The literal translation of good luck in Italian is buona fortuna.
But not so fast! If you want to wish someone good luck like an Italian, use in bocca al lupo! Learn all about this odd phrase which involves a wolf, which Italians really say for good luck.
Not only that, find out how to respond correctly– which is just as important!
I’ve included plenty of other ways to wish someone good luck in Italian, from the pious to the profane. You’ll learn how to pronounce all of them, and what Italians say and do to ward off bad luck too.
Table of Contents
IN BOCCA AL LUPO
Want to wish a friend good luck on an exam? A singing performance? A big interview? In bocca al lupo is the best way to wish them good luck in Italian.
In bocca al lupo is like saying break a leg, but it’s not just for the stage. In fact, for superstitious Italians (there are many!), it’s bad luck to use buona fortuna (good luck), like wishing a dancer good luck in English.
What does in bocca al lupo mean? The literal translation is into the mouth of the wolf. So what does that have to do with good luck? By sending someone into the mouth of the wolf, you are sending the person off to whatever difficult challenge awaits– like their interview or exam.
As weird as it may feel, whatever you do, do not say grazie (thank you) in response to in bocca al lupo! You must say crepi il lupo! (may the wolf die!) or just crepi! Otherwise you’ll get bad luck instead!
A: In bocca al lupo amico mio! Good luck my friend!
B: Crepi il lupo! (no clear translation: just be sure to say it!)
The pronunciation of in bocca al lupo is: een BOH-kah ahl LOO-poh
The pronunciation of crepi il lupo is: KREH-pee eel LOO-poh
Listen to how to pronounce In bocca al lupo! and Crepi il lupo! here:
Buona fortuna literally means good luck in Italian: buona means good, and fortuna is luck.
You can wish someone good luck by telling them buona fortuna, but in bocca al lupo is more colloquial. In formal situations, and in formal writing, buona fortuna may be the better option.
Buona fortuna per il futuro.
Good luck for the future.
On the other hand, to talk about good luck, buona fortuna is usually the best phrase. Read more about how to talk about good luck in Italian.
Oggi questi pantaloni mi hanno portato buona fortuna, non me li levo più!
Today these pants brought me good luck, I’m never taking them off!
The pronunciation of buona fortuna is: boo-OH-nah fohr-TOO-nah
Listen to how to pronounce buona fortuna here:
Auguri is a word that Italians use on many occasions to extend their best wishes. Auguri literally means wishes, and when you use it in reference to an event, it is like saying good luck (and often, congratulations at the same time). This post explains all about auguri.
Auguri per il nuovo lavoro!
Good luck at your new job!
Buona fortuna e tanti auguri!
Good luck and best wishes!
The pronunciation of auguri is: ow-GOO-ree
Listen to how to pronounce auguri here:
TI AUGURO BUONA FORTUNA
Another way to wish someone good luck in Italian is to combine the Italian verb augurare, or to wish, with buona fortuna, or good luck.
To say I wish you good luck in Italian:
|USE:||WHEN SPEAKING TO:|
|Ti auguro buona fortuna||someone you know well (informal relationship)|
|Le auguro buona fortuna||an elder, or someone you don’t know (formal relationship)|
|Vi auguro buona fortuna||a group of people|
These phrases work well to wish good luck in writing, like in a note or card.
Cari colleghi, Vi auguro buona fortuna per questo importante progetto.
Dear colleagues, I wish you good luck on this important project.
BUONE COSE and TANTE BELLE COSE
In Italian, buone cose means good things, and tante belle cose means many nice things. In the right context, you can say either one to someone to wish them good luck in Italian. Saying buone cose or tante belle cose is a way of wishing good things will come to them.
For example, I’ve been on the receiving end of these phrases after chatting with my elderly neighbors, or people I know in town. We catch up, I tell them what I’m up to, for example house hunting, and they end our conversation with buone cose! or tante belle cose! to say good luck! I’ve always considered it an especially sweet and endearing way to wish good things for someone.
Listen to how to pronounce buone cose and tante belle cose here:
CHE DIO CE LA MANDI BUONA
Che Dio ce la mandi buona is a religious way to wish someone, and/or yourself good luck in Italian. Che dio ce la mandi buona literally means May God send us a good one. You can use it to say let’s hope for the best in Italian.
A: Domani ricevo i risultati delle analisi del sangue. Tomorrow I receive my blood test results.
B: Che Dio ce la mandi buona! Let’s hope for the best/Good luck!
Listen to how to pronounce che Dio ce la mandi buona here:
INCROCIAMO LE DITA
Incrociare le dita means to cross one’s fingers. Italians use the phrase incrociamo le dita, or let’s cross our fingers, to wish someone good luck and hope for the best, just like we do in English.
Listen to how to pronounce incrociamo le dita here:
IN CULO ALLA BALENA
In culo alla balena is a crass way to wish good luck in Italian, so be careful when you say it. Since it means into the ass of the whale, only use it in very informal settings! Not at school, not in a meeting, and definitely not with your boss.
Just like in bocca al lupo, saying in culo alla balena is like saying break a leg, and there is only one response that will bring you good luck: speriamo che non caghi (let’s hope it doesn’t shit). Don’t say I didn’t warn you…
The pronunciation of in culo alla balena is: een BOH-kah ahl LOO-poh
The pronunciation of speriamo che non caghi is: KREH-pee
Listen to how to pronounce In culo alla balena! and Speriamo che non caghi! here:
HOW TO WARD OFF BAD LUCK IN ITALIAN
STEER CLEAR OF 17
In Italy, the number 17 is considered bad luck.
Alitalia planes have row 16 and 18- but don’t have row 17.
Tall Italian buildings don’t have a 17th floor either, but skip from floor number 16 to number 18.
Italians avoid the number 17: in fact my Italian in-laws were horrified when my husband and I decided to get married on the 17th of May. Unlucky or not, we are still married 15 years later.
KNOCK ON WOOD IN ITALIAN
It’s a subtle difference, but sometimes you want to steer clear of bad luck, as opposed to wishing for good luck. Here are some phrases and gestures Italians use to ward off bad luck, like knocking on wood in English.
FARE LE CORNA
Fare le corna means to make the horns, which is a way to ward off bad luck (like knock wood in English). Make the horn gesture by pointing your index finger and pinky out, and make a fist with the rest of your fingers, so your fingers look like a bull’s horns. Do the horns with both hands and point them towards the ground.
Be careful: pointing the horns at someone else is a highly offensive gesture that can get you in big trouble.
A: Come stai ultimamente? How have you been recently?
B: Tutto bene, facciamo le corna! Everything’s good, knock on wood!
Toccare ferro means to touch iron. Like to knock wood in English, toccare ferro also has an accompanying gesture: if you’re near iron, reach out and touch it to ward off bad luck.
Il tempo dovrebbe migliorare per il matrimonio venerdì, tocchiamo ferro!
The weather should improve for the wedding on Friday, knock on wood!
TOCCARE LE PALLE
Toccare le palle means to touch one’s balls . . . yes, those balls. It is like knocking on wood in English. This is another phrase that you shouldn’t use in mixed company. Especially because when a man says it he touches his testicles to ward off bad luck.
A: Sembra che Ronaldo si sia fatto male alla caviglia. It seems that Ronaldo has hurt his ankle.
B: O no. Tocchiamo le palle. Oh no. Let’s touch our balls/Knock on wood.
For more about Italian good luck charms and symbols, read How to Talk about Good Luck in Italian.