What’s the meaning of “Avere la coda di paglia”?

In this short lesson, we will learn the meaning of the Italian idiom Avere la coda di paglia along with its pronunciation. If you know you’ve something wrong, this expression is for you!

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Avere la coda di paglia

Meaning of the idiom

Avere la coda di paglia can be literally translated as “to have a tail made of straw”. Its meaning is similar to the common English expression to have a guilty conscience, so it’s used to describe someone who knows they are in trouble and don’t want anyone to know.

Linguistically speaking, this idiom can be broken down into…

  • avere (to have)
  • la (feminine definite article)
  • coda (tail)
  • di (preposition di, meaning of)
  • paglia (straw)

You can also translate to have a guilty conscience as avere la coscienza sporca, which literally means to have a dirty conscience.

man who can't decide between right and wrong

For example, you could say…

Chi ha la coda di paglia ha paura di essere scoperto.
Those with “tails made of straw” are afraid of being discovered.

Ti sei arrabbiato senza un motivo. Hai forse la coscienza sporca?
You got angry without a reason. Do you perhaps have a guilty conscience?

Pronunciation of Avere la coda di paglia in Italian

Now let’s hear how this idiom is pronounced.

Avere la coda di paglia.
To have a guilty conscience.
Literally: To have a tail made of straw.

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

Where does Avere la coda di paglia come from?

The origin of this idiomatic expression is very interesting. It comes from one of Aesop‘s fables.

A fox was caught in a trap. She managed to escape but lost its tail in the process. The fox was so distressed and afraid of being made fun of that the other animals decided to make her a straw tail to replace the one she had lost, and it was so well made that those who didn’t know about it couldn’t tell it was fake.

golden fox

However, a rooster finally spilling the beans. Now all the animals knew about the fox’s straw tail! Word even got to the farmers, who soon started lighting fires around their chicken cooks to keep the fox, whose straw tail could easily catch fire, away.

That is why avere la coda di paglia is used to describe someone who is hiding a secret that they don’t want other people to know.

And that’s the end of our lesson on the Italian idiom Avere la coda di paglia!

What next?

See all the other Italian idioms!

Now that you’ve seen what the meaning of the idiom Avere la coda di paglia 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

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