Italian Compliments

La Maestra Maldestra

La Maestra Maldestra

The beauty of blogging with WordPress is that it lets you see the words that people have searched to get to your blog. Do you know how many times someone has searched “how to compliment a girl in Italian” and has ended up here? Many.  Tante. Many.

Today I figured I may as well give them what they’re asking for, right? Here’s a list of Italian compliments, praises and terms of endearment complete with when and how to use them.

Although it’s fallen out of usage a bit in English, just saying the word “complimenti” in Italian is expressing your compliments to someone on something nice they have or sometimes for a job well done. Show around a picture of your good-looking boyfriend and people might offer you their “complimenti!” However, Italians like to heap on the well done praise saying things like “brava” and “bravissima” to a girl or “bravo” and “bravissimo” to a guy. Although the “brava” is the way an Italian might show their approval of something you’ve done, it also relates to the person you are. “Alessandra? È una brava ragazza.” Alessandra? She’s a good girl.

When it comes to birthdays or general well-wishing, Italians pull out the “auguri“, which I talked about a bit in my birthday post here. People will also say “auguri” (congratulations) for things like your onomastico (your saint’s name day), your graduation or any other congratulation-worthy event, including birthdays. “Congratulazioni“, although a tongue twister for some English speakers, is a common congratulatory term as well. The correct response to all this is “grazie” “grazie mille” or “grazie tante“.

Tesoro” (treasure), “caro” and “cara” are all very common ways to call someone dear. It’s not uncommon even for men to even say to one another, “Ciao, caro!” and for friends to call eachother “tesoro“.  “Amore“, meaning simply love can be what you call your significant other or someone you care about (e.g. child), and is often used with “mio” to make “amore mio” or my love.  “Bella” and “bello” are other famous ones. Yes, in Italy “Ciao bella!” really does still ring out in the streets. “Sei bella” or “sei bellissima” are great ways to tell a girl that she’s beautiful. Another good one is “sei unica“, which means you’re unique, one-in-a-million.  If you just change the a to an o, you’ve got the same compliment for a guy.

Mamma's love, there's only you!

Mamma’s love, there’s only you!

Ciccia“, although it means fat or meat in Tuscany, can also be a term of endearment for a girl. Don’t ask me why. I was quite taken aback the first time someone greeted me with a hearty “Ciao, ciccia!”  (Disclaimer: I don’t know how widely used this is outside of Tuscany). A guy might call a girl little or his little one, as in, “Ciao, piccola”, but it has nothing to do with size or stature. It’s simply a term of endearment.

If someone is “in gamba” it means they’re on the ball, and if they’re “ingambatissimo” it means they’re really on the ball. They’re cute and/or nice if they’re “carino/a” and they’re “gentile” if they’re kind. Someone who is “simpatico/a” is kind or friendly, and someone who is “sexy” is, well, sexy. “Sincero/a” is also a compliment, as Italians seem to prize sincerity, and this can also be shown by calling someone “semplice” or simple. (For a little anecdote about the first time I encountered that one, click here).

Someone who is “affascinante” is attractive, and someone who is “intelligente” is smart. Hopefully this is the same someone. Add “molto” to the front of just about anything and you’ve amplified your compliment right there.

Another descriptor or compliment that had me puzzled when I first heard it was “acqua e sapone” or water and soap. As in, “sei una ragazza aqua e sapone“. You’re a water and soap kind of girl. Not quite what you’d expect an enamoured suitor to say, eh? In my experience it refers to a girl who is (pleasingly) natural, who doesn’t wear a lot of makeup. The girl-next door.

So, next time you’re looking to compliment an Italian or just to show off your Italian skills by complimenting someone who doesn’t speak Italian in Italian, look no further than this little post here.


9 thoughts on “Italian Compliments

  1. Great post!!!!! I always thought of ‘ciccia’ as a little bit um… backhanded compliment? Like ‘ cute chubby person’, but it is common in Tuscany. Also ‘carinissima’ a more exaggerated form of ‘cara’. I love anything with ‘issima’ I have started using it words that it really isn’t meant to be used.

  2. I’ve never heard “ingambATissimo/a” in my life..
    Maybe you meant “ingambissima”? (which ends in -a both for boys and girls)

    I love reading your blog, you’re too fun!

    • Ciao and grazie for reading and commenting!

      It might just be where I lived or the people I know, but I heard all sorts of partially correct partially ‘incorrect’ things in my mind, like “tesora” for a female “tesoro”.

      Glad you enjoy the blog. 🙂

  3. Funny about the “ciccia” … my husband and I have been together 30 years and have always called each other ciccia and ciccio everyday almost in pace of using our names,,!! He was born and bred in Campania.

  4. Pingback: 31 Italian Language and Culture Resources to Increase Your Vocabulary | The Iceberg Project

  5. What does it mean when a man addresses you as ” Carissima” in an email?
    Is this a simple ” Dear ( insert name), or as someone else suggested, it may be a more personal greeting? Your thoughts….

    Thanks, I found conflicting opinions on line about this.


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