Italians often use the idiom “avere sale in zucca”, do you know what it means?

It’s not easy to translate “avere sale in zucca” as words don’t have a literal meaning: sometimes idioms are a bit cryptic because of this and it’s necessary to find out the meaning and learn them as they are!

We normally introduce idiomatic expressions starting from an Intermediate level, as students need to be ready to face the difficulty of understanding them and using them in conversation. Step by step, it’s possible to enrich the vocabulary and become able to say idioms confidently, even if it takes time!

In the idiom above, as you might have thought, “sale” means salt and “zucca” is literally a pumpkin! So why do we say “to have salt in the pumpkin”?

Let’s find out more! 

This expression is quite ancient and dates back to the Romans: at that time, salt was very valuable and expensive and it was normally preserved in carved, dried pumpkins. People who had a lot of salt in the pumpkin were wealthy, however, if we want to understand it we don’t have to stick to the literal meaning: “zucca” refers to the head, or the brain so, metaphorically, the idiom means “to be very clever, very smart”.

Some examples will help you understand!

Italian English
Federica ha sale in zucca, appena si è trasferita a Roma ha trovato un nuovo lavoro. Federica is very clever: as soon as she moved to Rome, she found a new job.
Non ti arrabbiare con Carlo, sai che non ha molto sale in zucca! Don’t get angry with Carlo, you know that he’s not very smart!
Il mio capo ha sale in zucca: ha capito subito il problema nel mio gruppo e lo ha risolto. My boss is very clever: he immediately understood the problem in my team and sorted it out.


How could you put this idiom in a sentence? Share your examples with your friends!

Don’t forget that you can learn many new idioms here or going through our online resources.