While watching Goodfellas for the first time ever, I have stumbled upon the expression:

"... and I am breaking your balls..."

(for context: Clip from Goodfellas)

Since I am Italian by birth, I was wondering whether the above expression might have something to do with the quite common:

"Non rompermi i coglioni."

which literally means "Don't break my balls." but is used when somebody is mad at someone else to signal him to stop doing whatever he is doing that annoys him.

Does anybody know something about any connection between the two expressions?

  • 1
    It's the same in French...
    – Drew
    Commented Nov 4, 2016 at 1:38

2 Answers 2


According to The New Patridge Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English to bust someone's balls "to tease someone relentlessly, provoking their anger" is an AmE expression from 1955 •

The following source states that the expressions break/bust somebody's balls derive from the practice of cattle castration. It is not clear if there is a connection with the similar Italian expression but it appears that it was made popular by the 1990's movies Goodfellas. See also Ngram:

  • Whether it’s busting or breaking, balls or stones, this expression has long been used by young men (and not a few women) to express a wide range of emotions brought about by the words or actions of another.

  • Although the phrase usually accompanies laughter, it arose out of a truly painful, yet common practice among beef cattle operators where they bust the bull’s balls as a method of castration.

Popular Usage

  • For those not familiar with the phrase, there are a couple of different common meanings to “bust your balls.” Both of the following examples come from the 1990’s movie, Goodfellas.


The first, and far more common, is when someone is being teased or kidded:

  • Tommy: Just don’t go busting my balls, Billy, okay?

  • Billy: Hey, Tommy, if I was gonna break your balls, I’d tell you to go home and get your shine box.


The second, and by far the more nefarious, is when someone is overworking, overwhelming or trying to ruin another:

  • Jimmy: Give me the fuckin money, You hear me? You hear me, I gotta come here and you bust my balls? Give me the fuckin money.

From: (www.todayifoundout.com)

  • Your answer is a ballbuster. :-) Commented Nov 4, 2016 at 2:07
  • Thank you a lot, J O S H! According to your answer, the origins of the two expressions are similar and yet a little bit different, since the Italian expression relates to the fact that "breaking" someone's ball is really painful, thus indicating a state of suffering which one wants to avoid.
    – eslukas
    Commented Nov 4, 2016 at 22:20

When you bust someone's balls, it is a metaphor for demasculinizing them, or dulling their shine, or bringing their spirit down. Because that's how it is. Why you gotta be busting my balls all the time. Or he's a real ball buster. Comes from the practice of castrating bulls by breaking their balls with the end of a stick. Also, when someone is a pain in the ass all the time, and drives your spirit down with their nonsense, they are a real ball buster.

Busting balls keeps people humble as well. A common practice. It's synonymous with being a hastle, tearing people down, joking with people as well as general revelry. But at the end of the day, you feel kind of like the bull when you're the one getting your balls busted.

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