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Disgrazia: A fickle friend

Let's look at a false friend. Not always false, but frequently. 

Una disgrazia

When something bad happens, like an accident, or a natural disaster, one word Italians commonly use is una disgraziaÈ successa una disgrazia (something bad happened/there's been an accident).


Domani, me [mi] capiterà 'na [una] disgrazia.

Tomorrow, some calamity will happen to me.

-Che disgrazia?

What calamity?

-Qualcosa de [di] male.

-Something bad.

Perché oggi sto troppo bene, canterino.

Because, today, I feel too good, songbird.

Captions 3-6, Fratelli Taviani - La passione e l'utopia

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The woman says it: something bad. In the following example, a suspect is describing someone dying as a terrible accident, not a murder.


È caduto e ha battuto la testa, ma non volevo!

He fell and hit his head but I didn't want that.

È stata, è stata 'na [una] disgrazia!

It was, it was a terrible accident.

Captions 20-21, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP6 - Reazione a Catena

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Here, again, a terrible tragedy:


Era sull'autobus dove è successa la disgrazia.

She was on the bus where the tragedy occurred.

Caption 12, Il Commissario Manara - S2EP9 - L'amica ritrovata

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The cognate is, of course, "a disgrace," but if we look up disgrace, we see other words that are used more commonly, such as una vergogna.


Tu sei la vergogna della nostra famiglia.

You are the disgrace of our family.


Shame on you!

Captions 46-47, La Ladra - EP. 8 - Il momento giusto

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So, disgrazia often refers to a natural disaster or someone dying suddenly. It's just something to keep in mind (tenere a mente or tenere presente).  Because it might happen that when you are traveling in Italy, you'll get some bad news. It's important to know that disgrazia might refer to a tragedy, an accident, a misfortune. Not necessarily will the speaker be talking about a disgrace.

A related term: disgraziato

As we have mentioned in the past, Italian and English don't always correspond regarding parts of speech.


Italians love to call each other names (just like lots of folks). One way to say that someone did something you totally do not approve of is to call them a disgraziato (a disgraceful fellow). We have to be a bit careful because it can either mean someone who has fallen on misfortune, but it can also mean someone who ought to be ashamed of himself, so context is key.

Don't take our word for it.  Let's look at some examples:


Disgraziato, ti ho scoperto con le mani dentro al sacco!

You bastard, I've discovered you with your hands in the bag!

Caption 50, Un medico in famiglia S1 - EP2 - Il mistero di Cetinka

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Io non sono come quei disgraziati che parte [sic: partono] per fame, ma'.

I'm not like those poor guys who leave because they're hungry, Ma.

Io vado a Roma per fare lu [pugliese: il] cinema, ma',

I'm going to Rome to make movies, Ma,

sia chiaro, eh, cinema.

to be clear, uh, the movies.

Captions 41-43, Volare - La grande storia di Domenico Modugno

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Keep in mind that when you want to call someone a disgraziato, you need to distinguish between masculine and feminine and singular and plural.

Disgraziato can be used as an adjective or as a noun. We could say that as an adjective it is more likely referring to misfortune:


Tu cosa diresti? -Be'...

What would you say? -Well...

direi... povera disgraziata la signora! -Eh. -Eheh!

I would say... poor unlucky lady! -Uh-huh. -Uh-huh!

Captions 49-50, Un medico in famiglia S1 - EP1 - Casa nuova

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As a noun (especially if well-articulated) it might very well be talking about a "bad" person:


Disgraziato! Delinquente! Assassino!

Scoundrel! Delinquent! Murderer!

Caption 58, Psicovip - Super Minivip - Ep 17

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Or it can be a combination.


Speriamo la prossima stazione di questo disgraziato sia qui vicino.

Let's hope the poor bastard's next stop is near here.

Caption 60, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP2 - Vendemmia tardiva

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