‘Zitti e buoni’: The Italian vocab you need to understand Italy’s Eurovision winner

'Zitti e buoni': The Italian vocab you need to understand Italy's Eurovision winner
You'll be singing along with Maneskin in no time. Photo: KENZO TRIBOUILLARD / AFP
Italy's winning Eurovision song might have you rocking out, but do you know what it means? Here's a closer look at the lyrics to "Zitti e buoni" by Måneskin.

No doubt you’ve heard Måneskin’s Zitti e buoni a few times by now: viewers of the Eurovision Grand Final were treated to two performances on Saturday night alone after the glam rockers from Rome won the song contest for Italy thanks to a massive public vote.

READ ALSO: Italy wins Eurovision: ‘We just want to say to the whole world, rock’n’roll never dies!’

But even after several listens, non-native Italian speakers probably won’t have caught all the words. That might be to do with the breakneck pace of frontman Damiano David’s singing, or there might be a few words and phrases in there you’re not familiar with yet.

To help you sing along – with feeling – we’ve picked out the most useful Italian vocabulary you can learn from Måneskin’s lyrics.

Zitti e buoni: the lyrics in English

Let’s start with the title: Zitti e buoni means “quiet and good”, but in the context of the song the words are more like a command – “shut up and behave”.

The next thing to know is that there are actually two sets of lyrics to the song – a clean version and one that’s slightly more risqué. The band performed both at the Eurovision final: the family-friendly version first, and the original (ruder) lyrics once they’d won.

The video below shows the original lyrics, which feature some choice words you’re very likely to hear used in Italy. Just be warned, some of them aren’t exactly polite.

Give Zitti e buoni another listen, this time with the Italian lyrics side-by-side with their English translation:

The song is essentially about refusing to conform – and finding other misfits to keep you company. In other words, classic glam rock.

The most useful words and phrases to remember

fra’ – short for fratelli, “brothers”. It’s like saying “bro”.

siga’ – short for sigarette, “cigarettes”. As you’ll have noticed, spoken Italian often drops a few syllables from the ends of words.

scusami – “sorry” or “excuse me”. Find out more about how to apologise in Italian here

ci credo – “I believe (in it)” or “I’m sure”. It’s a phrase that can be said sincerely or sarcastically.

tanto – this word can mean everything from “a lot” to “many” to “very much”, depending on how it’s used. Here it means “so much”. Find out the different ways to use tanto here.

vi conviene – the verb convenire, “to suit” or “be convenient”, can also be used to tell someone what their best (or most advisable) option is, in your opinion. It’s like saying “you’d better” do such and such. In this instance, the band is saying: “you lot had better” behave.

i coglioni – “balls” or “nuts” (and not the edible kind). Touching them, as described here, can be a good-luck gesture in Italy, which is why the line is translated as “you better touch wood”. 

Damiano David of Måneskin not quite touching his “coglioni”, but close. Photo: KENZO TRIBOUILLARD / AFP

zitti – the plural form of zitto, “quiet”. You can also use it as an instruction, in which case it becomes “zip it” or “shut up”. Find a full definition here.

buoni – the plural of buono, “good”. Just like in English, the word can be used in different contexts to mean everything from “nice” to “kind” to “tasty” to “capable”. Here it means “well-behaved” – just like you’d tell someone to “be good” when you want them to follow the rules.

tipo – this word can mean either “guy” or, as it does here, “like”. Find out the difference here. 

mo – “now”, or simply “well”. It’s a dialect word that’s pure Roman, just like Måneskin themselves. Read a full explanation here. 

‘sti – spoken Italian doesn’t just chop off the end of words, sometimes it gets rid of the beginning. ‘Sti is short for questi, “these”. 

quindi – “so” or “then”. This word comes up all the time in conversation: find a full definition here

fuori (di testa) – by itself, fuori means “out(side)”, like in the line sto sempre fuori (“I’m always out”). But fuori di testa means “out of your mind” or “crazy”. Find out more here.

diverso/a/i – “different”. One aspect that’s tricky to translate from Italian to English is how the ending of an adjective tells you who it describes: in the chorus, this adjective starts off applied to the singer himself (sono diverso), then to a woman (sei diversa), then to a whole group of people (siamo diversi). 

READ ALSO: 

lacrime – “tears”. You’ll hear this lovely, tragic word more than you might expect in Italy: find out why here

l’ebrezza – “intoxication”, both in the sense of being under the influence, and euphoria. A negative drug test proved that Måneskin’s lead singer was high on only the latter the night of the Eurovision final.

purtroppo – “unfortunately”. Find out exactly how to use it here.

a galla – “afloat” or “on the surface (of water)”. Stare a galla can have a figurative sense too, like “keeping your head above water”.

mi manca l’aria – “I can’t breathe”. Literally translated, it means “I’m lacking air”. 

cazzo – this is one of the words that was edited out for the band’s first Eurovision performances: it means literally “dick”, but is frequently used as an interjection more like “fuck”. The line (la gente… non sa di che cazzo parla) means “people don’t know what the fuck they’re talking about”. A family-friendly alternative you can use instead is cavolo (literally, “cabbage”). 

… and the Danish word you need to know too

The band’s name is not Italian but Danish: it means “moonlight” and was picked at the suggestion of their half-Danish bassist, Victoria De Angelis. We’re reliably informed by our colleagues at The Local Denmark that the correct pronunciation is “morn-eh-skin”.

Måneskin with the Italian and Danish flags. Photo: Kenzo TRIBOUILLARD / AFP

In Italy you’ll hear the band referred to as i Måneskin, or “the Måneskins”. 

Discover more Italian vocab in The Local’s language section.


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