What is the plural of "il miglior fabbro", the famous epigraph of The Waste Land? Also, what exactly does it mean-- including connotations? (i.e. is it archaic?)

1 Answer 1


Il miglior fabbro in itself may mean both “the better smith” and “the best smith”. In Italian miglior(e) is both a comparative and a superlative form of buono (good). Probably the interpretation as “best” is the one an Italian reader would spontaneously give, out of context.

There is a rich context, though. Eliot takes miglior fabbro from Dante, whose words and images recur in The Waste Land. In the XXVI canto of Purgatory, Dante meets Guido Guinizelli, a poet he looked at as a master. But Guido turns Dante's attention to another soul, that of Provençal poet Arnaut Daniel, saying that he fu miglior fabbro del parlar materno, that is, “[he was] a better craftsman of his mother-tongue” (translation by Dorothy L. Sayers).

So, miglior fabbro are indeed ancient words, but are still in normal use. You might still say, talking about two artisans, that Mario è un miglior fabbro rispetto a Luigi (but ...un fabbro migliore... would sound more colloquial).

The plural form would simply be i migliori fabbri.

  • May I ask why are you interested in the plural?
    – DaG
    Commented Apr 24, 2023 at 18:15
  • Thanks. It's for an acknowledgment section of a work where I'm indebted to several "better smiths".
    – Dwagg
    Commented Apr 25, 2023 at 19:36
  • I see, @Dwagg, thanks.
    – DaG
    Commented Apr 26, 2023 at 13:31

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