Sicilian Proverbs and Sayings

Palermo: Vucciaria food market
Palermo: Vucciaria food market.

Sicilian is a Romance language mainly spoken in Sicily, an Italian island in the Mediterranean Sea. The language is distinct from Italian, though the two languages have influenced each other and some people speak a dialect that combines elements of both. If you are ​traveling to Sicily or one of its nearby islands, you will want to familiarize yourself with some common Sicilian proverbs and expressions.

Faith

Like the rest of Italy, Sicily has been hugely influenced by the theology and traditions of the Roman Catholic Church. The language is filled with expressions related to faith, sin, and divine justice.

Ammuccia lu latinu 'gnuranza di parrinu.
Latin hides the stupidity of the priest.

Fidi sarva, no lignu di varca.
Faith is salvation, not the wood of a ship.

Jiri 'n celu ognunu vò; l'armu cc'è, li forzi no.
Everyone wants to go to heaven; the desire is there but the fortitude is not.

Lu pintimentu lava lu piccatu.
Repentance washes away sin.

Lu Signiuruzzu li cosi, li fici dritti, vinni lu diavulu e li sturcìu.
God made things straight, the devil came and twisted them.

Zoccu è datu da Diu, nun pò mancari.
What is given by God, can't be lacking.

Money

Many Sicilian proverbs, like those in English, are expressions of financial wisdom and advice that have been passed down through the ages, including recommendations about buying, selling, and living within one's means.

Accatta caru e vinni mircatu.
Buy good quality and sell at the market price.

Accatta di quattru e vinni d'ottu.
Buy at the cost of four and sell at the cost of eight.

Cu' accatta abbisogna di cent'occhi; cu' vinni d'un sulu.
Buyer beware.

Cui nun voli pagari, s'assuggetta ad ogni pattu.
Who doesn't intend to pay, signs any contract.

La scarsizza fa lu prezzu.
Scarcity sets the price.

Omu dinarusu, omu pinsirusu.
A wealthy man is a pensive man.

Riccu si pò diri cui campa cu lu so' aviri.
One who lives within his means can be said to be rich.

Sìggiri prestamenti, pagari tardamenti; cu' sa qualchi accidenti, non si ni paga nenti.
Collect promptly, pay slowly; who knows, in case of an accident, you'll pay nothing.

Unni cc'è oru, cc'è stolu.
Gold attracts a crowd.

Zicchi e dinari su' forti a scippari.
Ticks and money are difficult to pluck out.

Food & Drink

Sicily is famous for its cuisine, and it's no surprise that the language has several sayings about food and drink. These will surely come in handy when your'e out dining with family and friends.

Mancia càudu e vivi friddu.
Eat warm and drink cold.

Mancia di sanu e vivi di malatu.
Eat with gusto but drink in moderation.

Non c'è megghiu sarsa di la fami.
Hunger is the best sauce.

Weather & Seasons

Like other Mediterranean destinations, Sicily is known for its mild climate. The only unpleasant time of year might be February—the "worst month," according to one Sicilian saying.

Aprili fa li ciuri e le biddizzi, l'onuri l'havi lu misi di maju.
April makes the flowers and the beauty, but May gets all the credit.

Burrasca furiusa prestu passa.
A furious storm passes quickly.

Frivareddu è curtuliddu, ma nun c'è cchiù tintu d'iddu.
February may be short but it's the worst month.

Giugnettu, lu frummentu sutta lu lettu.
In July, store the grain under the bed.

Misi di maju, mèttiti 'n casa ligna e furmaggiu.
Use your time in May to stock up for winter.

Pruvulazzu di jinnaru càrrica lu sularu.
A dry January means a filled hayloft.

Si jinnaru 'un jinnaría, frivaru malu pensa.
If it isn't wintry in January then expect the worst in February.

Una bedda jurnata nun fa stati.
One beautiful day doesn't make a summer.

Miscellaneous

Some Sicilian expressions are common in English, too, such as batti lu ferru mentri è càudu ("strike while the iron is hot"). The sayings below can be used in a variety of situations.

A paisi unni chi vai, comu vidi fari fai.


When in Rome, do as the Romans do.

Batti lu ferru mentri è càudu.
Strike while the iron is hot.

Cani abbaia e voi pasci.
Dogs bark and oxen graze.

Cu' vigghia, la pigghia.
The early bird catches the worm.

Cui cerca, trova; cui sècuta, vinci.
Who seeks, finds; who perseveres, wins.

Cui multi cosi accumenza, nudda nni finisci.
Who starts many things, finishes nothing.

Cui scerri cerca, scerri trova.
Who looks for a quarrel, finds a quarrel.

Di guerra, caccia e amuri, pri un gustu milli duluri.
In war, hunting, and love you suffer a thousand pains for one pleasure.

È gran pazzia lu cuntrastari cu du' nun pô vinciri né appattari.
It's insane to oppose when you can neither win nor compromise.

Li ricchi cchiù chi nn'hannu, cchiù nni vonnu.
The more you have, the more you want.

'Ntra greci e greci nun si vinni abbraciu.
There's honor among thieves.

Nun mèttiri lu carru davanti li voi.
Don't put the cart before the horse.

Ogni mali nun veni pri nòciri.
Not every pain comes to harm you.

Quannu amuri tuppulìa, 'un lu lassari 'nmenzu la via.
When love knocks, be sure to answer.

Supra lu majuri si 'nsigna lu minuri.
We learn by standing on the shoulders of the wise.

Unni cc'è focu, pri lu fumu pari.
Where there's smoke, there's fire.

Vali cchiù un tistimonìu di visu, chi centu d'oricchia.
The testimony of one eyewitness is worth more than the hearsay of a hundred.