Trying to find the origin of the Spanish word malandrín I found out that the word comes from the Italian word malandrino, as stated by the RAE's dictionary, and that its first uses are from the end of the 14th century, as I have found some cases in two different texts from around 1385.

Now these two cases could come from adaptations of those texts written in a more recent period, but if those cases are real then the Italian word malandrino must be very, very old.

About its etymology, this page states that it is composed of mal (Italian: 'cattivo') and landrino (in the sense of the Italian 'vagabondo', 'scioperato', 'ladruncolo'). Nonetheless, the page does not say anything about when it was first used.

So, how old is the word? Does it go back until the Latin language or was it created around the 13-14th centuries and then ported into the Spanish language? What are its first uses in Italian texts? On the other hand, is that eymology accepted? Are there any other etymologies proposed?

3 Answers 3


Grande dizionario della lingua italiana gives some of the oldest occurences known of "malandrino". There you can find an example of usage from Bartolomeo da San Concordio (Pisa, 1262 - 1347) (see also this source):

Anche sollecitava malandrini e ladroni d’ogni generazione, de’ quali in quel luogo avea grande abbondanza.

There is another one from Domenico Cavalca (Vicopisano, Pisa, circa 1270 - Pisa, 1342) (see also this):

Consigliando ed ordinando una guerra, n’escono danni e guasti ed omicidi, e danni tanti e mali tanti e di colpa e di pena, per molti che, perduti i beni loro, diventano furi e malandrini.

This one is from Giovanni Villani (Firenze, circa 1280 - 1348) (see also here):

Il giovedì medesimo si levò una quantità di malandrini di più di mille, e si raunaróno per combattere i Visdomini e rubarli sotto titolo de' difetti di Messer Cierretieri loro consorto fatti intorno al Duca, ma [...].

There is another one from Boccaccio (Certaldo, 1313 - Certaldo, 1375):

Questi fu messer Rinieri de’ Pazzi di Valdarno, uomo similmente pessimo e iniquo, e notis­simo predone e malandrino.

There are other ones from Franco Sacchetti (Ragusa, Dalmazia, circa 1330 - circa 1400) and from Fiore di Leggende. Cantari antichi (14th century).

Main Italian dictionaries, such as Grande dizionario della lingua italiana, Zingarelli vocabulary (the 2011 reprint of the twelfth edition can be downloaded for free on Kindle) and, as already mentioned by abarisone in his answer, Treccani dictionary, give this etymology

comp. di malo e *landrino, dal ted. landern ‘vagabondare’

that is, it's a compound of malo e *landrino, which comes from German landern, to wander.

  • Are those examples the exact texts written in the 14th century? Or are they adaptations? Usually I have troubles trying to understand Spanish texts from the same century, but I almost perfectly understand those Italian texts.
    – Charlie
    Jul 22, 2019 at 14:58
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    @Charlie: I don't know about Spanish, but Italian has not changed hugely since, say, Dante's times. An educated Italian can, with some care, read Boccaccio's Decameron.
    – DaG
    Jul 22, 2019 at 15:04
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    @Charlie: They are not adaptations, they are real 14th century texts. That was something that also surprised me the first time I tried to read something from Dante or from Boccaccio. I'm from Barcelona, but I can assure you that I can understand Boccaccio's Decameron original text better than a Spanish or Catalan text from the 14th century. And Dante is for me easier to understand than Ramon Llull.
    – Charo
    Jul 22, 2019 at 15:18
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    @Charlie They are likely original (at worst with modernized spelling). For example, you can find the text by Boccaccio at this page and the text by Bartolomeo da San Concordio at this page
    – Denis Nardin
    Jul 22, 2019 at 16:12

The Zingarelli Italian (monolingual) dictionary (behind a paywall) gives for each lemma a more or less approximate year for its first known occurrence. For malandrino, it gives “av. 1347”, that is, before 1347: apparently an occurrence is known for that year, but the lexicographers suspect it was already in use before that.

You might also want to have a look at the occurrences of malandrino in the Grande Dizionario della Lingua Italiana; examining the literary examples given there, you may reconstruct something of the word's early history.

Finally, beware of etimo.it: as explained in the comments here, it reproduces an outdated, amateurish work. In this case, for instances, it mentions the word *landrino that other dictionaries, like GDLI, mention but registering it as “undocumented”.


About the etymology of the term malandrino Treccani's dictionary states:

malandrino s. m. e agg. [prob. comp. di malo e **landrino*, affine al tosc. landra3; cfr. anche l’ant. e region. malandro, con sign. analoghi, che potrebbe anche essere una retroformazione da malandrino].

and also on Treccani's dictionary of Synonyms and Antonyms you can read:

malandrino [prob. grafia unita aplologica di malolandrino, dal ted. landern "vagabondare" affine al tosc. landra "donna di malaffare"], fam.

On this book titled De' vergati libro primo. Del dottor Pietro Leseyna napolitano - 1616, as an alternative, it is stated that the origin could come from the greek language:

La Crusca notata d'error nella voce » malandrino sua vera etimologia, color nero, e suo significato. neri huomini,e quali.

and again:

... la sua origine tiene dalla composizione di μέλας, che significa nero,& da ἀνήρἀνδρὸς, che vuol dire huomo, si che malandrino tanto vale, quato che nero huomo; e perciò scelerato, e di mala vita.

that means its origin comes from the composition of the two words black and man.

In order to establish how old the term malandrino is (thanks @egreg) The Sabatini-Coletti dictionary proposes XIV century.


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