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The Sicilian Language

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Omeru nun scrissi pi grecu chi fu grecu, o Orazziu pi latinu chi fu latinu?  E siddu Pitrarca chi fu tuscanu nun si piritau di scrviri pi tuscanu, pirch ju avissi a ssiri evitatu, chi sugnu sicilianu, di scrviri 'n sicilianu?  Haiu a frimi pappagaddu di la lingua dutri?
(Antoniu Venezianu: Murriali, 7 Jinnaru 1543 - Palermu, 19 Austu 1593)

"Didn't Homer write in Greek because he was Greek, and Horatio write in Latin because he was Latin?  And if Petrarch who was Tuscan was not afraid to write in Tuscan, why should I, who am Sicilian, be shunned for writing in Sicilian?  Must I make myself a parrot for the language of others?"
(Antoniu Venezianu [Antonio Veneziano]: Monreale, 7 January 1543, Palermo 19 August 1593)
NOTE: Maria Garozzo-Payne and Angelo F. Coniglio will teach a Sicilian Language for Beginners class at the Centru Culturali 'talianu di Buffalo (Buffalo Italian Cultural Center) beginning in the Fall of 2020.  The course will include some use of on-line videos.  A list of links to videos referenced in the class is at the bottom of this page.
       Many souls, even Sicilians and those of Sicilian descent, have the same misconception held by Italians and non-Italians everywhere: that "Sicilian" is simply a different, "cruder" form of the Italian language.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  While today's Italians and sadly, today's Sicilians, are told "by those that know" that Sicilian is the language of the poor or ignorant, the Sicilian LANGUAGE was the first "Romance" language to develop from Latin, the early language of state.  As such, it includes not only words derived from Latin roots (as did the Italian "Tuscan" Florentine dialect which became the official Italian language), but it has rich inclusions from the tongues of the many occupiers of Sicily, including Carthaginian, Greek, Arabic, French and Spanish.

     Sicilian was the language of poets, taught in the Sicilian School of Roger the Great a thousand years ago, but it is not regularly taught in Sicilian schools.  If you're an "Italian American", the odds are good that your immigrant ancestors, like the majority of "Italian" migrs during the Great Migration, were from Sicily, a nation which once extended from Naples and Abruzzo to Messina and Palermo, and that they spoke, not Italian, but SICILIAN.

     This page is inspired by the facebook group "Speak Sicilian" (, where you can read or write in the Sicilian language; ask how to say an English word or phrase in Sicilian; ask what a Sicilian word means in English; or learn (or teach) Sicilian.

Vowels in the Sicilian language have the following sounds (phonetics are in English): A is “ah”; E is “eh” (“long a”); I is “ee”; O is “oh” (“long o), and U is “oo”. “A, E, I, O, U” in Italian is “ah, eh, ee, oh, oo”!!  The English sound of I (“long i” as in “eye”) is given by the combination “ai” in Sicilian.   Sicilian has no letter "k", "y" or "w".  It has a letter written like "j", but this "j" is a 'long-tailed' form of the letter "i", and is pronounced as we would pronounce "y" in English.

In Sicilian spellings, "c", if it is followed by "a", "o" or "u", is pronounced like the English "k"; but if it is followed by an "i" or "e", then "c" is pronounced like the English "ch" (as in "church"). Double "cc" is also pronounced as the English "K".

"ch" in Sicilian is NOT pronounced as in English, but sounds like the English "k".  So my cousins, the Miccich family, pronounce their surname "mee-chee-KAY".

Similarly, "g" is pronounced as in the English "good" if followed by "a", "o" or "u"; but "g" is pronounced like the English "j" (as in "George") if it is followed by an "i" or "e".  In Sicilian pronunciation, the "g" sound at the start of words is often "swallowed", and sometimes also the middle of words.  The "g" is silent when followed by the consonant "l"

The consonant "z" at the start of a word is generally pronounced as in English, while "zz" is pronounced "tz" as in "pizza".

There is no "j", as such, in the Sicilian language.   When the letter "i" has the sound a "y" has in English, it is written with a tail and looks like a "j" but it is not pronounced like the English "j".  For example: "jiri" (English phonetics: YIH-rih); "jiurnu" (YOUR-noo); "saju" SIGH-you) etc.

To hear spoken Sicilian, click below.  Presented are some common words, phrases and prose, written and spoken in the Sicilian language, with English translation. I disagree with the contraction of the articles "li", "la" and "lu" (meaning "the") to "i", "a", and "u". That, I believe is a modern 'Italianization'. My family and acquaintances (serrafarchisi) always said li, la, and lu.


Is Sicilian a 'Dialect'?

