesture language at home!

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