Italian Sayings Using the Word Mangiare

Family dining out in Rome
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Mangia, or "eat!" in English, is a term that reminds everyone that Italians have a reputation for being gourmands. Whether in popular culture or the abundance of Italian-themed restaurants throughout the world, this word seems to serve as the exemplar for the human condition.

Phrases With Mangiare

There are lots of great words and phrases with the word “mangiare” as a base, and as you go through them, try directly translating them from Italian to English as it makes them easier to remember. For example, “mangianastri,” which is “cassette player,” directly relates to “eat tape.” Italian compound nouns (nomi composti) with a form of mangiare include the following:

  • fare da mangiare per: to cook for
  • finire di mangiare, finire tutto il pasto: to eat up
  • il mangiafuoco: blusterer, braggart, swashbuckler, fire-eater
  • il mangiamoccoli: hypocritically self-righteous person (popular term)
  • il mangiapagnotte: someone who receives a public salary working with little effort
  • il mangiapane a tradimento: scrounger, freeloader
  • il mangiapreti: a person who does not believe in the power of those religiously ordained
  • mangiare a sazietà: to eat your fill
  • mangiare bene: to eat well
  • mangiare come un maiale: to eat like a pig
  • mangiare da cani: to eat badly
  • mangiare fuori: to dine out
  • mangiare la polvere: to bite the dust
  • mangiarsi le mani: to kick oneself
  • mangiarsi le parole: to mumble
  • la mangiatoia: manger, trough
  • la mangiatrice di uomini: maneater
  • il mangiatutto: big eater (also a kind of green beans, also known as “taccole” or “fagioli mangiatutto”)

The verb mangiare is also the basis for the character name Mangiafuoco (Fire-Eater), the fictional wealthy director of the Great Marionette Theatre in The Adventures of Pinocchio.

Proverbs Referring to Mangiare

The slogan Chi "vespa" mangia le mele... was part of a famous advertising campaign by Piaggio from 1969-1971 to promote the Vespa motorino. The Italian language, though, has many other words of wisdom relating to eating.

  • Chi mangia e non invita, possa strozzarsi con ogni mollica. - He who eats alone and invites no one, will choke with every crumb.
  • Chi mangia solo crepa solo. - He who eats alone dies alone.
  • Ciò che si mangia con gusto non fa mai male. - What you eat with pleasure will never make you sick.
  • Mangiare senza bere è come il tuono senza pioggia. - Eating without drinking is like thunder without the rain.
  • Mangia quello che piace a te, vesti come piace agli altri. - Eat what you like, but wear what others like.
  • Non si vive per mangiare ma si mangia per vivere. - One doesn't live to eat, but eats to live.

Derogatory Terms Using Mangia

For historical, political, and cultural reasons, there is a tradition in many countries of fierce territoriality, antipathy, competition, and prejudice among geographical regions. In Italy, given the geopolitical background of its former city-states, the expressed animosity can be especially pronounced (and creative!).

In Italian, there are terms used to refer to individuals from other regions—admittedly pejorative given the context—that include the verb mangiare. Unfortunately, poking fun (or scorn) on anyone on account of their dietary habits or economic status is not uncommon.

Here are common expressions that can be used in friendly conversations, but are rare since they are derogatory:

  • Mangiacristiani: Christian eater—a menacing, threatening person, but more in words than in deeds
  • Mangiamaccheroni: Macaroni-eater—native of Napoli
  • Mangiacipolle: Poor people who only could eat onions
  • Mangiapatate: Potato eater—one who habitually eat potatoes or is greedy; used to refer to Germans
  • Mangiapolenta: Polenta eater—used when referring to those from the Veneto and Lombardia
  • Mangiapopolo: People eater—oppressor, exploiter
  • Mangiasapone: Soap eater—pejorative name given to Southerners
  • Mangiabambini: In fairy tales, an ogre who eats children; also, a grim-looking person who is, in reality, mild and harmless