Italian Curse Words

“Mortacci Tua “ (short form of “gli spregevoli defunti tuoi, della tua famiglia”)

/Mor TA chi too a/

“The contemptible your dead, your family”

“May your parents be damned for giving birth to you”

“Li mortacci tua is not very nice (Laughs out of embarrassment) it’s like…fuck you and your ancestors pretty much I mean you can say it between friends as kind of like screw you (jokingly) but it’s generally a swear word, an insult…. I don’t remember when and where I first heard it… but an example of the use is like when Stefania and I would play cards, she’d always win, I said it to her, in a good way”.

This past winter break, while interviewing my friend Flaminia for Italian folk items I could not help but notice how truly embarrassed she seemed to be while speaking about this swear, while I on the other hand did not understand the real meaning of how this is a curse since there is no literal translation to the word mortacci in English. So I turned to my friend Gianluca, who is much older than she is, and lives in Rome, asking for a better explanation. Here are his words:

“Mortacci Tua” means like “your dead parents”…. the meaning is “Your damn parents that let you to born…AHAHAHAH!! Really bad!!

An adult, 33 years old, had a very similar amount of embarrassment, so I realized that it is really considered one of the nastiest curses. Reading a bit about these swear words, I found that it is a typical Roman expression, but is also now used in other parts of Italy. I also discovered that it is considered illegal to use it, and a person caught saying it could receive is a fine by law. This nasty expression dates back to the 18th century and can be found in a few of the sonnets of the Italian poet Maria Gioachino Belli.

Joseph Maria Gioachino Belli was an Italian Poet who is known for being the voice of the people of Rome in the 19th century[1]

For example, Gianluca showed me this poem,

‘Non ha nient’altro a cui pensare questo Santo Padre,

Possano averne bene li mortacci sui,

E quella santa fregna di sua madre?’

And in English:

“He has nothing else to think about this Holy Father,

possano averne bene li mortacci sui , May as well damn his parents for letting him be born,

e quella santa fregna di sua madre? » And that holy cunt of his mother?

So, like most of the traditions I encountered during my time in Rome, Italy, it dates several hundred years back. I am not surprised that this is considered one of the worst curses that can be said to a person, considering Italian culture focuses mainly on family. And I must admit that this sense of family is a part of the Italian culture that I value very much. Teens become couples at a young age and stay together for years, sons and daughters leave home at a late age, and make sure to stay close to their families’ houses.  Due to such a strong sense of family, it seems appropriate that the worst thing one can do is insult a person’s family.

[1] “Giuseppe Gioachino Belli.” Andy’s Virtual Rome. Web. <>.