“Curtìgghiu”: What Does It Mean & When Should You Use It?

Gossiping isn’t exclusive to any culture or type of person, but there are definitely stereotypes that we think of when we think of the word “gossip.” Depending on where you are in the world, you may think of two moms watching soccer, teenage girls, or aunts or grandmothers standing in the grocery store or street gossiping for hours at a time. (Of course, men gossip too!)

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The Tradition of Gossip in Sicily

In Sicily, this stereotype is so well known that there’s an entire phrase to describe gossiping in the street: “curtìgghiu,” sometimes spelled cuttìgghiu. It’s an extremely common sight to see people standing outside of their homes discussing the latest news and neighborhood gossip in Sicily, which is why this word is almost exclusively used there.

If you use the word with anyone who is not from the island or does not understand the local dialect, you’re likely to be met with a bewildered expression!

Where did the term “curtìgghiu” come from?

“Curtìgghiu” developed as a phrase to describe courtyards inside of buildings, which is relatively common in apartment buildings in Sicily, and was also common in palaces.

The inner courtyard would provide sunlight into the front portion of the apartments and provide additional space, or link areas of a palace together. This style of building is still common in historical buildings across Europe, and in some parts of Asia.

The word is thought to have developed to mean “gossip” because it was so easy to not only or a large number of people to see two people gossiping, but to hear them, too. This style of courtyard often amplifies sounds, so someone down in the courtyard is likely to hear two people talking on a walkway a few stories up.

Where the word originated isn’t known, but it likely developed from the word for courtyard in Italian “cortile,” and Spanish, “cortijo.”

How is “curtìgghiu” used?

Curtìgghiu can be used in the same way as you would use the word gossip, though be aware that it’s likely only Sicily natives will be familiar with the word. It is now commonly used in Sicily, so you can use this word to fondly refer to people who seem to be passing the time by gossiping with one another in a public space.

If you use it correctly with a Sicily native, you’ll be sure to impress them with your deep understanding of their culture, so give it a try if the right moment arises!

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