Wondrous Words Wednesday: cicerone

Wondrous Words Wednesday is a weekly meme where we share new (to us) and interesting (to us, again) words we encountered in our readings. See this week round-up at BermudaOnion’s blog!

This week I have no word to share from my readings, but I thought I would look up something that came up lately.


A couple of weeks ago we (as Italians in Portugal) had a guest from Greece and as we were driving her to the sights the word “cicerone” came up. Cicerone is Italian for Cicero, and we use it to mean a guide, especially a tourist guide. A Portuguese colleague explained that you can use the same word in that sense in Portuguese as well. As we spoke in English, we wondered if the same was true in English: can you say “cicero” to mean a guide? But because no English mother tongue was present, at the time we were left wondering.

Well, apparently the answer is no. In English, you use the Italian word, “cicerone”. I guess this comes from the times when English-speaking people came to Italy on the “Grand Tour”.

I know this won’t be a great find for many of my readers, but I thought it was funny enough to be worth sharing!


(All definitions are taken from the Concise Oxford English Dictionary © 2008 via WordReference.com unless otherwise stated.)


7 comments on “Wondrous Words Wednesday: cicerone

  1. Very interesting. So, when I go to Italy, I will look for a cicerone and when I’m in Greece or Portugal I will hire a cicero. Is that right?

  2. Uhm, no. As far as I could understand, you use the Italian word everywhere, i.e. a cicerone. And the Italian word itself comes from the Italian translation of the (Latin) name Cicero.
    Hope this is more clear now 🙂

  3. Very interesting! Your post led me to look up Madonna’s maiden name, which I thought to be a similar word; it’s Ciccone.

  4. Thank you for commenting. And here I was, thinking I was writing about a word that any English speaker would know! I’m glad you found this interesting 🙂

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