    Some (generally Northern Italians) try to imply that Sicilian is simply a dialect of the Italian language.  The Italian language itself was once a dialect, Toscano, or Tuscan, which was one of many Apennine peninsula dialects that developed from Latin.

    Many modern day languages trace their origins to the Latin spoken in ancient Rome.  These are the 'Romance' languages, which include Tuscan (Italian); Spanish; Portugese; French; and Rumanian.

    But there is strong evidence that the first Romance language to develop from Latin was the Sicilian language.

    I'm not a trained linguist, and my knowledge of Tuscan is book-learned, while I learned Sicilian at my mother's knee.  However, I'm a self-taught student of languages, and my education as an engineer has taught me to have a curiosity for how all things have developed.  When words are considered in their Latin origin and then compared in Sicilian and Italian, the words seem to me to have clearly progressed from Latin to Sicilian, to Italian. In some cases, Italian words bear no likeness to Latin and Sicilian words that are clearly related.

   In Latin, "brother" is frater (FRAH-tehr); in Sicilian, it's frati (FRAH-tih).  In Tuscan/Italian, it's fratello (fruh-TELL-oh).  I seriously doubt that the word went from frater to fratello to frati; it seems clear that the progression was from Latin to Sicilian to Tuscan.  The same can be said for the words for "sister": Latin soror, Sicilian soru, Tuscan sorella.  The Latin verb "to go" is 'ire'.  In Sicilian, it's 'jiri', in Tuscan it's 'andare'.  The Latin verb "I come" is 'venio'; Sicilian 'veniu'; Tuscan 'vengo'.  Which language came first?

   In Latin, as in Sicilian and Tuscan, many nouns have masculine or feminine endings.  Latin's endings are "us" (oos) for the masculine and "a" (ah) for the feminine.  Again, to me, it seems much more likely that the many Sicilian masculine nouns that end in "u" (oo) derive directly from Latin, and that the Tuscan masculine ending of "o" came later.  Examples are "rabbit": Latin cuniculus, Sicilian cunigliu, and Tuscan coniglio; and "son"; Latin filius, Sicilian figliu, and Tuscan figlio.  In my youth, I mistakenly thought that ny parents pronounced the 'Italian' sound of "o" as "u".  After serious reconsideration, I believe that in fact, the Tuscan and Italian pronunciation changed, devolving the original Latin (and Sicilian) "u" to sound like "o".

   Other words (presented in the order Latin, Sicilian, Tuscan) show similar evolution: "wife": mulieri, muglieri, moglie; and "how": quomodus, comu, come.

   And then there are words for which the Sicilian is clearly derived from the Latin, while the Tuscan appears to have come from a completely different source.  In Latin, the verb "to go" is ire (IHR-eh); in Sicilian, it's jiri (YIHR-ih); but in Tuscan/Italian, it's andare.  In Latin, the pronoun "he" is illus, Sicilian iddu, but in Tuscan it's lui; and "she" is illa in Latin, idda in Sicilian, but lei in Tuscan! 

    This concordance is made undeniable to me by the most 'Sicilian' of words, unni, from the Latin "unde", meaning "where".
    There is a Sicilian language, older than and distinct from the 'Italian' language, which is actually the Tuscan dialect which was developed by Dante Alighieri, with elements which originated in the Sicilian language.  Dante was a member of the Sicilian School of poetry before he organized the Tuscan dialect.

    That being said, the Sicilian language does have regional dialects that vary among the provinces of Sicily, and even between the towns and cities of any specific province. 

    Unfortunately, because for years, 'Italian' has been taught in Sicilian schools, and because of the influence of 'Italian' newspapers, radio and TV, Sicilian is spoken less and less in Sicily.  This situation is further aggravated because 'Italians' mistakenly assume that the Sicilian language is a 'poor man's version' of 'Italian', and many Sicilians feel there is a stigma associated with speaking their own language!

    However, the elderly still speak it, mostly at home, and many public schools are now required to have courses in the Sicilian language.

     The Sicilian words given below are as I learned them from parents who left Sicily over a hundred years ago.  As such they reflect the language as it was spoken in Sicily around the beginning of the 1900s, which was not much modified by incursions of the Tuscan dialect that the 'Risorgimento' imposed on Sicily.  I believe its 'purity' was also enhanced by the fact that Serradifalco is and was a small interior town having limited contact with speakers of Tuscan, or the modified Sicilian dialects of other regions.  Language scholar Alissandru Caldiero, author of Grammar of the Sicilian Language, has informed me that my Sicilian (that is, my parents' Sicilian) resembles the language spoken at the court of Frederick II.

