Pariare, voice of the verb "digest": history and etymology

by Francesco Li Volti

There is a verb among the boys of Naples that is used daily, constantly, tirelessly: let's talk about pariare, which today is a synonym for fun for everyone. "Paring"Is a term that, however, took on the meaning of" having fun "only in the seventies of the twentieth century as, until then, the ancient Neapolitans used to speak of" pariare "to refer to the act of digestion.

It seems strange but, between digesting and "standing“, There is a thin red thread that connects Naples with ancient Rome, Greece and Spain. Pariare would in fact derive from paleare, which in Latin means, in fact, to digest, but also from pariémi, which in Greek means having fun, relaxing.

When to parry meant to digest

Before diving into the boundless world of words of Latin origin, a necessary premise is needed. In imperial Rome, we know, there were no half measures. For example, sex was on the agenda, present in all its perversions on frescoes and monuments, as well as the rules of bon ton and etiquette. Even with regard to the act of defecation, the ancient Romans did not send them to say.

The image he decorated is famous the public baths of Ostia Antica, in which is written the solution, parodic / humorous, that the wise Solon, who lived in Athens in the sixth century BC, adopted after meals, to better digest: "Ut bene cacaret ventrem paleavit Solon", or "To shit well Solon massaged his belly".

Pariare, voice of the verb "digest": history and etymology

In this engraving the term "paleare”Plays a fundamental role. By massaging your stomach, the Romans were convinced of digest better and still today, when you slap your belly (paleare also means to slap in Italian, from which the famous "paliata“), The intention is to issue a burp.

Yes but what center digestion with fun? If he massaged his belly it was because he was not digesting well what he had eaten just before. On the contrary of the term "nun 'or I can parry" (I can't stand it), the intrinsic meaning of "I particularly like, I enjoy" would therefore be derived.

Furthermore, another hypothesis could be the feeling of well-being and pleasure that one feels after having digested a large meal, that same lightheartedness that one feels when having fun in the company of friends and relatives.

On the other hand, even in modern Italian, if we say "I don't digest it", we refer to a person we don't like, with whom we don't have fun, just like in the current Neapolitan in which, by extension, the verb pariare the meaning of enduring is also attributed: Nun te pozzo parià(I can't digest you, I can't stand you).

Even the Spaniards "pariah"

But sometimes, the Neapolitan language is so mysterious and fascinating that it's best to consider all possibilities. Many Neapolitan terms derive from other languages, from the French, from the Greek, fromArabic and last but not least give Spanish.

The etymology of "pariare"Could also be rooted in neighboring Spain, where"pareja" It means "Couple" or "companion": so here is the explanation of the origin of the verb, which indicates being in company and therefore having fun.

A disused term

We don't know why, but there are no other sources which certify the exact etymological location of this verb. In the ancient stanzas of Neapolitan poems, there is no trace of "pariare" as it is still understood today. Viviani, By Giacomo, Russian, none of them have ever mentioned it. We will have to wait until the 70s, for a reaffirmation of the term among the young Neapolitans who, after fifty years, still enjoy using the word today pariare.


Parlammoce accussì: Italian-Neapolitan, Neapolitan-Italian dictionary with proverbs and idioms, Claudio Pennino, Intra Moenia, Naples, 2008

Accademia della Crusca

Galen's diet. The nutrition of the ancient Romans, Mark Grant, Edizioni Mediterranee, Rome, 2005

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