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4 ways of saying ‘busy’ in Italian

How do you say busy in Italian? This is not straightforward as it is translated in different ways according to the context and these words are not interchangeable. Find in this blog 4 ways of saying busy in these 4 different contexts:

  1. Busy as in engaged in activities or occupied = occupato
  2. Busy as in demanding or intense = impegnativo
  3. Busy as in crowded or full = allollato
  4. Busy as in full of traffic = trafficato

I have intended to write about the word ‘busy’ for some time, as it still poses a challenge for my students. In fact, we were discussing its meaning in one of my classes this week, which prompted me to write this blog.

As you can see, the word ‘busy’ is a complex concept because it has multiple meanings that also vary according to the context. Its meaning varies depending on whether it refers to a person, a place, or a thing. Let’s explore the most common meanings and how to express them in Italian with examples and alternatives.

Image by Freepik

1. Engaged in activities or occupied (referring to a person):

   – ‘Occupato’

This is the most common meaning of ‘busy’ when referring to a person being occupied with tasks, work, or activities. For example, “I’m too busy to go out tonight” or when someone is tied up and unavailable. And also, when someone is concentrating doing something like studying. In all of these examples, this meaning of ‘busy’ is typically translated with the word ‘occupato’ or ‘occupata.’

Here are a few examples in Italian:

– “Sono troppo occupato stasera per uscire; devo ancora finire la mia relazione per domani e poi devo studiare per un esame.” (I am too busy to go out; I still need to finish my report for tomorrow, and then I have to study for an exam.)

– “Sono occupata ora, non ho tempo di chiacchierare.” (I’m busy now; I don’t have time to chat.)

Here are some alternatives:

  • – ‘Impegnato’ (Sono molto impegnato.)
  • – ‘Indaffarato’ (Sono troppo impegnata, non ho un momento libero.)
  • – ‘Preso’ (Sono preso, non ho tempo.)
  • – ‘Avere molto da fare’ (Ho molto da fare.)
  • – ‘Avere un sacco di cose da fare’ (Hai un sacco di cose da fare.)
  • – ‘Essere di corsa’ (Oggi sono di corsa, non posso fermarmi per il caffè.)
  • – ‘Non avere neanche tempo di respirare’ (Non ho neanche tempo di respirare oggi; devo finire il mio articolo, andare a una riunione, cucinare, fare la spesa, andare a prendere i bambini, andare in posta e chiamare l’idraulico!)

2. Demanding or intense (referring to something):

   – ‘Impegnativo’

This meaning refers to something, such as a busy schedule, a busy day, or a busy month. The word ‘impegnativo’ is used to translate this second meaning of ‘busy.’ ‘Occupato’ cannot be used for this context.


– “Oggi ho una giornata molto impegnativa.” (Today, I have a very busy day.)

– “Questa settimana è così impegnativa che non ho tempo di uscire.” (This week is so demanding that I don’t have time to go out.)

Some alternatives to ‘impegnativo’ include:

  • – ‘Pesante’ (Ho avuto una giornata pesante oggi.)
  • – ‘Difficile’ (Questo periodo è difficile, ho molto da fare.)
  • – ‘Pieno zeppo’ (Questo mese è pieno zeppo, non ho tempo per altro lavoro.)
Picture by Pexels

3. Crowded or full (referring to a place):

   – ‘Affollato’

When a place, typically a public place like a restaurant or cinema, is full of people, Italians use ‘affollato.’ Examples:

– “Venezia è molto affollata in estate.” (Venice is very crowded in the summer.)

– “L’aeroporto è sempre affollato durante le vacanze.” (The airport is always crowded during the holidays.)

Some alternatives to ‘affollato’ are:

  • – ‘Pieno’ (Questo bar è fantastico ma è sempre pieno.)
  • – ‘Pieno zeppo’ (Il teatro era pieno zeppo per quel fantastico musical.)
  • – ‘Frequentato’ (Il campeggio è molto frequentato in questo periodo.)
Image by Pexel

4. Full of traffic or activity (referring to a road):

   – ‘Trafficato’

When a road experiences heavy traffic or is full of activity, ‘trafficato’ is the appropriate term.


– “È una strada molto trafficata.” (It’s a very busy road.)

– “È una stradina poco trafficata.” (It’s a less busy road.)

Some alternatives are:

  • – ‘Movimentato’ (La superstrada non è molto movimentata questo mese.)
  • – Frequentato (Questa strada di campagna è poco frequentata).


So, there you have it. The word ‘busy’ in Italian is quite the chameleon, offering various shades of meaning depending on whether it’s talking about a person, an activity, a place, or a road. Understanding these subtle distinctions is a bit like having a secret map for navigating the Italian language. From ‘occupato’ for someone caught up in a whirlwind of tasks to a ‘movimentata’ road buzzing with life, each scenario calls for its specific translation.

Learning a language is all about catching those subtleties in meaning and context. So, next time you find yourself in an Italian chat and ‘busy’ pops up, I hope you’ll know which Italian spin to put on it.

Would you like to improve your Italian and have a chance to practice the new words you’ve learned? We have a new Conversation Club at the B1/B2 level starting very soon.  Click HERE for more information.

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