Using idioms and expressions in a foreign language can be quite hard if you don't live in that foreign country or if you haven't had the chance to practice the language enough with a native speaker. That's why you will find some interesting idioms here related to food in the Italian language.


We all know that Italy is a great place where you can eat loads of super tasty and healthy food. But did you know that there are so many idioms about food and drinks in Italian? They are frequently used in everyday life, and if you know how to use them, you will surprise all of your Italian friends. Using them properly may be a bit hard, but with this short article I want to help you better understand how and when to use them.


Okay, let's start our journey!


Idiom #1: Acqua in Bocca


The first idiom I want to introduce is acqua in bocca, which literally means water in the mouth. A bit weird, isn't it? Well, when we tell a friend a secret and we want our friend to keep that secret without telling anyone, we can say acqua in bocca.


This idiom has a religious origin: it seems it was used for the first time in 1760 in a newspaper called the Gazzetta Veneta. An article reported that a girl asked for help from a priest on how to avoid backbiting, or talking bad about someone else. The priest told her to keep water in her mouth every time she felt like she would say something bad about another person. Interesting, isn't it?



Giulia! Devo dirti una cosa…ma è un segreto!! Giulia! I must tell you something...but it’s a secret!!

Va bene Laura, dimmi… Okay Laura, tell me…

Ieri ho visto Luca a cena con una ragazza…che non era Maria…ma non dirlo a nessuno!! Acqua in bocca, mi raccomando! Yesterday, I saw Luca having dinner with a girl...who wasn’t Maria...but don’t tell anyone! Keep it a secret!!


Idiom #2: Tutto fa Brodo


The second idiom is tutto fa brodo, literally meaning everything makes a bouillon. An equivalent English expression would be, It’s all grist to the mill. We use this expression when we are extremely short of resources or when we want to say that everything can be useful for a purpose. For example:



Ho venduto la macchina. Non ho fatto molti soldi, ma sai...tutto fa brodo! I sold my car. I didn’t make a lot of money,’s all grist to the mill!


This expression comes from a rural lifestyle in the olden days. Usually a good broth is made with meat, but since it used to be very expensive, everything else was used to prepare the soup. This would include both poorer parts of meat and leftover vegetables.




Idiom #3: Andare a Tutta Birra


The third idiom is andare a tutta birra. In this case, we see that we use a drink (birra is beer), and not something to eat. Andare a tutta birra means to walk extremely quickly or to do something very quickly.


This idiom most likely comes from the French à toute bride (bridle), where it was misspelled and translated with the word beer.



Sono proprio felice, Luca sta facendo la maratona a tutta birra! I’m really happy, Luca is running the marathon very fast!


Idiom #4: Non Piangere sul Latte Versato


The fourth idiom is once again about drinks, but this time a non-alcoholic one: milk! Non piangere sul latte versato (don't cry over spilled milk) is an expression which means that we don't have to complain about what we did. What is done is done, as we say in Italian (quel che è fatto è fatto), and we can't change the consequences of our actions. So, it’s better to not complain and move forward!


This expression comes from older times when milk was an expensive drink. Once spilled, it would have been useless to get crazy.



Non ho passato l’esame di matematica, adesso come farò? Dovrò studiare altri sei mesi per per quest’ esame…è terribile...e adesso come faccio?? I haven’t passed the mathematics exam...what will I do now?? I must study another six months...that’s terrible, how will I make it??

Marco, è inutile piangere sul latte versato. Mettiti a studiare e basta. Marco, don’t cry over spilled milk. You must study harder, that’s all.


Idiom #5: Vestirsi a cipolla


The fifth and last expression is about onions and clothes. WHAT?? Oh yes, in Italian, these two seemingly far apart things go together. Vestirsi a cipolla (to dress like an onion) means to dress intelligently.


What does it mean? Well, for example, if we live in a place where the morning is quite chilly but it gets quite warm during the day, we definitely need to vestirci a cipolla if we have to stay out all day! It’s better to wear a short sleeved shirt and something warmer over it. Then when it gets warmer, we can avoid melting under the sun because of too much clothing :)



Le previsioni dicono che domani sarà freddo al mattino ma caldo di pomeriggio...sarà meglio vestirsi a cipolla! The forecasts say that tomorrow it will be cold in the morning but really warm in the afternoon...I think it's better to dress properly in order to not be too hot or too cold!


In conclusion, as you can see, there are so many expressions that are similar in different languages. I find this very interesting and motivating for learning different languages.


I hope you enjoyed this article and I would be very happy if you add other expressions about food to your language!


Keep studying Italian!




Image Sources


Hero Image by Garry Knight (CC by 2.0)