The Sicilian words below are as I learned them as a first language from my parents, who spoke the language as it was use in the early Twentieth Century in Serradifalco, Caltanissetta Province, Sicily.

NOTE: For pronunciation of these Sicilian words, and more, go to the later section below, entitled "Sicilian Words"





above supra supra sopra
aid succursu succursu soccorso
apple pomum pumu mela
artichoke cactus caccuciula carciofo


ante hora

antura, andura

fprimo fa

below subtus suttu sotto





burdock carduum carduni cardo
cap (hat) petasus tascu capello





cherry cerasus cirasu ciliegia

to close, shut




I come















di sotto





to extinguish, turn off


astutari, stutari






to fix






di da

to give




to go









acinus, uva





mezzu met

haste, hurry (noun)




I have


haiu ho


ego iu io





hello salve saluti ciao













I ego iu io
juice, sauce sucus sucu sugo
I know scio saju, sacciu so
leaf pampinus pampina foglia
leather corio curiu cuoio
long longus lungu lungo





new novus nuvu nuovo

no one








pear pirum piru pera





to rise, stand up




sauce, juice sucus sucu sugo
scissors forfex forfici forbici





soft mollis muddu morbido













to swim natare natari nuotare
that quod chiddu quello





there (near) illac dda l
there (far) illuc dducu l
this hoc chistu questo








di sopra





where is

unde est




quid est
















lignum lignu legno
   Students of language report that Dante Alighieri, the medieval poet, was greatly influenced by the language that had been spoken at the court of Sicily's Frederick II, namely the Sicilian tongue that was studied and written at the famous Sicilian School.  Dante is credited with polishing the Tuscan dialect, doing so with words and ideas adapted from the Sicilian School and its language.  For example, the sonnet, a form of poetry unknown before Frederick's reign, evolved in Sicily, only to become a major form of poetry throughout not only Italy, but the world.

   Sicilian is a LANGUAGE, that is true; however, like many other languages, it has different dialects within it, that have developed in various regions of Sicily and in the south of the Apennine peninsula.  Below is a vocabulary of English words and their meanings in Sicilian, with variations for the dialects of several towns or regions.  It appears that in central Sicily, in Caltanissetta province, northern Agrigento province and eastern Palermo province, the classic Sicilian language still prevails as it was spoken in the court of Frederick II.  This is characterized by words like figliu (son) and cunigliu (rabbit), which in dialects elsewhere have become figghiu and cunigghiu; and especially lu (masculine 'the'), la (feminine 'the') and li (plural 'the), which in dialects have devolved into u, a and i.

   I invite all Sicilians and all those of Sicilian descent to e-mail me, to add your own versions of these words.  Please identify them by region, and add as many English words you like, with their Sicilian equivalents. 

Viva la lingua Siciliana!!!

Sicilian Words

       The words in serrafarchisi represent the language spoken in the central part of Sicily at the beginning of the twentieth century.
       In small interior villages, the influences of the outer world, including Italian and foreign visitors and media, were not as great as in large cities, or those on the coastlines.
       Except in cases where a different word entirely is used, the versions shown below for other towns are regional
pronunciations of the basic language.  For example, Sicilian for 'beautiful is 'bedda', which is pronounced 'beddra' in several localities. 
        I can't list all variations from every town here.  I've combined
sciacchatanu and raccamutisi, similar variations from towns of Agrigento province. Thanks to Santo Barbieri for the raccamutisi words, Giovanni Iachelli for the sirausanu, and to Patrick Pregiato for the missinisi

                                            To use the table, remember the pronunciation guide given above.

       To assist with the pronunciation of Sicilian words, I have used Google Translate.  Many Sicilian words, if spelled correctly, can be entered there as Italian, Spanish or Romanian words.  After entering a word, the "speaker" icon can be pressed and the input word will be pronounced (have your sound on).  Click on any "serrafarchisi" word below, then click the speaker icon that appears on the Google Translate page. Pay no attention to the English translation shown, it's not relevant.  In some cases, I have had to enter a word with phonetic changes to get the pronunciation closest to Sicilian.
       Many of the pronunciations are spot-on, but some are only approximations. The available languages can't deal with the leading "n" in words like "ncapu" or the leading long-tailed "i" (written as a "j"):
migliu di nenti!" (Better than nothing!)


