Capiche – Meaning, Origin and Usage

There is nothing better than topping your weekend off with a marathon of the Sopranos. You can even go deeper and watch the Godfather to get your Mafia fix. One of the fav’s from mafia culture that you hear daily is capiche, but what does it mean?  You’re not alone if you’ve ever wondered what “capiche” means. This Italian expression is often used in English, but its meaning can confuse non-native speakers. This post unpacks the meaning and origin of this expression.

Meaning

This American pseudo-Italian slang “capiche” is derived from the Italian phrase “capisci che,” which means “understand that.” In English, “capiche” is typically used to confirm that the person you’re speaking to has understood what you’ve said. It can also be used to check that someone has understood your instructions. For example, you might say, “I need you to pick up some milk on your way home. Capiche?” This would be the equivalent of saying “Do you understand?” in English.

The phrase is most often used to accentuate a tough guy’s words when he is trying to make sure he is understood. If you or another person want to be intimidating, the phrase capiche is also acceptable. It is a firm equivalent of saying to someone, “do you understand me clearly” when you want to be threatening. In some cases the phrase is used in a sarcastic or amusing fashion depending on the context.

Example Usage

“I’m going to need you to do the dishes tonight. Capiche?”

“Can you please take out the trash? I don’t want the house to start smelling. Capiche?”

“I think we’re going to have to start looking for a new apartment. The rent is just too expensive here. Capiche?”

“Do you understand what I’m saying? I need you to be more careful. Capiche?”

Origin

It’s thought to have originated in the 1940s. It is derived from the Italian “capire,” which means “to understand.” In the early 20th century, the word “capisce” was used in Italian as the third person singular present tense of “capire,” which means “understand.” Capeesh is a variation of this word often used in American English. Currently, the term is widely used in both spoken and written English. The word morphed from its original Latin phrasing, capere which means to take, grasp, or seize.

The American pseudo-Italian slang capiche came to be when the Italian population in early America started creating their own local slang. Many words that existed in the original language were adapted for local use. In addition to making words easier for Americans to understand, it was also used among various Mafia sects within New York specifically. The word implied a warning of ill intent rather than a simple query that one understood what was being explained.

Phrases Similar to Capiche

  • “Do you understand?”
  • “Are you following me?”
  • “Did you catch that?”
  • “Are we clear?”
  • “Do you get my drift?”
  • “Can you grasp what I’m saying?”

Phrases opposite to Capiche

  • “I’m lost.”
  • “I have no idea what you’re talking about.”
  • “I don’t understand.”
  • “Can you explain that again?”

What is The Correct Saying?

The correct way to say “capiche” is with the proper Italian pronunciation, “kah-PEE-chay.” In American English, it is often pronounced as “capeesh.”

Ways People May Incorrectly Say Capiche

Here are some examples of improper usage:

  • She will give you the right tools to capiche the lessons of the day.
  • Let’s get an early start so you capiche the right way to get to the office.
  • Nothing is better than having a firm capiche of the task at hand.

Acceptable Ways to Phrase Capiche

Here are some examples of proper usage:

  • I fully expect you to have my money when I come over this weekend capiche?
  • If you ever try to put your hands on my daughter again, we are going to have a serious problem, capiche?
  • I don’t think you grasp just how unimportant you are to the operation of this business, capiche?
  • Things will get done with your cooperation, or without your cooperation, capiche?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *