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Calabria, Italy and its Genealogy, History, Culture and Language

Calabrese Proverbs

A collection of Calabrese proverbs with English translations.

The following Calabrese Proverbs were submitted and translated by ICC member, Dr. Tom Lucente (#200)



«L’unita fa la forza.» "Unity makes strength."
«L’ossu spartutu, santitat e rhienti.» "The divided bone protects the teeth," or
"The health of the teeth depend on their individual anchor."
[Self reliance]
«Si vulissi sappiri i secreti e ra casa, dumanna i criaturri.» "If you wish to know the secrets of a family, ask the little children."
«A pignata rriciare a la frisura, arrasatte ca mi tingi!» "The pot tells the frying pan, move over or you'll dirty me!"
«I guai erra pignata e sa la cucchiara!» "The pots' troubles are known only to the stirring spoon!"
«U culu se para quannu e pue, accumpagnatu, se trova imparatu!» "One ‘trains’ the rear end in private...for when in company, it will then be disciplined!"
«Stipate u pane, no de fatica.» "Put your bread aside (to save) never your chores."
«A lavare a capu e ru ciucciu, ci perdi a l’isia!» "Washing the head of donkey is a waste of soap!"
[Papa’s adage for futile admonitions to stubborn sons.]
«A tuttu ci’e riparu..abasta cu'n sonna la campana. . .che a la morte sullu un ci’e riparu!» "For all problems, save the tolling of the bell, there are solutions. Death alone is without solutions."
«È megghiu nu juornu rrhe tauru ca centanni manzu!» "Better a day as a bull than a hundred years as domesticated cattle!"
«A vucca scigata un capire a nessuna rolla.» "A big mouth fits nowhere."
«Fatte l’onure ca vrigogna un tinne mancari mai.» "Think about creating honor for yourself since shame will always be abundant. "
«U gutaru continuu, bucca la petra.» "A constant water drip will pierce a stone."
[Persistence pays off.]
«Lu culu che n’una bistu mai cammisa, appena che la bista la cacau!» "The backside (the person) that never saw a shirtail will dirty it the first time he wears one!"
«Si ncontri nu lupu e nu griechu, ammazza u griechu e las’ u lupu.» "If perchance you meet a wolf and a Greek, kill the Greek and leave the wolf."
[The Bourbons and the King of Naples often employed Greek or Albanian mercenaries to fight the Brigands and rebels of the Sila.]
«U tamarru e lu crapiettu, piglialu e scurcialu pe lu piettu.» "The arrogant and the kid-goat, take and skin them from the breast."
«Peh la vucca pati.» "You will suffer by what your mouth has uttered."
[When you were bound to keep a secret and reveal it, this was said to show that now you'll suffer the consequence.]
«Lichate u spittu.» "Lick the spit."
[Used to indicate that the "free ride" is over. When the meat is gone from the barbecue spit, all that is left is the fat on the spit. When Papa said this, it meant enjoy what your doing cause you'll never do it again.]
«E mortu nu lupu a Jimmela!» "A wolf had died in Jimmela!"
[a district of the Sila region outside of San Giovanni in Fiore, It was used by my mom as a complaint when others sorrows were not taken seriously by selfish people.]
«Mmiscate cu genti megliu de tie, e faccie e spise.» "Associate with those better than yourself and treat them well."
«Chi tenna mali vicini, se azza cu mali mattini.» "He who has bad neighbors, awakens daily to bad mornings."
«Pura regina avutu bisognu era vicina.» "Even a queen needs a neighbor."
«E megliu nu pezze e pane cu cipuli a casa tua ca storzi a la casa e l’attri.» "Better bread and onion in your own home than than great feasts in the homes of others."
«Ammazzami! Ma jetta mi cu li genti mie.» "Kill me, if you must! But throw my body to my own people."
«U messagieru ‘un porta pena!» "The messenger is immune to prosecution!"
«E rhe spine, nescia la rosa.» "Amidst thorns, the rose blooms."
[Often said of a great kid from bad parents.]
«La casa ccu sprovieri un c’ie trasere ccu dui pieri.» "Enter very carefully (with one foot) the home that is extravagantly decorated."
«A superbia arriva a cavallo e pue ritorna a pieri.» "Arrogance arrives on horseback but returns on foot."
[The Calabrese didn't tolerate braggarts.]
«Puorci e merchanti si sannu dopo morti.» "Merchants, like swine, are evaluated after they are dead."
«U pisciu puzza era capu.» "A fish rots from the head."
«U buonu jurnu se virre e ra mattina.» "A good day is obvious from the morning."
«Cchiu te vasci, cchiu mosrhi lu culu.» "The more you bend over, the more you show your backside"
[Another plea to stand firm and don't give up your priciples.]
«Piscia chiarru e ‘nculo a lu miericu!» "Urinate clearly and send the doctor to blazes!"
[Roughly translated, a plea to remain innocent, thus fearing no man!]
«Ogni spicchju é spacchju.» "Every little bit helps."
«Munti ccu munti ‘un se juncianu mai, ma cristiani ccu cristiani se juncianu sempre.» "The mountains may never meet other mountains...but people will always meet again."
«Focculariellu miu, piritariellu miu.» "My own hearth, my own flatulence."
[Do as you will in your own home.]
«U pue, e puvariellu!» "Later, is a pauper!"
[Mamma's response to "I'll take the garbage out later!"]
«U sule a chinne vidari, scafari.» "The sun warms whomever it sees."
[Mother Calabria telling us God and nature make no distinction among peoples.]
«Se fa lu cuntu senz u tavernaru.» "Totals the bill without the innkeeper."
[Doesn't consider all the facts]
«A gatta presciarula a fat’ i gattarielli orbi!» "The hasty cat gives birth to blind kittens!"
«L’uomino allu munnu tri bote e cuntentu
quannu ammazza lu puorco, sona e canta,
quannu se fa la varba nu momentu
quannu se ‘nzura pe na vota tantu.»
"A man is happy three times on this earth
when he slaughters a pig, he plays and sings,
when he shaves for the first time, just a moment,
when he marries for just another moment"
«U miericu pietusu fa la piaga verminusa.» "The physician with too much pity (i.e squeamish) will cause the wound to fester."
«Cume ti vidanu te descrivanu!» "As they see you, they describe you"
«A caccarella un c’ie vo culu strittu» "When one has diarrhea...don't tighten your bowels."
[When you are celebrating don't spare the expense.]
«Chjicaté juncia, chjicaté, ca' a chjinna passa!» "Bend, reed, bend for the flood will pass!"
[This is a call to be flexible and bend a little to survive.]
«Chinne sparagnia, sprega!» "He who saves, wastes."
«A vutta se sparagnia quan’ e chinna. Quan e bacante, se sparagnia sula!» "Save when the barrel is full. When it's empty it saves itself!"
«A gallina fa l’uovo e a lu gallu cie vruscia lu culu!» "The hen lays the egg and the rooster complains of the pain"
«Aprile fa li juri e maiu ne tenna l’onuri!» "April makes the flowers but May gets the credit!"
«Palma mpusa, gregne gravusa.» "A wet Palm makes for full barns."
«Nte namurare e fimmine u Jiuvi Santu o ciucci u mise e Maiu.» "Never fall in love with a woman on Holy Thursday or a donkey in May"
[On Holy Thursday everyone looks "holy and good" and in May every Donkey brays healthily! Things are not what they seem.]
«Quannu tieni nu buonu jurnu, pigliateillu, ca chillu tristo nun te pò mancare!» "When you have a happy day enjoy it, for the sad ones are inevitable."
«L’alburru peccà, a rama riciva ciangia lu justu pellu peccaturru.» "Though the tree alone sins, the branch must suffer, the just must weep for sinners faults."
«Se a vechhjia putissi e la juventu volissi u munnu e nuovu se facissi!» "If the old where able, and the young were willing, the world would be made anew!"
«Mintammicce impizzu mpizzu ca pue largu minne fazzu sule!» "Let me in just a little, then I'll make my own way!"
[A desire for a chance to succeed. A promise kept by the Calabrese immigrant in America.]
«Pure lu megliu vinu si po fare acitu!» "Even the best wine can turn to vinegar!"
«Due zumpa la crapa, zumpa la ciarbella.» "Where the nanny goat jumps, so will the kid."
[Like mother, like daughter.]
«Chi te vo chiu bene è ra mamma, te inganna.» "He who pretends to love you more than your mother, is deceiving you."
«Dio è fa e lu riavlu la cucchia.» "God makes them and the devil joins them."
«Mariti e figli, come dio te manna.» "Husbands and children, as the Lord God sends them."
«Quannu se liticano i mulinari, guardate la farina!» When the millers fight, watch your flour!
«A porcheria chiu a rihimanie, chiu puzzari!» "Manure (and scandal), the more you disturb
it (talk about it) the more it stinks!"
«Mamme, rhinari e gioventu, si ciangianu quannu une tienni chiu!» "Mothers, money and youth are only appreciated when they are gone!"
«Cristo che criasti li citruli e le criasti cu lu culu amaru!» "Christ who has made the cucumber but it has a bitter part"  
[Even the sweetest fruit has some bitterness to it and the "bad" must be taken with the "good." A great example of the Calabrese play on word sounds, i.e Cristo-Criasti (Christ-Creates)]
«Chine canciari ‘a via vecchia pe la via nova sa chillu chi lassari ma un sa chillu chi trova.» "He who leaves the old ways for the new, knows what he left behind but not what he is to find."
«Viatu chine fa lu pane, amaru chine aspetta la kolura.» "Blessed is he who makes his own bread, bitter the person who awaits a loaf from others."
«Nu patre crisciari cientu figli, ma cienti figli ‘un campunu nu patre.» "A father can raise one hundred children, but one hundred children can't care for one father."
«Moghie e sorelli, cuorni veri.» "Wives and sisters...true cuckolding"
«Alla a casa che nun c’e pane, c’e su trivulu abbattutu, a mughera é na putana u maritu é nun curnutu.» "In the home that lacks bread, the wife is a prostitute and her husband a cuckold"
«U riavulu ‘un tenna piecore, ma te vinna la lana!» "The devil has no sheep but sells wool!"
«Quannu i santi ti volanu auitare, a via erra casa u sannu!» "If the saints want to help you, they know where you live!"
«A faticha è fata....guai a cchi le feta!» "Work is magical...woe to those who find it loathsome!"
[literally, "to whom it stinks"]