Game On! 50+ Italian Sports Vocabulary Words and Expressions for Fervent Fans

Italia! Italia! (Italy! Italy!)

Whether it’s thousands of people chanting in a stadium or a dozen in a restaurant, there’s no denying that Italians are hugely passionate about sports.

When you think about sports that Italians love, football (soccer in North America) might come to mind. But that’s hardly the only sport Italians love to play and follow.

Along with football, Italians enjoy tennis, cycling, basketball and rugby… just to name a few.

If you’re a fan, you can follow along with your favorite sport or team by learning some Italian sports vocabulary!

How to Learn Italian Sports Vocabulary

Keep Up with Sports News and Replays

Learning the Italian vocabulary you need to participate in sports can be as easy as following your favorite teams. Instead of finding the latest news and scores from English sources, try seeking out Italian news outlets, instead.


There are lots of ways to follow your favorite sports teams in Italian. You can browse online newspapers like “La Gazzetta dello Sport” to follow along with the latest news.

There are several popular Italian websites for sports news, including Sky Sport, Tuttosport and Corriere dello Sport. These websites cover all of Italy’s most popular sports, plus some that Italians may consider more obscure.

There are also places where you can watch sports highlights in Italian. For instance, Italy’s popular sports TV channel Sky Sport has a YouTube channel for news and highlights.

Listen to the Play-by-play


Maybe you don’t feel ready to read sports news in Italian yet, or you prefer to listen while you’re on the move. There are still lots of options for you to practice your vocabulary. Instead of reading, you can listen to the sports news you’re looking for! There are many online sports radio stations, like Radio Sportiva or Centro Suono Sport.

You can also find podcasts dedicated to discussing sports. RAI Radio has a large selection of podcasts such as Domenica Sport and GR1 Sports.

Use Apps and Flashcards


Maybe you just don’t have enough practice with Italian sports vocabulary to watch highlights or read newspapers. Programs like Memrise and Anki allow you to browse take user-made courses or create your own deck of flashcards on any topic. Use them to learn that vocab in a way you’ll never forget: with the power of flashcards!

Flashcards are a time-tested way to practice and learn new words. For even more options, Quizlet offers lots of flashcard tests for both general sports vocabulary and vocabulary for specific sports, such as rugby.

Have Fun with It!


If you want your learning to be a little more fun, turn learning into a game! For example, Syvum offers several ways to work on your vocabulary. Their courses include multiple-choice quizzes, fill-in-the-blanks activities and even hangman!

Another fun website to practice with is Study Stack. They also have learning activities like hangman, crosswords and beat-the-clock games.

50+ Italian Sports Vocabulary Words and Expressions for Fervent Fans

General Italian Sports Vocabulary

Some vocabulary will be the same no matter what game you’re playing or watching. Possibly the most important word to know is giocare, or “to play.”

Io gioco — I play

Tu giochi — You play

Lui, lei gioca — He, she plays

Noi giochiamo — We play

Voi giocate — You play (plural)

Loro giocano — They play

Now that you know how to discuss who’s playing, here are some all-purpose words that are important to know when talking about sports.

La corsa — Race

La palla — Ball

Il gol — Goal

L’allenatore — Coach

La squadra — Team

Il torneo — Tournament

La rete — Net

I tifosi — Fans

Lo stadio — Stadium

La maglia — Jersey

Italy’s Most Popular Sports and Their Vocabulary

Calcio — Football / Soccer


Coppa del Mondo — World Cup

The FIFA World Cup, also known simply as the World Cup, is a popular international football tournament. It’s played by 32 qualifying men’s national teams. Like the Olympics, the World Cup only happens every four years.

La pena — Penalty

A penalty is issued when a player infringes on the rules, causing the player’s team to have a disadvantage. In calcio, that often means an extra shot on goal for the opposing team.

Il cartellino giallo / il cartellino rosso — Yellow card / red card

Cards in sports are a way for referees to warn or reprimand players (and sometimes coaches) for infractions. Yellow cards are used to caution players, whereas red cards are used to kick players out of the game after several or a serious infraction.