In English serrafarchisi
e catanis

& Catania)
e raccamutisi

(Sciacca, Racalmuto)
verb: I am sugnu          
adjective: annoying cammurusu camurriusu       cammurusu
ant formcula furmicula        
apple pumu
verb: they are sunnu
verb: to arise
         to stand up
artichoke caccuciula
ball palla
banquet banchetta
barrel varliri
verb: to be jssiri
beautiful (feminine) bedda bedda bedda beddra   beddra
before andura
below suttu
better migliu megghiu megghiu      
bird anciddu aceddu aceddu   aceddu  
a little bit tantcchia tantcchia        
black niuru niuru        
blanket cutunina cuperta
verb: to bless benedicari          
[sir, ma'am] bless me sabenedica          
blue blu blu        
verb: to blow sciusciari          
boy carusu carusu        
boy, little piciliddu piccirriddu piccirriddu      
boy, teen piciuttu piciottu        
breakfast mangiari di matina          
brother frati          
bruschetta bruschetta          
brutish, ugly bruttu          
verb: to buy 'ccattari accattari       cattari
cap (hat) tascu, capiddu          
carpet trappitu tappitu        
celery accia          
cheese tummazzu tummazzu
verb: to chop capuliari          
verb: to close chiuiri          
coffee caf caf   caf    
cough tussi tussi        
verb: to cover cumigliari          
cover, lid crupicchiu          
covered cumigliatu          
verb: to crush scacciari          
verb: to cry chingiri chingiri        
cupboard stipu stipu        
verb: to curse bastemmiari          
daughter figlia figghia figghia      
day jurnu jornu jurnu      
dirty ludiu          
verb: to do fari          
donkey sceccu sceccu   sceccu    
downstairs iusu          
dresser cantaranu cantaranu        
ear oricchiu aricchia        
earlier andura          
verb: to eat mangiari mangiari manciari      
eggplant milingiana milingiana   mulinciana    
empty vacanti          
verb: to fall lavancari cascari        
father patri          
feet pidi peri        
fig cookies pucciddati viscotta di ficu pucciddati cucciddati cuccinnati  
finger jitu itu        
fingernail ugnu ugnu/ugna        
verb: to fold gnuticari gnutticari        
folded gnuticatu gnutticatu        
fork furcetta furcetta
frog giurana          
verb: to fool around babbiari babbiari        
foot pidu peru        
from di di, da, du        
verb: to fix azzizzari cunzari        
girl carusa carusa        
girl, little picilidda picciridda piccirridda      
girl, teen piciotta piciotta        
verb: to give dunari          
verb: to go jiri iri annari      
verb: (let's) go ammunnini ammunini annammunini     ammunini
goat crapa crapra, crapa        
grape racina racina       ragina
green virdi virdi        
verb: to grind capuliari          
ground meat capuliatu          
habit (bad) vizziu viziu        
hair capiddi          
half mizzu menzu        
hammer martiddu marteddu        
handkerchief fazzulettu fazzulettu        
handsome (masculine) biddu beddu
verb: to hang
(e.g., laundry)
he iddu iddu        
here cca cca        
verb: to hide ammucciari          
hole pirtusu pirtusu       pitusu
hole pirtusu pirtusu       pitusu
hurry (noun) prescia          
I iu, ji (yih)          
verb: he or she is j (yeh) j (yeh)        
jacket bunaca          
key chiavi chiavi   chiavi   chiavi
kidneys rini rini        
knee ghinucchiu rinocchiu        
knife cutiddu cuteddu       cutteddru
verb: to knock tuppiari tuppuliari        
I know saju,
lazy lagnusu          
leaf foglia fogghia        
to lean/placee (verb) puiari          
leather curiu          
verb: to light addrumari          
verb: to look taliari taliari        
lunch mangiari di mazziiurnu          
verb: to make fari          
verb: to melt squagliari squagghiari        
manicotti manicotti          
middle mezzu menzu        
mirror specchiu          

