Italians on Italians
Beyond Toscano

Uffa: the invisible word, borne of frustration

Uffa: the invisible word, borne of frustration
Sometimes, there are no words to communicate a feeling. But even without a definitive word, or spelling, there are noises you can make that are universally understood. So while you may not speak Italian, you’d probably know exactly what ‘uffa’ (ooh-fah) would mean if you ever heard an Italian say it.

Much like a sigh, uffa is uttered under breath to signal negative feelings, without going so far as to articulate them. From regret or disappointment, to general boredom and malaise, along with a sigh, uffa is an effective way to let off steam. Sometimes uffa is directed towards a particular person or bone of contention, others it’s more universally directed at a situation or often in a heat-wave, discomfort because of the weather.

There’s also playful innocence about the word that can help the utterer get away with it without seeming rude. For dramatic effect, and to strengthen the impression of discontent. the sound can be lengthened by holding the ‘f’ – uffffffa!