What’s the meaning of “Acqua in bocca”?

In this short lesson, we will learn the meaning of the Italian idiom Acqua in bocca along with its pronunciation. If you want someone to keep a secret, this expression is for you!

Let’s get started! Iniziamo!


Acqua in bocca

Meaning of the idiom

Acqua in bocca can be literally translated as “water in the mouth”. Its meaning is the same as the English expressions lip sealed, mom’s the word or also not a word, so it’s used to ask someone to keep a secret.

Linguistically speaking, it can be broken down into…

  • acqua, water
  • in, preposition in
  • bocca, mouth
woman signing to keep a secret

For example, you could say…

Stiamo preparando una festa a sorpresa per il compleanno di Riccardo. Acqua in bocca!
We are planning a surprise party for Riccardo’s birthday. Not a word!

Ho intenzione di prendere un cane per Natale. Acqua in bocca, mi raccomando!
I plan to get a dog for Christmas. Lips sealed, mind you!


Pronunciation of Acqua in bocca in Italian

Now let’s hear how this idiom is pronounced.

Acqua in bocca.
Lips sealed, not a word.
Literally: Water in the mouth.

If you need help with Italian pronunciation, check out the lesson on the Italian alphabet and pronunciation.


Where does Acqua in bocca come from?

Take a sip of water. Now take another sip until your mouth is full. Can you talk? I bet you can’t without spilling all the water! And if you can’t talk, you can’t share a secret (segreto) with anyone else… 😉

a woman sharing a secret with a friend

It is believed that this phrase comes from the story of a very religious but gossipy Italian woman.

One day this woman confessed to the priest that she was tired of gossiping because it was considered a sin and she wanted to find a cure for it. The story goes that the priest gave her a water jug and told her to take a sip every time she felt like gossiping. And… it worked!

And that’s the end of our lesson on the Italian idiom Acqua in bocca!


What next?

See all the other Italian idioms!

Now that you’ve seen what the meaning of the idiom Acqua in bocca is in Italian, you might want to keep learning Italian online with these free Italian resources:

Title: Italian All-in-One For Dummies
Language: English / Italian
Publisher: For Dummies
Pages: 672

Learn to speak Italian like a native? Easy.
Italian All-in-One For Dummies appeals to those readers looking for a comprehensive, all-encompassing guide to mastering the Italian language. It contains content from all For Dummies Italian language instruction titles, including Italian For Dummies, Intermediate Italian For Dummies, Italian Verbs For Dummies, Italian Phrases For Dummies, Italian Grammar For Dummies, and Italian For Dummies Audio Set.

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