Calcio Vocabulary

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Special Dedication:

I’d like to thank my Latin and Classics professor and my favorite professor from Vanderbilt University, Dr. Daniel Solomon, who lived in Italy from 1975 to 1987 from age 7 to age 19. Dr. Solomon is an avid soccer fan and an expert in Italian, Latin, and Ancient Greek. He helped me with this list by providing me with many terms and words that were not part of my vocabulary. I hope to keep building on this basic list. Dr. Solomon has a B.A. from Oxford University and a Ph.D. from Yale University in Classical Philology. I’m to blame for any typos or mistakes you find.

I’d also like to thank the Materassi family of Il Centro Linguistico Italiano Dante Alighieri (CLIDA) in Florence. I lived with the Materassi family for a semester in Florence, and they taught me Italian and made me speak Italian at all times. They helped me by constantly correcting my Italian without letting any mistakes go uncorrected.

I’d also like to thank Luigi Monga, my Italian professor from Vanderbilt University, who was a great teacher and also a native speaker. Professor Monga was a maniac for correct grammar and a truly nice and energetic person. Dr. Monga unfortunately passed away in 2004. It was thanks to Professor Monga who was a friend of the Materassi family that I was lucky enough to live with the Materassi family where I was exposed to more Italian than I would have been if I had just lived with other American students studying abroad.


Italy with regions included


Introduction to Italian

The language now known as “Italian” is in fact “Tuscan” (toscano). Dante Alighieri chose to write Dante’s Divine Comedy in toscano instead of Latin so people could read it because only very few educated people could read Latin. Dante along with a few other writers is credited with being the first to write books in “Italian” and standardize the spelling of Vulgate languages other than Latin. Italian is derived from the language and spelling used by Dante Alighieri in Dante’s Divine Comedy. Italy like Spain, France, and other countries has regional dialects. Italian has been called “Latin in the ablative” or “La lingua toscana in bocca romana” (“The Tuscan tongue in a Roman mouth” or “The Tuscan language as spoken by a Roman”). This phrase “la lingua toscana in bocca romana” comes from the fact that “Italian” is really “Tuscan” and the capital of Italy is Rome where many of the centers of mass media are located which caused the standardization of the Italian language over time via the radio, national TV, TV news, and other national TV programs.






Each vowel in Italian has a distinct sound and needs to be pronounced correctly when speaking and the correct vowel needs to be used when writing because upon it depend the gender, number, and meaning of words.


A “ah”

E “eh”


O  “oh”

U  “oo”

The Pronunciation of Special Letters, Groups of Letters, and Sounds in Italian:

 S – a single “s” is pronounced like a “z” in English.

SS – a double s, “ss”, is pronounced like an “s” in English

Z – is pronounced like a “Tz” in English

ZZ– Double Z is also pronounced like “TZ” in English as in the word “pizza”

NOTE: Both Z and ZZ are pronounced essentially the same with “ZZ” carrying a slightly stronger “Tz” sound

Gn – “GN” in Italian is pronounced like the “ny” in the English word “canyon.” This combination of letters is the same as the letter “Ñ” in Spanish or the letters “Nh” in Portuguese. So, this is roughly a “nyah” type of sound except it’s not inherently followed by an “A” sound. The pasta, gnocchi, for instance has no “A” sound it’s “Nyoh- key.”

CE– “Ce” is pronounced like the “Che” in “Che Guevara”

Ci– “Ci” is pronounced like “chee” in English as in “cheese”

Chi– Chi is pronounced exactly like the word “Key” in English

Che– Che is pronounced like “Cay” in “Cayman”

Sci– “Sci” is prounced like ‘She” in English.

Sce– “Sce” in Italian is pronounced exactly like “chez” in French or the letters “sha” in the word “shade” in English.

Sche– “Sche” is pronounced like “Skeh” in English as in “Skateboard”

Schi – “Schi” is pronounced exactly like “ski” in English.

R – The letter r is rolled in Italian

RR– Double R is rolled more than a single “r” to pronounced both “r’s.”

Gio – This group of letters is pronounced as one syllable and is pronounced exactly like the name “Joe”


Definite Articles (The):


Singular  Plural

IL                  I

Lo               Gli

(Lo and Gli are used before words beginning with s + a consonant as well as words beginning with z, ps, gn, and x)

L’                 Gli

(Before nouns beginning in a vowel) 


Singular   Plural

La                Le

L’                   Le

(L’ is used before a feminine noun beginning with a vowel)


Calcio Vocabulary

Calcio – kick

Calcio – soccer

Squadra – team

Nazionale – The Italian national team

Gli Azzurri – The Italian national team (The Blues)

Forza – Let’s go, Hurry up, Come on

Ma dai ! / dai – Come on. This is a different “come on” than above. This one means something along the lines of (“Give me a break.” or “Are you serious?” or “Cut it out” etc)

Forza Azzurri – Let’s go Italy, Come on Italy, etc

Gol – goal

Che bel gol! – What a great/nice goal!