pezza pi lavari nterra

verb: to move aside arrassari allatiarisi        
more chi          
mother matri          
nail chiuvu chiovu       chiovu
napkin serbietta tovagliolo
neck cuddu          
no one nuddu          
now ora          
of di di        
olive auliva          
on ncapu          
onion cipudda         cipuddra
orange aranciu purtuallu        
others antri iautri autri      
page, leaf foglia foglia        
paste, tomato sarsina          
peach pirsica persica       spergia
pillow chiumazzu          
pin, straight pin spingula          
place (noun) banna banna        
place (noun) pustu postu        
to place (verb) mintiri mettiri        
to place/lean (verb) puiari          
plate piattu          
pliers tinaglia tinagghia        
polenta (Sicilian style) frasctula          
pomegranate pumugranatu ranatu        
poor puviru          
poor person mischinu mischinu        
verb: to pretend fari finta fari finta        
verb: to quarrel sciarriari sciarriari        
verb: to rain chioviri chioviri        
rabbit cunigliu cunigghiu cunigghiu      
red russu russu       russu
verb: to regret pintiri          
ricotta ricotta          
rifle scupetta scupetta        
rogue malandrinu          
rude maleducatu          
sauce, tomato sarsa          
sauce, tomato, with meat sucu          
verb: to save sparangnari sparangnari        
verb: to speak parlari parrari parrari      
scissors furfici furbici        
she idda idda        
sheep picuredda pecura        
shoe scarpa scarpa        
shoulders spaddi spaddi        
verb: to shut,
turn off
sister suru          
small nicu          
snails babalucci vavalucci       babalucci
son figliu figghiu figghiu      
spider tarantula ragnu        
spoon cucchiara cucchiaru        
sprig spicchiu          
straw paglia pagghia        
verb: to stretch stinnichiari stinnichiari        
stupid, idiot babbu babbu       bubbu
sugar zuccheru zuccuru   zuccheru    
summer stagiuni stati        
Sunday duminica ruminica duminica      
supper mangiari di sira          
verb: to swim natari natari        
swiss chard zarchi         zarchi
table tavulinu tavulinu        
tail cuda cura        
the (masc., fem.) lu, la   u, a      
the (plural) li   i      
then tannu tannu        
there (far) dda dda       ddra
there (near) dducu ddocu        
verb: to tie attaccari          
today oi (OY-ih) oggi oggi      
toe jitu di pedi itu do peri        
toenail ugnu ugnu        
tomato pumadoru pumaroru   pomuroru    
tree arbulu arburu
arvulu   arbulu  
verb: to try 'nsairi pruvari        
ugly ladiu lariu       ladiu
verb: to uncover scumigliari          
ucovered scumigliatu          
under suttu sutta        
upstairs susu          
us nuantri niautri nuautri      
verb: to shout vanniari vuciari
what, whatever zoccu          
verb: he/she was jra
verb: they were jranu
where unni          
where is (he, it) unni          
a while ago andura          
white biancu iancu        
wife muglieri mugghieri mugghieri      
winter nmirnu mernu        
to wipe (verb) stuiari          
woman fimmina fimmina       fimmina
word palora parola parola      
verb: to work travagliari travagghiari travagghiari      
wow msca mzzica mizzica      
yellow giarnu giallu        
you (equal) tu          
you (formal) vu          
you (elder) vussia          
you plural vuantri          
I've translated the following from the Italian.  I must say some of it is over my head, but it's clear that reasoned research has shown that the Tuscan dialect, and the Italian language that sprang from it, were derived from the Sicilian language spoken in the court of Frederick II and studied in his Sicilian School of poetry.

If only our northern Italian brothers would recognize the Sicilian heritage of their language, and cease referring to Sicilian as the language of the poor and ignorant.  "Lu Sicilianu" should be taught in Sicily's schools and spoken by its citizens,

Dante loses his paternity: the Italian language was born in Sicily

A new confirmation of the origins of Italian heterodox undermines centuries of literary and cultural monopoly: the Sicilian poets widespread in Lombardy, before their presence in Tuscany

Noemi Ghetti
Friday, June 14, 2013

The discovery of some poems of the Sicilian School in a Lombard library by the researcher Joseph Mascherpa brings to the fore the debate about the true origins of the Italian language. The theme is echoed by Cesare Segre in an article in the Corriere della Sera of 13 June, which underlines just how the 'change of perspective' in research is due to the sudden turn in recent times, of thirteenth-century manuscripts in places hitherto unsuspected .

One example is the discovery of at least four poems on the back of Sicilian scrolls bearing convictions of members of large Guelph families for violations of rules on tournaments. In those days, you know, notaries were often poets, and filled in the blank backs in this way, avoiding illegal notations in the margins of the records.

There are important fragments of poems, attributable among other authors such as Giacomo da Lentini, 'the Notary' founder of the Sicilian School, and even to Frederick II, the emperor-poet who was the genius patron of the arts. Occurring in the crucial decades 1270-1290, the transcript leads us to hypothesize the existence of a small songbook of poems of the Sicilian School, circulated in Lombardy in those years. It is in addition to the recent discovery of another mutilated manuscript, discovered by Luca Cadioli in the attic of a noble Milanese, which contains the only faithful translation from the French of Lancelot du lac, the classic novel about the loves of Lancelot and Guinevere, remembered by Francesca da Rimini in her caharacterization in Canto V of Dantes Inferno.

Now as then, once again for us, "The book was condemned, and he who wrote it." These findings sound like an endorsement of the original idea that our [Italian] language was born at the beginning of the thirteenth century by the revolt of the Sicilian poets against ecclesiastical Latin, developed in 2011 in my essay The Shadow of Cavalcanti and Dante (LAsino doro editions).

