Italian idioms with water

In this lesson, you’ll learn the most common and interesting Italian idioms with water.

Let’s start!


Italian idioms with water

There are many Italian idioms featuring water. Let’s take a look at them.

Fare un buco nell’acqua

The first idiom we’re going to see translates to to try in vain.

Literally, it means “to make a hole in the water”. Since you can’t actually make holes in the water, this expression is also used to mean that something is a failure such as the English verb to flop.

Fare un buco nell’acqua
To try in vain
Literally: To make a hole in the water

Questo libro ha fatto un buco nell’acqua: non ha venduto nemmeno una copia.
This book flopped: it did not sell a single copy.

open book and a pile of books behind it

Sentirsi un pesce fuor d’acqua

This translates as to feel like a fish out of water.

Sentirsi literally translates to to feel oneself.

Sentirsi un pesce fuor d’acqua
To feel like a fish out of water

Mi sentivo come un pesce fuor d’acqua alla festa.
I felt like a fish out of water at the party.


Scoprire l’acqua calda

This idiom translates to to discover America and it literally means “to discover hot water”.

Scoprire l’acqua calda
To discover America
Literally: To discover hot water

Non posso stirare prima di lavare. – Bravo, hai scoperto l’acqua calda!
I can’t iron before washing. – Bravo, you have discovered America!

happy boy taking a hot shower

Navigare in cattive acque means to be in a bad situation and literally translates to to navigate bad waters.

Navigare in cattive acque
To be in a bad situation
Literally: To navigate bad waters

L’azienda naviga in cattive acque. Presto dovrà chiudere.
The company is in a bad situation. Soon it will have to close down.

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Acqua e sapone

When someone is acqua e sapone, water and soap, it means they are genuine, simple and sincere kind of person. It’s a compliment.

Acqua e sapone
Natural, pure and simple
Literally: Water and soap

Conosco una ragazza acqua e sapone. Non mente quasi mai.
I know a pure and simple girl. She almost never lies.

smiley, simple little girl

Fare acqua da tutte le parti

This Italian idiom translates to to be full of holes. If a bag is full of holes, and you fill this bag with water, it will… “leak water from everywhere”.

Fare acqua da tutte le parti
To be full of holes
Literally: To leak water from everywhere

Il tuo piano fa acqua da tutte le parti!
Your strategy is full of holes!


Avere l’acqua alla gola

This idiom is not for angsty people! It literally translates to “to have water at your neck” and it means to be under pressure. If you’re neck-deep in water, and the water is rising, you can drown.

Avere l’acqua alla gola
To be under pressure
Literally: To have water at your neck

Avevamo due mesi di tempo per completare il lavoro, invece abbiamo dormito e ora siamo con l’acqua alla gola!
We had two months to complete the job, but we slept through it instead and now we are under pressure!

anxious man covering his ears

Facile come bere un bicchier d’acqua

If something is “as simple as drinking a glass of water”, it means it’s a piece of cake.

Facile come bere un bicchier d’acqua
A piece of cake
Literally: As simple as drinking a glass of water

Passare l’esame è stato facile come bere un bicchier d’acqua.
Passing the exam was a piece of cake.


Acqua in bocca

Acqua in bocca! is an exclamation that means not a word to anyone and literally translates to “water in the mouth”. You can’t really talk when your mouth is full of water! 😉

Acqua in bocca!
Not a word to anyone!
Literally: Water in mouth

Abbiamo deciso di fare una festa a sorpresa per Anna. Acqua in bocca con sua sorella!
We decided to have a surprise party for Anna. Not a word to her sister!

cat asking for peace and quiet with a finger in front of its mouth

Assomigliarsi come due gocce d’acqua

This Italian idiom literally means “to look like two water drops” and it’s the translation of the expression to be two peas in a pod. It can also be used to translate to be identical.

Assomigliarsi come due gocce d’acqua
To be two peas in a pod, to look very much alike
Literally: To look like two water drops

Io e mio fratello non siamo gemelli, ma tutti dicono che ci assomigliamo come due gocce d’acqua.
My brother and I are not twins, but everyone says we look like two peas in a pod.


Affogare in un bicchier d’acqua

If you drown in a glass of water, it means you are not even trying to save yourself. This is what this idiom means: to give up easily. It literally translates to “to drown in a glass of water”.

Affogare in un bicchier d’acqua
To give up easily
Literally: To drown in a glass of water

boy drowning in a bathtub - affogare in un bicchier d'acqua

Ne è passata di acqua sotto i ponti

This is an interesting idiom. It literally means “so much water has passed under the bridges” and it translates to the English expression it’s been a long time.

Ne è passata di acqua sotto i ponti!
It’s been a long time
Literally: So much water has passed under the bridges

Non vivo più a Torino dal 2001. Ne è passata di acqua sotto i ponti da allora.
I have not lived in Turin since 2001. It’s been a long time and many things have changed since.

And that’s it with the most common Italian idioms with water!


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