Italian Idioms starting with N

Idioms are a key aspect in language learning, often connected to the history and culture of a nation. Here some idioms beginning with N- are translated and explained.

Idioms Ordered Alphabetically

[ A ] [ B ] [ C ] [ D ] [ E ] [ F ] [ G ] [ I ] [ L ] [ M ] [ N ] [ O ] [ P ] [ Q ] [ R ] [ S ] [ T ] [ U ] [ V ] [ Z ]

Nato con la camicia (= born with a shirt)

It is said of a baby born still wrapped in the amniotic sac. In the Middle Ages it was believed that these infants were destined for a happy and successful life

né carne né pesce (= neither meat nor fish (has no taste)

It is said of one who does not take sides anywhere. Until a few decades ago, Catholics on Fridays and throughout Lent should refrain from eating meat; in more ancient times, Christians had to choose only foods that were neither fish nor fowl, that is almost tasteless.

Non avere né arte né parte (= Have neither art nor part)

It is rather contemptuous, said of someone who has no job, and no political position. The expression comes from the medieval guilds, where workers were divided according to their profession or category; the "parte" (party, for example Guelph or Ghibelline) concerned the political position against the State or the Church; those who had neither art nor party actually did not belong anywhere.

non capire un'acca (= not to understand an H)

It is the same as "understand nothing ", or "one iota". The expression depends on the fact that the letter "h" does not have a sound of its own in the Italian language.

Non c'è trippa per i gatti (= there's no tripe for cats)

The phrase, which means there's no more money for any additional expenses, is ascribed to Ernesto Nathan, a mayor of Rome from November 1907 to December 1913, who, because of the serious economic situation besetting the City, worked a series of cuts to the budget, including the amount allocated until then to feed the cats in the city.

Non essere uno stinco di santo (= not a saint's shinbone)

In reliquaries, where fragments of the bodies of saints were collected, the "stinco" (shin bone) was usually the biggest relic. Metaphorically, it means that someone is not a saint, has his sins.