The transcripts of the Sicilians are especially interesting because they let us see in them glimpses of the original lyric language, so far lost except in a single case, which predate the Tuscanized versions by which we know them. It reconstructs for us, if we care to deduce it, the view of a secular literary culture, widespread in the thirteenth century in the Italian peninsula far beyond what the traditional scheme suggests.

It affects in this way a well-established historical reconstruction that makes the Tuscans, after the fall of the Swabians and the Ghibelline party in Benevento (1266), the sole heirs of Sicilian poetry. In fact, it immediately comes to mind that northern Italy welcomed the Cathars and troubadours on the run, in the aftermath of the fierce Albigensian Crusade which dispersed the civilization of neighboring Provence. And that in Northern Italy there persisted a widespread tradition of French ballads of love and adventure, happily reprised at the fifteenth-century University of Ferrara by Boiardos Orlando in Love, it was later reported in the Orlando Furioso of Ariosto, and was also the standard language of the Florentine Pietro Bembo, canonized as a Cardinal in 1524.

The reaction of the Church against the magnificent flowering secular language of the thirteenth century was in fact very hard: in February 1278 in the Arena of Verona a huge fire burned the last 166 Cathars, and in 1285 the Parisian philosopher Siger of Brabant was assassinated. Excommunicated and condemned to death, waiting for forgiveness in the papal curia of Orvieto, where he had fled after 1277, Bishop Tempier of Paris had judged heretical his evolution of Latin that had animated, with De Amore by Andrea Cappellano, the origins of poetry including the stilnovisti [New Stylists] Guinizzelli and Cavalcanti. The offense certainly did not go unnoticed in the stilnovisti environment. So the last decade of the thirteenth century saw the conversion of Dante's love of woman to the love of God, which proceeds in stages from Vita Nova through the Convivio to the Divine Comedy. In 1300, in which the otherworldly journey of the Comedy is set, Dantes exile from Florence was sealed, followed by the premature death of Cavalcanti.

In the sacred poem [the Divine Comedy] Federico II is condemned to Hell (Canto X) in a group of heretics, "that with the body make the soul mortal." He is destined to be teacher and "first friend," endowed with "loftiness of genius," but "he had a disdain for" the faith.  Pier delle Vigne, Sicilian poet and secretary to the emperor [Frederick II], is placed between the suicides, and tells Dante their drama, so convoluted, because the unforgivable sin of the Sicilians, in the eyes of Dante, is to have attempted a search for carnal love and passion, outside of religion, inventing a new language. Sordello of Goito, a troubadour who had found fortune in Provence and returned to Italy in 1269, of Mantuan origin like Virgil, is placed instead in Purgatory (CantoVI-VIII), like other poets of the thirteenth century.

The prejudice against Sicilians therefore has ancient roots, and a careful analysis of the texts of Dante and solutions that gradually imposed themselves in the secular 'language issue' show how, in spite of accepted theory, it originates from Dante himself. He was the most famous poet to establish himself as a 'father' of the modern Italian language, obscuring one hundred years of research of the love poetry from which it was born, with a systematic work of re-semanticization of the spiritual and Christian vernacular vocabulary of its origins. Even in the nineteenth century a sensitive critic, Francesco de Sanctis, demonstrates a certain deafness to the poets of the Sicilian School, and we had to wait until 2008 to have the first complete critical edition and commentary, in three volumes of Meridiani.

It is interesting as an aside to recognize, in the limited number of 'outdated' studies of the last century, like those of Bruno Nardi and Maria Corti, the original judgment of Gramscis Prison Notebooks about the thirteenth century and Dante. It is perhaps the most well-known essay on Canto X of the Inferno contained in the Notebooks (1931-32), with explicit distance from religion, and important messages in code intended for '"former friend" Togliatti. 

Somewhat less well-known is Gramscis appreciation for Guido Cavalcanti.  His words, which erect to the "highest exponent" the uprising in medieval theocratic thinking and conscious use of the vernacular instead of Latin and Virgil, were taken almost verbatim from Gianfranco Contini. For Gramsci, a fine linguist, the Comedy is "the medieval swan song," and his work as a Latinization of the vernacular marks the crisis of the rebirth of the secular and the transition to Christian humanism. Read the Comedy "with love" is the attitude of "simpleton professors who make religions of some poet or writer, and celebrate strange philological rites." Appreciate the aesthetic values​​, he writes from Iulca in a letter from prison in 1931, warning against uncritical transmission of the poem to your children; that does not mean you agree with its ideological content.


Im a Sicilian American

Dedicated to my parents Gaetano and Rosa Alessi Coniglio and my eldest brother Guy, who came to America in 1913 and 1914 from Serradifalco, SICILY.

Im a Sicilian American.

