Sicilian Proverbs

A collection of the most beautiful proverbs and sayings of the Sicilian dialect

There is a word, a phrase, for every moment and every occasion: a true Sicilian knows this very well. Often when the conversation reaches a dead end, a proverb can go a long way, and a one-liner can be so effective that any additional words are needless.

These may cause laughter or a smile or simply a nod accompanied by a serious facial expression, depending on the degree of seriousness of the conversation; our grandparents appear as unimaginably wise to our eyes, when they interrupt the domestic quiet with a proverb out of the blue. Time suddenly stands still for a moment and we are left watching them with a mix of admiration and shock.

Each Sicilian family has its own tradition, proverbs run from generation to generation just as chromosomes do: some, very rare, dwell in small houses inhabited by a couple of old men, unaware of their incalculable value. They are sitting there just as original copies of a Monet painting, hanging from a worn suburban kitchen wall, bought at the flea market on a Sunday afternoon.

We do not know all of the beautiful Sicilian proverbs, we would be too rich (hence not here!); but we can try, along with you, to collect some of the most beautiful and meaningful and make them available to the broader public. By doing so, we’ll try not to allow them to be lost over time. Here are our favorites:

Du’ su’ i putenti, cu avi assà e cu nun avi nenti

“There’s two types of powerful, those who own too much and those who don’t own a thing”


Cu lassa u vecchiu cu u novu, sa chi lassa ma nun sa chi trova

“Whoever decides to change is aware of not knowing what the change may bring”


L’ amuri è come a tussi…nun si po ammucciari

“Love is like a cough… impossible to hide”


Cu nesci arrinesci

“Who leaves – their own comfort zone – succeds!”


Lu rispettu è misuratu, cu lu porta l’avi purtato

“Respect is measured: whoever pays it to others, will be respected”


Nuddu si pigghia si ‘un s’assumigghia

“Noone is attracted to who they do not resemble (share smth in common)”


Quannu u diavulu t’alliscia voli l’arma

“If the devil pays you compliments, he wants your soul”


Casa quantu stai e tirrinu quantu viri

“Home for as long as you need to be, and land as far as the eye can see”


Sali mitticcinne na visazza, conzola quantu sempre è cucuzza

“You may garnish it with as much salt and pepper as you want, but pumpkin still has little flavour”


Ci dissi u surci a nuci; dammi tempu ca ti perciu

“The mouse said to the nut: give me time and I shall reach you”


Austu e riustu capu i mmennu

“After August, winter starts”

E’ megghiu ‘n curnutu o su un minchiune unn’ègghiè

“A cuckold in his own town is better than an idiot anywhere else”


Nun resta granu a metere e mancu fimmini a maritari

“There’s no grain to collect, nor women to marry”


Cu avi na figghia nda fascia..nun pò diri a nuddu “bagascia”

“Those who still have a young daughter..cannot speak badly about other women!


Chiù nniuri ri mezzannotte nun pò fari

“It can’t get any darker than midnight”


Unni cari, u sceccu si suse

“Wherever the donkey falls, he stands up” (Although you may fall, sooner or later you will stand up again)


Omino vecchio e cavolo ciurùtu, n’zo cchi ci fai, tutto è perduto

“With old men and flowering cabbages…there is nothing left to do”


Cù duna pì primo, duna a’ncarzari, cu duna d’appressu duna cu tuttu u versu

“Those who cause harm first, can expect greater harm in return”


Unni ti chiovi ti sciddica

“Where it rains, it is slippy”


Tantu a quartara va all’acqua ca si rumpi o si ciacca

“The vase filled with water, sooner or later will break or crash”


Cantami suoggira, sentimi nuora

“Sing to the mother-in-law, listen to the sister-in-law”


Cu pratica u zoppu, all’annu azzuppia

“Who walks with the cripple, sooner or later will start limping”