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10 Italian words from Sicily you didn’t know

Sicilian is a regional Italian dialect with a long history. It is famous for being one of the first languages ​​on the peninsula to be used for literary purposes. The Sicilian vernacular reached its heyday in the thirteenth century and achieved great success.

The success of Sicilian poetry was so widespread that Tuscan literati began to export and reproduce it in the Tuscan vernacular. Over time, Sicilian developed independently, enriching the Italian vocabulary with new words. Many of these words originated in Sicily and are still unknown to most Italians even today.

Let’s explore ten Italian words that, like many Italians, you may not know that they originated in Sicily. We will also discover their meanings in today’s Standard Italian.

Italian word originating in Sicily


The word “coppola” is thought to be derived from the Sicilian term “còppula”. In English, it refers to a flat cap, similar to those worn by characters in the TV series Peaky Blinders. Such hats are common in southern Italy, and as depicted in the TV series, people with ties to the Mafia can often be identified by their hats.

man wearing coppola hat


This term is not commonly used in Italian, but it has a specific meaning and refers to the type of unpaved road typical of Sicily. Specifically, these rural roads are wide enough for cars to pass through. To visualize it, imagine a dirt road with patches of grass growing around the edges and in the middle, where the wheels don’t press against the ground.


Although in Italian the word is usually used to mean “rake”, it has taken on another meaning due to Sicilian influence. In literary classics such as Giovanni Verga, it is used to refer to a door or a small door, and in Standard Italian is usually called “Door”.


The word “abbuffarsi” means eating to the point of explosion, greedily eating any food. The word “abbuffarsi” may be derived from “buffa”, the Sicilian word for “toad”. The word conjures up the image of a swollen toad, like the cheeks that become completely full when eating a lot. Today, the term is used throughout the peninsula, but is more common in central and southern Italy.

Fried rice balls/fried rice balls

In this case, there is nothing to translate. Arancini are Sicily’s typical rice balls and are now sold throughout the peninsula (although the best rice balls can only be found in Sicily, no one can argue). However, this delicious street food has an eternal rivalry between the island’s two main cities, Palermo and Catania, each claiming to be its origin.

On the one hand, in Palermo they are called Fried rice balls, derived from “arancia” (orange), as their shape resembles small oranges. That’s not all. In the main city, they make pâté from the meat and put it into white rice shells. There is a mozzarella cheese in the center and the outside is coated with bread crumbs, eggs and flour to create a solid fried layer.

On the other hand, in Catania they call this food Fried rice balls, they mix all the ingredients together instead of separating each layer like in Palermo. This natural competition is rooted in tradition. For those of us who’ve tasted them, they’re so delicious and flavorful that it’s hard to resist either version.

Typical Sicilian street food arancini (fried rice balls with meat) served on a paper plate. Unhealthy food.


From here we head towards the dark side of this world-famous island. The word is often associated with cheating and was originally associated with businesses involving scams, fraud, or deception. Today, it has different meanings, such as referring to a complex, lengthy, and difficult-to-understand story.


This is one of the most famous Italian words on earth. But what is it? Today we know it as a complex of criminal organizations that originated primarily in Sicily in the 19th century, spread across the territory, and were governed by laws of silence (Quiet) and organized hierarchically. This is a social and systemic issue that still affects the country today.

A confident mafia boss.Bossy old man in gangster costume adjusts his tie, stands against wall and looks away


It is a message, a piece of paper with some writing on it, used for communication between members of the Mafia. This was, and still is, a way to bypass eavesdropping. The most important figures in these groups entrust the task of delivering the message to other faithful and loyal companions. It is important to understand that this happens because “mafia boss“They are on the run and out of sight, which makes it easier for police to catch them.”


Let’s delve deeper into this question by understanding the word “gang”. The English word that best represents it is probably “gang.” It is associated with clans, families and criminal organizations that engage in this type of business.Not only in Sicily; ‘Ndranghetacalabria and Camorra In Naples. A group of people connected by blood ties.

Stylish arab man spending time in club with group of handsome retro well-dressed guys gangster. Multiethnic male bachelor mafia partying in restaurant.


Originally, the term was used to refer to all those who formed the Sicilian gangs that helped Giuseppe Garibaldi drive the Bourbons out of the Two Sicilies. This happened in 1860, and a few years later, Italy became a unified country. After the unification of Italy in 1864, the term began to develop differently, and today it is used to refer to members of lower-level criminal organizations.

in conclusion

Sicilian words made a significant contribution to Standard Italian. This list includes ten terms that have become widely used, although not always for positive reasons. However, it is important to acknowledge that the influence of regional dialects extends beyond Sicily and affects the Italian language as a whole. This influence has enriched the Italian vocabulary and created a diverse and fascinating history of the language.

About the author: Fabio Guarino

As linguists and language experts, Freelance content writer and SEO marketer Allowing me to combine my passions and interests with my career. My favorite thing about working with language is playing with words. This is something I have dreamed of ever since I started traveling the world and learning languages.

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