Im a Sicilian American.

Im the son of immigrants who left a land of history and beauty, of poets and dreamers, volcanoes and olive trees.  A land that taught the world what a modern nation could be, before most modern nations existed.  A land that formed the largest country, The Kingdom of the Two Sicilies, from Naples and Abruzzo to Messina and Palermo, that was subsumed into the new Kingdom of Italy after the unification.

My parents left because for all its lore and loveliness, and their fierce pride in it, Sicily was poor and demeaned, and could offer little hope for their familys future. 

Im a Sicilian American.

My heritage includes mythical Persephone, Vulcan, and Icarus; Greek scholars Archimedes, Empedocles and Diodorus Siculus; composers Bellini and Scarlatti, and writers Verga and Sciascia.

Im a Sicilian American.

Im Padre Saverio Saetta, who died in 1695 while bringing Christianity to the New World.

Im Antonio Crisafi.  I came before there was a United States and in 1696 commanded the fort at Onondaga. 

Im Enrico Fardella, who fought against the Bourbons in Sicily, one of the first peoples revolutions in Europe, in 1848, and then became a brigadier general in Americas Civil War.

Im a Sicilian American.

Im a descendant of Southern Italian immigrants who formed 80% of the Italians who came to America in the Great Migration of the late 1800s and early 1900s, most, from the island of Sicily.

Im one of the nineteen Sicilians who were murdered in New Orleans in 1891, in the largest mass lynching in American history.

Im a Sicilian American.

Im Chaz Palminteri, Frank Capra, Armand Assante, Sonny Bono, Iron Eyes Cody, Ben Gazzara, Frankie Laine, Cydi Lauper, Chuck Mangione, Al Pacino, Louie Prima, Pete Rugolo, Frank Zappa, and thousands of others who have made the world wonder, laugh, and sing with our artistry.

Im Joe Dimaggio.

Im a Sicilian American.

Im one of millions of one-, two- and three-star mothers who anguished while their sons fought for the American Dream in World War II, in the frigid trenches of France or the steaming jungles of the Pacific.

Im one of many mothers whose son never returned.

Im a Sicilian American.

I say Comu sta?, not Come stai?  I answer Bunu!, not Bene.

Not Dov?, but Unni ?; not La. but Dda!

Im a Sicilian American. 

I've never met a mafioso, nor wanted to, nor played at being one.

Im a Sicilian American, and proud to be one. 

~ Angelo F. Coniglio ~ 10 May 2014


A petition to protect the Sicilian Language

It may be signed at which contains this text of a letter sent to the Italian Minister of Heritage and Cultural Activities and Tourism and to the President of the Sicilian Region.

"The Sicilian language - reads the petition - is a Romance language spoken today by about 5 million people in Italian territory. If we consider the descendants of Sicilian emigrants from the second half of the nineteenth century or so, the number rises to 22 million.

Sicilian was the language of everyday life in Sicily until at least the eleventh century, and it became a literary language in 1230 with the creation of the Poetic Sicilian School of Frederick II of Swabia.  This was followed by the influence on the Tuscan poets through whom these influences in Tuscan literature led to the birth of the Italian language.   Today, Sicilian does not enjoy any form of protection, in a world where globalization is rampant and when a language dies every two weeks, eliminating the culture of which it was an expression, as well as special views of life and the world (UNESCO classifies Sicilian among vulnerable languages).

In 1999, Law 482, "Rules for the protection of historical linguistic minorities", was passed.  Article 2 states: "... the Republic protects the language and culture of Albanian, Catalan, Germanic, Greek, Slovenian and Croatian and those speaking French, Franco-Provenal, Friulian, Ladino, Occitan and Sardinian", thus excluding, without following the linguistic criteria, all other languages spoken Italian territory and relegating them to the status of 'dialects' (although for linguists in the academic world there is no difference between dialects and languages and the 'discrimination' against those that are daily called dialects takes place, so to speak, at the political level): among them, as well as Sicilian, there is Piedmont, Veneto, Emilian, Romagna, Lombard, Neapolitan and others.

In 1981 and 2011 two regional laws were enacted on the teaching of Sicilian in the island's schools, but they have not proved to be enough to try to preserve the language, which increasingly is being lost as a result of the wide use of Italian (and also of English) by the mass media, and there are not many cases where the two laws have been put in place.

What we want to ask through this petition is an ad hoc law (such as, for example, Law 38/2001, designed especially for the Slovenian language) or an amendment of Law 482/1999, by which even the status of the Sicilian language is finally recognized as a historical linguistic minority, since history and Sicilian culture contribute to the cultural richness of Italy and the image it presents to the world.