Il portiere — Goalkeeper

La partita — Match

Sparare — To shoot

There are several different types of shots in calcio. Some popular ones are:

Il passagio diretto — Direct pass

Il calcio di punizione — Free kick

Il calcio d’angolo — Corner kick

Il calcio di rigore — Penalty kick

Example sentences:

L’Italia sta giocando nella Coppa Del Mondo quest’anno! (Italy is playing in the World Cup this year!)

Il portiere ha ricevuto un cartellino giallo e l’altra squadra ha ricevuto un calcio di rigore. (The goalkeeper got a yellow card and the other team got a penalty kick.)

La squadra ha segnato un goal da un calcio di punizione. (The team scored a goal from a free kick.)

Il Tennis — Tennis


Racchetta — Racket

Love — Love

This is the term for when a player has no points.

Pari — Deuce

This is the word you use when players have scored the same number of points, although the word “deuce” is sometimes used in Italian games as well.

Quindici / Trenta / Quaranta — 15 / 30 / 40

In tennis, 15 is one point, 30 is two points and 40 is three points. Four points win the game.

Set — Set

There are several games in a set and the first player to six game wins takes the set. Best two sets out of three nets you the match.

Tennis singoli — Singles tennis

Tennis doppio — Doubles tennis

Campo — Court

Fuori — Out

When the ball lands outside the court lines.

Example sentences:

Il tennista può vincere il set se la palla non è fuori. (The tennis player can win the set if the ball isn’t out.)

Il punteggio del gioco è quindici-love. (The score of the game is 15-love.)

Il tennista ha vinto due set. Se ne vincono un’altra, vincono la partita. (The tennis player has won two sets. If they win one more, they win the match.)

La Pallacanestro — Basketball


Canestro — Basket

Palleggio — Dribbling

Schiacciare — Dunk

Il fallo — Foul

Guardia — Guard

This refers to a player who stays close to center court to create plays or play defense.

Rimbalzo — Rebound

A missed shot that bounces off the rim or backboard and back into play.

Centro — Center

Often the tallest person on the team, the center plays close to the basket to screen other players and catch rebounds.

Avanti — Forward

Forward players are relied on for both offense and defense.

Panchina — Bench

The area on the sidelines where non-active players sit.

Example sentences:

Il giocatore ha segnato sul rimbalzo. (The player scored on the rebound.)

Il centro ha sparato la palla e poi è tornato in panchina. (The center shot the ball then went back to the bench.)

L’avanti ha cercato di schiacciare la palla, ma ricevuto un fallo. (The forward tried to dunk the ball, but got a foul.)

Il Ciclismo — Cycling


La bicicletta / La bici — Bicycle / Bike

Il ciclismo su pista — Track Cycling

Cycling done on specifically made tracks, often with built-up banks.

Il ciclismo su strada — Road Cycling

Il casco — Helmet

Safety first!

La sella — Bike seat

La ruota — Wheel

Il freno — Brake

Il cambio — Gear lever

Gear levers shift gears to make pedaling easier or harder depending on terrain.

Example sentences:

Mi piace il ciclismo su strada, quindi posso prendere l’aria fresca. (I like road cycling so I can get fresh air.)

Ha comprato un nuovo casco così è al sicuro quando guida la sua bici. (She bought a new helmet so she is safe when she rides her bike.)

Rugby — Rugby


Campo — Pitch

The field on which rugby is played.

Mischia — Scrum

A restart in play where players huddle together and try to gain possession of the ball.

Una meta — A try

A point scored by touching the ball to the ground behind the opposition’s goal line.

Placaggio — Tackle

Ripresa — Catch

Calciatore — Kicker

Lato chiuso — Blindside

A player who’s tasked with stopping opponents on the narrow side of a scrum.

Example sentences:

I giocatori si sono riuniti in mezzo al campo per una mischia. (The players gathered in the middle of the pitch for a scrum.)

Il lato chiuso ferma l’altra squadra con un placcaggio. (The blindside stops the other team with a tackle.)


With this vocabulary under your belt, you’ll be all set for sports talk in Italy! Whether you’re playing a game, cheering a team or discussing stats with friends, you’ll be as passionate as any Italian fans!

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