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Italian Language/What is the word, and what does it mean?


QUESTION: 65-70 years ago I grew up in an Italian neighborhood, and while the parents spoke Italian, my playmates did not. I did pick up "manga" etc., when they were called in for supper.

Another word that was used sounded like mull-uch, and it seemed to be an evil eye, or curse to be "put" on someone. I still say it in that context, but have never heard it since I left that city.

What do you suppose I heard?  And what does it really mean? Any ideas?

Thanks for any help.  Not important, just a curious old woman <G>

ANSWER: Hello,
what you heard was "malocchio", which translates as "evil eye" (from male=bad and occhio=eye). It means exactly what you stated: a curse supposedly cast by somebody's malevolent glare.
Its a very ancient superstition that is still popular in the Mediterranean area and has spread to other parts of the world as well. In Italy, you are supposed to protect yourself by showing the "corna" (=horns, i.e. the sign of the horns), touching your genitals (especially if you are a man) or wearing a talisman, such as a "cornetto" (a small horn, usually made of red coral).

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I then pondered the pronunciation.  An Italian neighbor has schooled me in the ci in Italian spoken ch in Eng.  And the ch in Ital. spoken si in Eng. In fact his name is Cifani which he pronounces ch (Eng)

So I wondered about malocchio, with its ch so I went to several pronunciation sites and got two versions

ma  loch  io   with the ch said as in English (porch)

BUT another site  m a l o k y o   with the hard sound

I've already schooled myself to say bruschetta (ketta) and tell others, too. I give them the chianti and zucchini  examples.  But NOW... ???

Would this be a local or area pronunciation (say, North Italy v. South?)

Gee, I just noticed your last name... MarKESani?   Or  MarCHESani?

This is really fun. Retired teachers never satisfy their love of learning.  Thanks for your interest.


Hello again,
Malocchio is always pronounced as "malokyo", with an hard sound.
The letter K is not part of the Italian alphabet, so the sounds it represents is instead written C or CH, depending on the vowels that follows it.
CH always corresponds to K in all areas of Italy, there's no local variation to this rule.
So, my last name is pronounced MarKEsani.

In case you want to know more, here you are the rules about C/CH usage, and whether the sound is hard or soft:
- C before A, O, U --> hard: casa (house) = Kasa; Conto (account) Konto; Custodia (custody) = Kustodia
- C before I and E --> soft: cibo (food) = CHibo; cena (dinner) = CHena
- to make an hard sound before I and E, use CH: chiesa (church) = Kiesa; barche (boats) = barKe

The same goes with G/GH.

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Francesco Marchesani


I`m interested and have deep knowledge in Italian history, traditions and culture. I can answer your questions on my country`s language and literature, as well as Latin language and literature.


I live in Pavia (northern Italy, near Milan) and have strong interests in my country's history.

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