Italian Word of the Week: Boh

We’ve gone long enough without discussing what very well may be my favorite Italian word of all time and one that you’re almost guaranteed to hear if you come here for a visit.

So, without further ado, this week’s Italian Word of the Week:

BOH (boh):

I don't know

Deep shoulder shrug is optional, but recommended.

Now, some context. Depending on the tone of voice, “Boh!” can mean all kinds of “I don’t know” from “I have no idea” to “How the eff would I know?” to “Why on earth are you asking me this question, you loon?”

Please note that boh is the informal, extremely colloquial “I don’t know,” so this is only something you’d say when amongst friends. If you want to more formally say you don’t know, use “Non lo so.” That’s always safe.

Incidentally, this is one of those words that those of us who speak Italian have a hard time removing from our non-Italian vocabulary, so if we happen to be speaking to you entirely in English (or any language other than Italian) but then give you a “boh” to a question, well, now you know (that we don’t know).

You know?

Until next time!
Alla prossima!

** Image source: BOH! by Alex Barrow on Flickr (CC license)


  1. says

    Hahaha. Last summer I did an Italian course for three weeks to get some grammar into my head. Inevitably, my spoken Italian and colloquialisms were way ahead of much of the rest of the class who’d mainly learnt from books in their home countries. However, then it would come to the grammar classes. I spent a *lot* of time shrugging and saying ‘boh’ in those ones …

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