Is there any connection between the Italian name for the city of Troy, "Troia", and the pejorative term 'troia'? Do native speakers figuratively reference the city in this expression, or is it simply coincidental?

(I'm imagining some description of Troy as a harlot in Ovid, or similar...)

I'm working with an 18th-century opera, and a sentence in the libretto mentioning Troy is missing from the musical score: so I don't know whether it's simply a practical cut or as a result of any sensibility.

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    The "pejorative term" (insult, really) is a female pig. Apr 14, 2020 at 17:59
  • Forgot to add: there is no connection to the name of the city. The word can be written alternatively as "troja", while the name of the city, for example in English, is written with Y (Troy). Apr 14, 2020 at 18:18
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    @linuxfansaysReinstateMonica While I agree that there is no connection to the name of the city, I wouldn't take the English spelling as relevant (after all the name comes to Italian from Greek via Latin, and i and j were considered the same latter until fairly recently). In fact there are nineteenth century texts writing the city as Troja.
    – Denis Nardin
    Apr 14, 2020 at 18:24
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    Italian "troia" is probably a cognate of French "truie" and Catalan "truja", which, as Italian "troia", also mean "female of a pig".
    – Charo
    Apr 14, 2020 at 18:27
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    My mother was born in the Italian city Troia in Apulia. When I visited Italy, the locals found it amusing when I said my mother was Troiana which they took to mean prostitute. My mother's family goes back generations in the town. Recent DNA test shows that our generation (my mother's children) have around 40% Greek heritage confirming to us at least, the strong connection to Greece & most likely to the Troy of antiquity. I studied opera and always felt there was a strong link to the story if Dido & Aeneas to our maternal home town. I believe that English composers of Henry Purcell's time looke
    – Ermina
    Jul 9, 2020 at 3:35

2 Answers 2


It's not completely clear if Italian word "troia" is etymologically related to the name of the city of Troy.

Treccani dictionary, gives this origin

lat. mediev. troia, forse voce espressiva che imita il grugnito del maiale

that is, it comes from Medieval Latin troia, that could be simply an expressive term that imitates the grunt of the pig.

Nevertheless, Grande dizionario della lingua italiana provides this explanation about the etymology of Italian "troia":

    Dal lat. mediev. troia (nel sec. VIlI), solitamente fatto de­rivare dal nome di un piatto tipico della gastronomia romana, il porcus troiānus, un maiale arrostito e farcito di altri animali, successivamente chiamato porcus de Troia e infine, semplicemente, troia. Altri invece ritiene che tale preparazione gastro­nomica, menzionata solo in Macrobio (V sec.), non sia in realtà mai esistita e non rappresenti che un'immaginazione scherzo­sa; il termine troia sarebbe quindi una semplice formazione popol. di origine espressiva.

That is, it comes from Medieval Latin troia (in the VIII century). It's believed that it could derive from the name of a typical dish of Roman gastronomy, called porcus troiānus, a roasted pig stuffed with other animals, later called porcus de Troia and finally, simply, troia. If it were that way, Italian troia would be etymologically related to the name of the city of Troy because Latin troiānus comes from Troia (Greek Tροία). But this dictionary explains that others believe that this gastronomic preparation, mentioned only by Macrobius (V century), actually never existed and it's only fruit of a playful imagination; the term troia would therefore be simply a formation of popular expressive origin (and it wouldn't be related to the name of the city of Troy).

Trésor de la langue française explains the etymology of French "truie" in a very similar way:

Du b. lat. troja (VIIIe s. Gl. de Cassel, éd. P. Marchot, 80: troia: suu), d'orig. obsc. Il était tentant de rapprocher le mot de porcus Trojanus relevé une seule fois chez MARTIAL, Saturn., III, 13, 13, formé d'apr. equus trojanus, pour désigner un porc farci, bourré de petit gibier (porcum Trojanum mensis inferant, quem illi ideo sic vocabant quasi aliis inclusis animalibus gravidum ut ille Trojanus equus gravidus armatis fuit); de porcus Trojanus, aurait été tiré [porcus de] Troja; cependant, il s'agit plus vraisemblablement d'un mot de création plaisante que de l'appellation habituelle d'un mets, ERN.-MEILLET; FEW t. 13, 2, p. 314 b. L'examen de l'aire géogr. de truie (dom. gallo-rom.; Italie du Nord; de la Catalogne et Sicile), ainsi que la forme troga, relevée par DU CANGE, s.v. troga, suggèrent à G. BREUER, ds Z. fr. Spr. Lit. t. 87, 1977, p. 170, un étymon gaul. *trogja, formé du rad. *trŏgh « tirer » (dont sont issus, notamment en a. et m. irl. des termes signifiant « fertile, productif ») et du suff. gaul. -jā.

I will try to translate it:

From Medieval Latin troja (VIII century Gl. de Cassel, éd. P. Marchot, 80: troia: suu), of obscure origin. It was tempting to relate it to the expression porcus Trojanus found only once in MARTIAL1, Saturn., III, 13, 13, formed from equus trojanus, to designate a pig stuffed with other small animals, (porcum Trojanum mensis inferant, quem illi ideo sic vocabant quasi aliis inclusis animalibus gravidum ut ille Trojanus equus gravidus armatis fuit); from porcus Trojanus, it would have been drawn [porcus of] Troja; however, it is more likely a term of amusing creation than the usual name for a dish, ERN.-MEILLET; FEW t. 13, 2, p. 314 b. The examination of the geographic area of truie (Gaul-Roman domain; Northern Italy; Catalonia and Sicily), as well as of the form troga, noted by DU CANGE, s.v. troga, suggest to G. BREUER, ds Z. Fr. Spr. Lit. t. 87, 1977, p. 170, a Gaul etymology *trogja, formed from the root *trŏgh (which in French means "tirer" and from which come some Old and Middle Irish terms meaning "fertile, productive") and Gaul suffix -jā.

1. I don't understand why Trésor de la langue française says Martial instead of Macrobius, since the reference to porcus troiānus and its relation to the Trojan horse appears in Saturnalia III, 13, 13 by Macrobius, from which comes the excerpt quoted in this source.

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    Breton has tourc'h (from which trouch) as pig. Also, in the Sardinian dialect which borrows many words from Latin, troju means "dirty, filthy, pig": books.google.it/…
    – LSerni
    Apr 15, 2020 at 14:11
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    Occitan has also "trueja", "trueia" and other variants which are also cognates of "troia".
    – Charo
    Apr 15, 2020 at 14:38

There is probably no connection, and in any case not a direct one (as in the city personified or the like).

Troia as the name of the city is just a transcription of one of its Greek names, Τροία.

Troia meaning “sow” (and hence as a derogatory term for “prostitute”) is Medieval Latin word, perhaps originally imitating the grunting of the pig (source). Zingarelli dictionary suggests instead that the Latin word might come from a dish, pŏrcus Troiānus, consisting of a stuffed pig, alluding to the Trojan Horse (but this explanation is given as uncertain).

As regards that opera, it may well be that, even if there is no etymological connection, the word was felt as inappropriate. In a far different context, in the Italian release of 2016 Disney film Moana, the eponymous protagonist has been renamed “Vaiana”, apparently, since Moana was the name of a famous Italian porn star.

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