Place the Sicilian language among the historical linguistic minorities protected by the Italian government!

(Click HERE to vote.)

Read the New Orleans Advocate article "Erase a language, murder a culture; North shore Sicilians trying to preserve their endangered language"

If you'd like to discuss the Sicilian language, ask about specific words or phrases,
post (or watch) videos of Sicilian being sung and spoken, go to the following
facebook page:

Sicilian is a Language

There are many books available on the Sicilian language, including dictionaries like this one. 
Click on the author's name for more, then click the book's image for purchase information:
Dictionary and Phrasebook
Hippocrene Books


This is an excellent book for learning Sicilian, which includes an audio DVD so the spoken word can be heard:

Learn Sicilian
Mparamu lu sicilianu


Remember, there are MANY regional dialects of the Sicilian language. 
Dictionaries and texts will reflect the dialect that the authors are most familiar with,
and therefore they may not be consistent with one another.


  ~ The Lady of the Wheel (La Ruotaia), my first book, a historical novella about foundlings and sulfur mine workers in 1860s Racalmuto, a town in central Sicily.
SICILIAN LINKS Sicilianit Is Sicily 'Italy'? The Sicilian Languge
Cognomi ~ Sicilian Surnames Ngiurii ~ Sicilian Nicknames Place-names as surnames Sicilian Coats of Arms
Foundlings The Sicilian Naming Convention

Given Names

Convert Latin given names to Sicilian
La Bedda Sicilia ~ My history of Sicily Heritage Path ~ original Sicilian records Civil Record Format ~ 1820 - 1910 I'm a Sicilian American
My Lectures on Sicilian Genealogy Sicilian Occupations in Civil Records Sicilian Records at the Buffalo FHC Orphans, Illegitimates, and Foundlings
Li Carusi ~ The Mine-boys Shortened Sicilian Given Names There is no letter "j" in Sicilian The Thing
  Womens' Surnames Masculine and Feminine Names  
Spoken Sicilian videos

Italian vs. Sicilian - How Much Do They Differ?

he Sound of the Sicilian Language (UDHR, Numbers, Greetings, Words, & Sample Text)

Basic Greetings

Common Words and Phrases in Sicilian

The verb "to be": ssiri

Body Parts


(More to come.)

NOTE:  Because of the variety of dialects of the Sicilian Language, some words and pronunciations in these videos may differ.  Just another indication of the vibrancy of the Sicilian culture. 
(Some videos may require you to watch, or skip, ads.)
Given that Sicilian is a language in and of itself, there are many DIALECTS OF SICILIAN across the island, with variations in pronunciation, or completely different words for the same concept in different areas. 

Here are a few, beginning with the personal pronoun "I".  The outlined areas are the nine provinces, each with its similarly named capital city as in this map.

Consonant Pronunciation Guide

The phonetic pronunciations shown reflect English phonetics. 
The rs are rolled; double rrs are rolled more.  The exception is r before consonant, which sounds like the English (unrolled) r.
All double consonants are pronounced as such.
Soft c is pronounced as the English ch in some dialects, as s in others.
Light l is like English l; heavy l is similar to r, phoneticized here as r or ll.


b onu, good (BOH-noo)

abbaiari, to bark (ahb-buy-AHR-ee)
b anna
, place (BAHN-nuh)
bannera, flag
fibbia, buckle


pani, bread (PAH-nee)

pesti, pest (PEH-stee)
pirsuna, person
paisi, town (pie-EES-ee)
pastu, meal


dinari, money (dee-NAH-ree)
diri, to say (DEE-ree)
dari, to give
deci, ten
doppu, after


bedda, beautiful (BEHD-duh)
fedda, slice (FEHD-duh)
stidda, star
fudda, crowd
cutiddu, knife

              hard g
gattu, cat
gula, throat (GOO-luh)

godiri, to enjoy (goh-DEER-ee)
ghiacciu, ice (GYAHT-choo)
grassu, fat (GRAHS-soo)

              soft g
gia, already (JAH)
giru, tour/turn (JEE-roo)

giustu, fair/right (JOO-stoo)
giovani, young (JOH-vuh-nee)
giuiusu, joyous (joo-YOO-soo)

              hard sc
scarpa, shoe (SKAR-puh)
scola, school

schiavu, slave (SKYAH-vooe)
scopu, effect (SKOH-poo)
scurriri, to flow (skoor-REE-ree)

              soft sc
scrusciu, sound (SKROO-shoo
to descend (SHEEN-nih-ree)

scena, scene (SHEH-nuh)
sceccu, donkey (SHEHK-koo)
sciuri, flowers (SHOO-ree)


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Last revision: 19 December 2021 ~ Angelo F. Coniglio,















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