Sicilian Language or Siculish

What is Sicilian?

Sicilian (u sicilianu) is neither a dialect nor an accent. It is a not a variant of Italian, a local version of Italian, and it’s not even derived from what became Italian. In fact, in truth, Sicilian preceded Italian as we know it.

A Mediterranean Language

Though its origin is still somewhat debated, most linguistic scholarship traces Sicilian to a group of languages spoken originally by the peoples who populated the island up to some 700 years a.D., not all of them, possibly, of Hindu-European origin; the Sicani, originally from Iberia, the Elimi from Libya, and the Siculi, from mainland Italy. Many linguistic influences followed with the waves of the invaders: from the Semitic languages Phoenician and Punic, the languages of the Carthaginians, then Greek, and only then Latin, through the Romans.

Hence it is fundamentally a true Mediterranean language, onto which Arabic and Arab influences were also layered through conquest. The Latin penetration of the language or languages that were already spoken in Sicily was likely slow, not particularly literate (not high Latin), and took root in different degrees in different areas. The same for Arabic influences, which remained stronger and longer in some areas of Sicily, while other areas remained most strongly Greco-Roman. Hence, all of the influences grafted on in different locations in different ways, and some others as well: French, Provençal, German, Catalan, and Spanish.

What’s Siculish?

Sicilian spoken by Italian immigrants living in the United States (or the Sicilianization of English) is called Siculish: English-Sicilian terms such as carru for car, for example. It is a hybrid of terms coined by Sicilian immigrants to make English their own.

If you are interested in taking a look at some literary Sicilian writing, check out Giovanni Verga, Luigi Pirandello, Leonardo Sciascia, and, on the contemporary shelf, Andrea Camilleri, whose Detective Montalbano is most famous.


Filippo, Michael San. “An Introduction to Sicilian: The Language of Sicily.” ThoughtCo, Apr. 5, 2023,

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