What’s the meaning of “Can che abbaia non morde”?

In this short lesson, we will learn the meaning of the Italian idiom Can che abbaia non morde along with its pronunciation. If you like dogs, this proverb is for you!

Let’s get started! Iniziamo!


Can che abbaia non morde

Meaning of the proverb

Can che abbaia non morde can be literally translated as “dog that barks doesn’t bite”. Its meaning corresponds to the English idiom its bark is worse than its bite, so it’s used to mean that people who seem very aggressive are actually gentler than they seem.

Linguistically speaking, this idiom can be broken down into…

  • can (shortened form of cane, dog)
  • che (that)
  • abbaia (“it barks”, from abbaiare, to bark)
  • non (not)
  • morde (“it bites, from mordere, to bite)
boss yelling at an employee holding a stack of filled glasses

For example, you could say…

Non aver paura del capo. Can che abbaia non morde.
Don’t be afraid of the boss. His bark is worse than his bite.


Pronunciation of Can che abbaia non morde in Italian

Now let’s hear how this idiom is pronounced.

Can che abbaia non morde.
Its bark is worse than its bite.
Literally: Dog that barks doesn’t bite.

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


Where does Can che abbaia non morde come from?

It is thought that this proverb comes from a quote by the Italian writer Alessandro Manzoni in his masterpiece I promessi sposi, The Betrothed:

Eh! Le schioppettate non si danno via come confetti: e guai se questi cani dovessero mordere tutte le volte che abbaiano.

Alessandro Manzoni

The literal translation of this sentence is “gunshots are not given as easily as sugared almonds, and woe betide if these dogs should bite every time they bark”.

woman playing with her dog

And that’s the end of our lesson on the Italian idiom Can che abbaia non morde!


What next?

See all the other Italian idioms!

Now that you’ve seen what the meaning of the proverb Can che abbaia non morde 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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