Ed un gol! – And, it’s a goal

Rete – goal (literally, net)

Segnare – to score (a goal)

Autogol – own goal

Doppietta – scoring two goals ; a brace

Tripletta – scoring three goals in one game ; a hat trick

Tiro – shot

Passaggio – pass

Tocco – touch

Controllare – to trap, control

Pallonetto – chip

Il cucchiaio – a shot where the player chips the keeper. (Il cucchiaio literally means “the spoon”)

Colpo di testa – header

Colpo di testa in tuffo – diving header

Tocco d’esterno – outside of the foot touch

Tiro d’esterno – outside of the foot shot

Passaggio d’esterno – outside of the foot pass

Dribbling a rientrare – cutback

Tiro ad effetto –bending shot

Passaggio ad effetto – bending pass

Passaggio di piatto – side-footed pass (Also called inside of the foot pass. Different than “ad effetto”)

Cross – cross

Cambiare gioco – switch fields; switch play

Di prima – first time

Passaggio di prima – first time pass

Tiro di collo pieno – full strength strike with the shoelaces

Tiro di prima – first time shot

Tiro al volo – volleyed shot

Passagio al volo – pass off a volley/ pass hit directly out of the air

Abile con entrambi i piedi – skilled with both feet; two footed

Tacco– backheel

Sforbiciata – flying side volley also known as a flying scissor kick.

Lo scorpione – the scorpion kick (Fare lo scorpione – to do a scorpion kick)

Entrata in scivolata – slide tackle

Contrasto – tackle

Fuorigioco – offside

Spallata – shoulde barge

Triangolo – one-two pass

Contropiede – counter attack

Parata – save; stop

Catenaccio – This is totally defensive soccer. Catena is literally a chain, and catenaccio is a door bolt that requires a crowbar to open the door. So, the idea behind this term is that the goal is totally bolted shut with no hope of the opposing team scoring. Italian soccer is stereotyped as all defensive, but this really is not the case in reality as Italians value fantasisti or highly skilled and creative players that play exciting soccer.

Fantasista – A fantasista is a highly skilled and creative player full of tricks and exciting play.

Palleggio – juggling

Rilanciare – restart (For example, when the goalkeeper puts or throws the ball to one of his teammates)

Respingere – to reject, clear out – usually used in reference to a wall or to a goalkeeper’s save.

Porta – the goal (the actual goal NOT a goal scored)

Rete – net (also used to mean goal because the ball is in the net)

Traversa – crossbar

Palo – post (upright; vertical post)

Primo palo – near post

Palo più vicino – near post

Secondo palo – far post

Palo più lontano – far post

Linea di porta – goal line

Bandierina d’angolo – corner flag

Area di rigore – penalty area, penalty box

Area di porta – six yard box, goalie box

Panchina – the bench

Arbitro – referee

Fuorigioco – offside

Fallo – foul

Fallo di mano – hand ball

Mani – hands (This is said for a hand ball. The technical name of the foul is above)

Tuffo – dive

Calcio di rigore – penalty kick

Rigore – penalty kick

Calcio d’angolo – corner kick

Calcio di punizione – free kick; kick off a foul

Calcio di rinvio – goal kick

Rimessa laterale – throw-in

Gara – match, competition, race

Barriera – wall

Maglia – jersey

Calzoncini – shorts

Scarpe da calcio – soccer shoes

Tacchetti – cleats

Calzettoni– socks

Parastinchi – shinguards

Tunnel – nutmeg

Il doppio passo – stepover

La bicicleta – multiple stepovers in sequence   (WITH ONE “T”) 

La bicicletta – the rainbow (WITH TWO “T’s”)

L’elastico – elástico

Rovesciata– bicycle kick / overhead kick

I Ruoli – Positions (Roles)

Portiere – goalkeeper

Terzino destro – right back; right outside back

Difensore centrale – center back/central defender

Difensore centrale – center back/central defender

Terzino sinistro – left back; left outside back

*Next two terms are used by some people and not by others. There is some controversy concerning what lo stopper and il libero really are and if using these terms depends on using zonal marking or another defensive system.

Lo stopper – central defender (the one that stays back on defense more and only advances up field for corner kicks. Chiellini is a stopper). Lo stopper was primarily tasked with marking the center forward.

Il libero – central defender (when there are two center backs, il libero is the one that supports lo stopper. Il libero moves around more where he is needed to provide defense instead of just marking the opposing team’s striker. Il libero sometimes makes runs up field like Lúcio)

Centrocampisti – midfielders (not all the positions listed below are used at the same time)

Mediano – defensive midfielder (Edgar Davids, Claude Makélélé, Gennaro Gattuso)

Il regista – This is a deep-lying playmaker that plays directly in front of the defensive back four. Regista means director and carries an implication of a film or movie director. Andrea Pirlo’s position is called this because he controls the tempo of the passing game from the back as opposed to a trequartista who really creates and scores goals by playing just behind the strikers.

Mezz’ala – outside midfielder that’s not a winger (An example of a mezz’ala is Andrés Iniesta when Barcelona plays with a line of three attacking midfielders such as Fabregas, Xavi, and Iniesta). Clarence Seedorf plays as a mezz’ala when he isn’t played in the center behind the strikers as a trequartista)

Il centrale – box-to-box midfielder, utililty midfielder (Michael Ballack, Patrick Viera)

Mezz’ala – same as above

Trequartista / Mezzapunta – central attacking playmaker that plays directly behind the strikers or forwards and whose main role is to create goals and also score goals. This was the position Zidane played and Clarence Seedorf is also associated with this position.

Seconda punta – second striker (Ronaldinho occasionally played this position when he wasn’t played as a trequartista at Milan. Seconda punta is what Robinho has been playing at Milan with Ibrahimovic being the out-and-out striker (prima punta)

Prima punta – out-and-out striker

Centravanti – center forward (lone striker. Ronaldo…from Brazil)






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