Italian Idioms starting with T

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

Tagliare la corda (= cut the rope)

The phrase means to run away from a situation, for example from prison. It derives from the rope that tied a boat to the shore. To sail, of course, it was necessary to free the boat, but if someone was in a great hurry, the rope could be cut.

Tal dei tali (= so and so)

Indicates someone whose name is not known.

Tallone di Achille (= Achilles' heel)

A phrase common n many languages, it is meant to indicate the only flaw or weakness, and derives from a mythological story. The nymph Thetis, who conceived Achilles after her union with Peleus, a mortal man, to make her son immortal, plunged the baby in the river Styx, holding him only by the heel, which remained out of the water. At the end of the Trojan war then Paris fatally struck Achilles at the heel with a poisoned arrow.

Tempo di vacche magre (= time of meagre cows)

The phrase is of biblical origin and refers to a period of hardship. It derived from the dream reported by Joseph to the Pharaoh. The lean years were to indicate a long famine.

Tirapiedi (= person pulling the feet)

The "tirapiedi" (= stooge) was the assistant to an executioner, usually his son, who, during hangings, to alleviate the agony of the condemned, clung with all his weight to the hangman's legs, facilitating death. In modern times, the term is used in a derogatory sense, often in criminal gangs or political lobbies, to describe a servile person performing unpleasant tasks.

Tizio, Caio e Sempronio (= Tom, Dick and Harry)

These are the names of three hypothetical people, used in Italian to refer to any person as an example. The names appeared for the first time together in the works of Irnerius, a jurist at the University of Bologna. A classical interpretation is as follows: Tizio = Tiberius Gracchus; Caio = Caius Gracchus, the brother of Tiberius; Sempronio
= Sempronius Gracchus, the father of Tiberius and Gaius. These were the most common names in legal examples, and through law manuals they became common to the point that Tizio has become synonymous with "a person", and is often written with an initial lowercase letter.

Tornare con le pive nel sacco (= Come back with bagpipes in the sack)

The phrase is used when someone comes back after a defeat. The "pive" (=bagpipes) are musical instruments common in military bands. In case of victory the triumphant army used to come back accompanied by songs and music, while in case of defeat, they kept silent and the bagpipes stayed closed in the sack.

Torre d'Avorio (= Ivory tower)

The phrase means loneliness and aristocratic disdain of those who retire from the world, thinking they will be free of problems in this way. It an expression that is found in the biblical Song of Songs: "collum tuum sicut turris eburnea; oculi tui sicut piscinae in Hesebon" (=your neck is an ivory tower , your eyes pools of Heshbon). It was later referred to the Virgin Mary, who in the Rosary Litany is called "Turris eburnea". By extension, the phrase is connected to aristocratic isolation.

Troppa grazia, sant'Antonio! (= Too much grace, Saint Antony!)

It means to get more than requested, with results that are often not entirely positive. It is said also against those who, for too much generosity, embarrass the recipient of a gift or a benefit. There's a story to explain that. A trader, after a life of hardship, was finally able to fulfill the dream of his life: to buy a horse. But when he tried to mount on it, he failed, because his legs were too short. After some more attempts, he turned to St. Anthony invoking his grace. When he leapt again, he had such impetus that he climbed over the rump of the animal and ended up on the other side, upside down. Then the man turned to the saint, complaining that he had been given too much grace.

Tutto il mondo è paese (= All the world is a village)

The phrase means that wherever you go, human feelings, weaknesses, and values (heroism and cowardice, love and hate, prudence and irresponsibility, wisdom and folly, religiosity and atheism, justice and abuse, sincerity and hypocrisy) are the same.