Looking for luck?
Here you’ll find words and phrases for talking about fortuna, or luck, in Italian. Find out polite and crass ways to talk about good luck in Italian, with plenty of examples to help you put these good luck phrases.
I’ll also teach you about Italian good luck charms (portafortunas), symbols, and traditions, and how Italians ward off bad luck too.
On the other hand, if you want to wish someone good luck, read our article on how to say good luck in Italian. You’ll learn all the wacky colloquial ways Italians wish each other luck.
Table of Contents
Fortuna means luck in Italian.
Buona fortuna literally means good luck. If you are talking about good luck (not wishing someone good luck), use buona fortuna.
Mio fratello ha sempre buona fortuna.
My brother always has good luck.
Avere fortuna and avere buona fortuna mean to have good luck, or to be lucky in Italian.
Lui non ha fortuna nell’amore.
He isn’t lucky in love.
Che fortuna! means How lucky! in Italian.
A: Ho trovato un quadrifoglio! I found a four-leaf clover!
B: Che fortuna! How lucky!
Fortunato means lucky in Italian. Make sure that the ending of fortunato agrees with the noun it is describing: o for a masculine noun, a for a feminine noun, i for a plural masculine noun, and e for a plural feminine noun.
Gabriella è una ragazza fortunata.
Gabriella is a lucky girl.
Essere fortunato/a/i/e means to be lucky:
Federico è fortunato.
Federico is lucky.
Sara è fortunata.
Sara is lucky.
Paolo e Taddeo sono fortunati.
Paolo and Taddeo are lucky.
Le mie sorelle sono fortunate.
My sisters are lucky.
Culo literally means ass in Italian, and it is not a word to use in polite company. Culo is also another way to say luck, and can be used grammatically the same way as the Italian word fortuna. However, that doesn’t mean you can use it in the same situations! Don’t use culo with your elders, Italian grandparents, teacher, professor, boss, or anyone else who you could possibly offend.
Avere culo means to have good luck, or to be lucky.
Se avremo culo troveremo parcheggio davanti al cinema.
If we’re lucky, we’ll find a parking spot in front of the movie theater.
Che culo! means How lucky! and is like saying That’s damn lucky! or Lucky b*stard!
A: La prof non ha visto Piero usare il cellulare in classe. The teacher didn’t see Piero use his phone in class.
B: Che culo! Lucky b*stard!
Sorte means fate, chance and fortune in Italian. Buona means good. So buona sorte means good fate, or good luck. It is a bit old fashioned: I’ve only heard my grandmother-in-law use it.
Nonostante tutto, Marcella non ha mai perso la speranza nella buona sorte.
Despite everything, Marcella never lost hope for good fortune/luck.
Niente gol per l’altra squadra! La buona sorte ci ha aiutato di nuovo!
The other team hasn’t scored a goal! Good luck has helped us once again!
Oggi faccio l’esame di guida. Dov’è il mio portafortuna?
Today I have my driver’s test. Where is my good luck charm?
The word portafortuna means bring luck, and a portafortuna is an Italian good luck charm. One of the most famous Italian portafortunas is the corno, or cornetto: an animal horn. I see these almost daily as I go about town: usually, a corno is red and looks like a twisted hot chili pepper.
Many Italians, especially from southern Italy, keep a corno on their keychains, or hang a corno from the rear view mirror of their cars. There are corno charms for necklaces and bracelets. My favorite pizzeria in town has a silver corno by the cash register. The corno is supposed to ward off the malocchio, or evil eye. It is most popular in Campania, the region home to Naples.
Another portafortuna is in the shape of a hand making the corna sign, or horns. The corna sign looks like an upside down version of “rock on”: the index finger and pinky are pointing out straight while the rest of the fingers are down in a fist.
ITALIAN GOOD LUCK SYMBOLS
Italians are generally quite superstitious, or scaramantici. There are plenty of good luck symbols in Italy that are lucky elsewhere, like the horseshoe, lady bug, and four leaf clover.
Italians also have their own good luck symbols like il corno above. La pigna, or pine cone, is a ceramic ornament that you’ll see in Sicily, as well as the rest of Italy. The Sicilian city of Caltagirone, famous for its hand painted ceramics, is especially known for pigne (pine cones).
The pumo pugliese (Apulian pumo) is another ceramic good luck symbol, in the shape of a rose bud. Like the pigna (pine cone) it is a symbol of luck and fertility, and traditionally decorated the gates and properties of rich Apulian families.
Italians also have special New Year’s traditions for good luck. They wear the color red (especially red underwear!), and eat lucky foods like lentils and grapes which are supposed to bring prosperity in the New Year.
KEEPING BAD LUCK AWAY
Italians have many gestures to keep bad luck at bay, similar to how people from other cultures knock on wood.
Italians make the horns gesture I mentioned before to ward off bad fortune (in Italian fare le corna means to make the horns). Be sure to point your horns down, and NOT at anyone else. If you make the horns sign AT someone you are saying they are being cheated on, which is very offensive and can get you in big trouble.
Italians also touch iron (toccare ferro) to avoid bad luck, and last but not least, they touch their (own) testicles.. That’s right, toccare le palle in Italian means to touch one’s balls, and Italian men are lucky enough to walk around all the time with their own built in bad luck repellent.
The number 17 is an unlucky number in Italy. Italians stay away from 17 to ward off bad luck. Tall Italian buildings don’t have floor 17, and Italian airlines don’t have row 17.