Italian Lessons


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. -Che disgrazia? -Qualcosa de [di] male. Perché oggi sto troppo bene, canterino.

Tomorrow, some calamity will happen to me. What calamity? -Something bad. Because, today, I feel too good, songbird.

Captions 3-6, Fratelli Taviani La passione e l'utopia - Part 13

 Play Caption


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! È stata, è stata 'na [una] disgrazia!

He fell and hit his head but I didn't want that. It was, it was a terrible accident.

Captions 20-21, Il Commissario Manara S1EP6 - Reazione a Catena - Part 13

 Play Caption


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 - Part 3

 Play Caption


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. Vergognati!

You are the disgrace of our family. Shame on you!

Captions 46-47, La Ladra EP. 8 - Il momento giusto - Part 11

 Play Caption


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 - Part 12

 Play Caption


Io non sono come quei disgraziati che parte [sic: partono] per fame, ma'. Io vado a Roma per fare lu [pugliese: il] cinema, ma', sia chiaro, eh, cinema.

I'm not like those poor guys who leave because they're hungry, Ma. I'm going to Rome to make movies, Ma, to be clear, uh, the movies.

Captions 41-43, Volare - La grande storia di Domenico Modugno Ep. 1 - Part 4

 Play Caption


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

What would you say? -Well... I would say... poor unlucky lady! -Uh-huh. -Uh-huh!

Captions 49-50, Un medico in famiglia S1 EP1 - Casa nuova - Part 6

 Play Caption


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

 Play Caption


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 - Part 9

 Play Caption



You May Also Like