Pizza is an iconic food with roots that trace back to its inception in Italy many years ago. While the details on the creation of the word Pizza and the food itself are a bit hazy, that doesn’t stop people from speculating what the word translates to in Italian.
From Greece to Germany, many different cultures throughout history ate pizza-like foods with bread layered with toppings like herbs and sauces. Still, the first “pizza” as we know it today originated in Naples, Italy.
Thanks to John Florio, the word Pizza became an official entry in an Italian-English dictionary in 1858. The definition in that initial dictionary was “a small cake.”
However, it wasn’t until later that Pizza became generally known as the household name slices of delicious sauce, cheese, and herbs on bread that we know it as today.
So this begs the question, does Pizza have the same meaning in the Italian language as in the English language? Keep reading to find out!
It’s a common misconception that the word ‘pizza’ in Italian translates to ‘pie.’ Many people assume this because pizzas are often referred to as a pie or ‘pizza pie,’, especially in many parts of the United States.
Another reason why this is a common guess is that there is an argument that part of the origin story for Pizza hails from Greece. Many language scholars have speculated that the word Pizza derives from ‘pitta’ in Greek, which does mean ‘pie.’
While there may be some influence between the Greek ‘pitta’ and Pizza, the actual translation for pie in Italian is ‘torta,’ not ‘pizza.’ Which describes a classic pie. Baked pastry stuffed with a sweet taste or savory filling.
Some will argue that Pizza is essentially just a pie without the top piece of dough. At the same time, other pizza purists insist that Pizza is its own food with no correlation. It’s also worth noting that Pizza’s word ‘pie’ is used on the East Coast of the United States, so that it may be a regional term.
English Pizza = Italian Pizza
So, if Pizza doesn’t mean ‘pie’ in Italian, what does it mean?
When you look up the direct translation on Google or in a translation app, the word Pizza is the same in both English and Italian. Therefore, there is no translation because both languages use the same word to refer to Pizza as we all know it.
While this seems almost too simple to be accurate, it is. Italians and Americans, and most of the rest of the world, agree on the definition of Pizza as flat rolled-out dough topped with savory tomato sauce and layers of cheese. This is Pizza in the simplest of terms.
One major perk to this universal translation is that you can be sure of what you will receive when you order a pizza anywhere. This is not the case with so many other things that have contradictory meanings across different languages.
Middle Eastern Influence
You might be surprised to hear that some of the inspiration behind Pizza came from the Middle East, not just Italy and Greece. The creation of Pizza indeed was a combination of so many different things, so it makes sense that it is so widely enjoyed to this day.
Although the Pizza that we eat today was an evolution of what we now refer to as focaccia bread, there is some correlation to the ‘lahmacun’ that originated in places like Egypt and Isreal.
Lahmacun is flatbread baked in large clay ovens that originated in the Middle East. It is very similar to the brick-oven Pizza that many of us know and love today and was undoubtedly part of the multicultural influence behind the modern-day Pizza.
Although not everyone agrees on the origin of Pizza, both as a word and as a dish, they certainly agree that it is delicious!
There is a reason why there is a pizza shop on nearly every street corner worldwide.
There are many different versions of Pizza, whether you’re looking for a classic Margherita or a Chicago-style deep-dish pizza or something in between. Pizza’s appeal transcends cultural differences, flavor preferences, and more.
Many language enthusiasts may be frustrated that there isn’t a clear and concise story of where ‘pizza’ came from and the fact that it is a word that exists in multiple languages. But unfortunately, Pizza is one of the few words that lack a translation and are still universally used regardless of the language.
Once you have a bite of Pizza, you won’t be arguing about where the word came from or what it means because you’ll be too busy enjoying it!