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In "The Wolf of Wall Street" (2013), Matthew Mcconaughey's character refers to the stock market as "all a fugazi (sp?)", going on to explain in various ways that it basically means "fake" or "a sham". The scene in question is here (warning: contains a lot of not-work-safe language & content), and he says the word at about 2:05.

I tried to look up this word and ran it through various Italian translators but I cannot find any reference to it anywhere. I tried manipulating the exact spelling with no luck. I only got results for some rock band and a quasi-official English military acronym.

So is this really an Italian word? Or maybe a mispronunciation or misunderstanding of one? I could imagine that it could be a quirk of Mcconaughey's character to just make up foreign words, since it would fit pretty well with what he is all about. Something about the word just really sticks with me though, like it sounds like it means exactly what he claims it does, but maybe that's just due to having seen the film.

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    Not sure why you are asking it here... Does the character say that it is an Italian word?
    – DaG
    Feb 26, 2021 at 20:43
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    I’m voting to close this question because nothing in it seem to have to do with Italian language. “Fugazi” isn't an Italian word, nor anything in the quoted movie implies that it is.
    – DaG
    Mar 1, 2021 at 15:44
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    @DaG The question "is qpdjvinfp an Italian word?" is about Italian language, in my view. It's not the fact that the answer is "no" that makes it off-topic. Mar 2, 2021 at 15:16
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    @DaG Anyhow, I find little point in questioning how OP could have come to the conclusion that this word sounds Italian. The fact that it was asked (in good faith), to me, seems sufficient proof that this question is not too unthinkable. Mar 2, 2021 at 21:23
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    Johnny Depp used the term "Fugazi" to describe a fake diamond in the 1997 movie Donnie Brasco. Depp portrayed Agent Joe Pistone infiltrating one of the NYC families.
    – user8399
    Mar 29, 2022 at 0:56

6 Answers 6

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It is not an Italian word, but looking for a meaning it turned out the term was used as a name for a rock band, Fugazi.

Investigating more about the origin of this name, it seems they chose the word "fugazi" from Mark Baker's Nam, a compilation of stories of Vietnam War veterans, it there being a slang acronym for "Fucked Up, Got Ambushed, Zipped In [into a body bag].

Moreover this site tries to give an explanation about band's name:

Band member Ian MacKaye says the name was derived from the book Nam, written by Mark Baker. In that book the author describes a situation that was typified by a Vietnam veteran as Fugazi.

Fugazi is an acronym that would stand for Fucked Up, Got Ambushed, Zipped In.

According to military sources however this explanation is completely off the mark and a mix up is assumed with Fubar (Fucked Up Beyond All Recognition).

Fugazi also seems to be American/Italian slang for 'fake'

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    Thanks for the response. I guess the main takeaway is that it is most likely American-Italian slang, which is why it make not appear in more "official" translators or dictionaries.
    – wfgeo
    Mar 3, 2021 at 9:28
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As others have noted, it is not an Italian word. Its Wiktionary page lists it as an (exclusively) English word of unclear origin; some the suggested etymologies involve Italian (but personally I don't find them very convincing).

Etymology 1

Origin unknown; a number of possibilities have been suggested:[1]

  • A corruption of French fougasse (“type of land mine”); flame fougasses were used extensively in the Korean and Vietnam Wars.
  • An acronym of “fucked up, got ambushed, zipped in [a body bag]” (compare FUBAR), but this may be a backronym.
  • Less plausibly, from English fugacious (“fleeting”) or cognates such as Italian fugace (“fleeting”).

Etymology 2

Origin uncertain; said to be of Mafia origin, from the Fugazy Continental limousine company in New York City which was owned by William “Bill” Fugazy, due to its cheesy “look like a rich guy” advertisements of the 1970s and 1980s, or its alleged poor business practices,[1] possibly influenced by Italian fu cazzo (“it was shit”). The word was popularized by the film Donnie Brasco (1997), based on the book Donnie Brasco: My Undercover Life in the Mafia (1987) by American former FBI agent Joseph D. Pistone (born 1939) who used the name “Donnie Brasco” as an undercover alias.

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Not an Italian word: first time I've heard it in my country was as the title of a Marillion album in the early eighties.

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I'm Italian and I confirm there's no such a word in our language. It sounds a bit like "fugace" = "fleeting", but it is certainly not the meaning intended by the character of McConaughey.

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Fugazi is indeed an Italian word. It comes from Luigi V. Fugazzi (he also spelled his name as Fugazy), who was an Italian American banker, businessman, and philanthropist who became one of the most prominent "padroni" in the United States. Look it up.

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  • “Fugazi” is certainly not an Italian word; you won't find it in any Italian dictionary. That said, do you have a source about this Mr Fugazzi being referenced in that dialogue from The Wolf of Wall Street?
    – DaG
    Jan 22 at 9:54
  • Reading biographical data about Mr Fugazy, it seems a bit of a stretch to assume that “fugazi” can refer to sham or fake. Maybe it's slang in the aggressive financial circles, but this doesn't make the word Italian.
    – egreg
    Jan 22 at 10:40
  • Welcome to Italian.se! Rather than writing "look it up", please provide a link yourself. It's much more efficient than having every single reader run a Google search on their own, and look through the results trying to figure out which among the results are the ones you meant. Jan 28 at 11:20
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It's Italian American slang, not proper Italian. I believe it is a misuse of fugace. Like calling a child a rug rat. Two words that have nothing to do with children but there you go. So fugace means fleeting, and you could loosely connect fleeting with fake.

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