In Italian, “cavolo” means “cabbage.”

And man, did I see some serious cabbages in Tuscany.  But the funny thing is, you’ll hear young Romans saying “Cavolo!!” all the time, and I guarantee you that they are not talking about vegetables.

Because it is so completely ridiculous to hear people yelling CABBAGE! all the time, “cavolo” has become my favorite Italian slang.  As slang, it usually means something along the lines of “wow!” or “incredible!”

I found this actual cavolo in the organic garden of the agriturismo we stayed at near Pienza.  The owner, Luciano, told me that the funniest mistake he hears people learning Italian make on a regular basis is when they call a “cavallo” a “cavolo.”  Cavallo means horse.  Calling a horse a cabbage- cavolo!

12 thoughts on “CAVOLO!

    • La americana says:

      I’ve noticed the hungry/angry one! I was getting an aperitivo and an Italian friend looked at me and said “I am so angry!!” “Why??” I asked.

      Oh. Hungry. You are so HUNGRY. Got it.

  1. Debra Kolkka says:

    When I was beginning to learn Italian I got lots of words mixed up. I dislocated my ankle a few years ago and told 6 people that I had broken my horse – cavallo – instead of caviglia – ankle. And I ordered cavallo instead of cavolo in a restaurant. Fortunately Italians are very forgiving.

  2. Noe Berengena says:

    I almost hate to ruin some of your notions about how quaint or bizarre it is to hear people on the street yelling “Cavolo!”

    Maybe you could not imagine that this is a slang term that means something else. Yes indeed. The word “Cavolo” is a mild replacement for the pretty direct and dirty “Cazzo.” And this word means “dick” (as in penis). Are you surprised that Italian guys would be yelling this at each other? It’s like yelling “Dickhead!”

    Along a similar line, my surname if spelled with a J instead of a G would be Berenjena, which means literally “eggplant” in Spanish. But in certain Central American countries it is a slang term for penis.

    Funny how there are so many slang terms for the male dangler.

  3. Gordon Hall says:

    …. not to mention “calma e gesso”. “Cazzo” is used so pervasively I don’t think a native Italian gives it a second thought.

    When one friend greets another, “ehi! cazzoooooooooo!!” It’s as though cavolo is passé.

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