I observed that Italian journalists use to coin new words using the suffix '-poli', as in tangentopoli, sanitopoli, concorsopoli and so on.

I cannot think of a case in which those new words, which are conied day-by-day in reference to limitless cases of corruction, have a positive connotation.

So my question is: Is it possible that Italian journalists use those poli-words evoking, etymologically, a parallel with the Disney's Paperopoli? If not, can anyone explain what the origin of this 'poli' is?

  • 2
    Just to be a full-time nit-picker, “Paperopoli” can't rightfully be defined “Disney's”, both because in English it is called Duckburg, and because most of the duck-related original mythology was due to Carl Barks. Quack!
    – DaG
    Jan 3, 2014 at 9:03
  • 7
    It's interesting to notice that the usage of the "-poli" suffix for corruption/scandals mimicking tangentopoli is the exact equivalent of the american "-gate" originating from Watergate. Jan 4, 2014 at 11:17
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    It's just a way to say "city of" or, in an extended sense "system/group of", and it is not always used with a negative connotation. It's of course journalistic jargon, but it does not com from Disney, neither it has always a dispregiative sense. Jan 4, 2014 at 16:22

3 Answers 3


-poli is a suffixoid; it comes from Greek polis (city), and it is used as a suffix: baraccopoli (city of slums), tangentopoli (city of corruption), etc.

Actually Paperopoli is a good example of a positive use of the suffix -poli, although this is generally used to coin terms of negative connotation.

Fonopoli, the name of Renato Zero's project, is another case where -poli is used to coin a positive connotation word.

Other words without a negative connotation are: metropoli, acropoli, necropoli, cosmopoli, megalopoli.


This -poli device was born when the “Tangentopoli” scandal was at its beginnings in 1992, when Milan was considered “the city of bribes.” After that, almost every scandal was boringly named with a -poli suffix.

The suffix has been used in the past, as witnessed by Constantinopolis (Greek Κωνσταντινούπολις), the town founded by emperor Constantine near Byzantium (Greek Βυζάντιον), currently İstanbul, Turkey. The Italian translation Paperopoli of Disney's Duckburg came quite late and with many models from the past.

  • This is not true. Tangentopoli has been the most resilient and the best known of such neologisms, but far from being the first one. Baraccopoli and tendopoli for example, have been in use for way longer than tangentopoli.
    – Bruno9779
    Jan 17, 2014 at 12:51
  • @Bruno9779 Baraccopoli and tendopoli don't have the scandal related meaning. I didn't say "suffix", but "device".
    – egreg
    Jan 17, 2014 at 13:19
  • Baraccopoli and tendopoli have negative nuances and mean something like shanty town. The OP does not imply scandal in his question, and the suffix -polis is neutral. The negative nuance is given by "tangenti", bribes.
    – Bruno9779
    Jan 17, 2014 at 13:28
  • @Bruno9779 All the examples by the OP are names of scandals.
    – egreg
    Jan 17, 2014 at 13:31
  • Paperopoli is a scandal?
    – Bruno9779
    Jan 17, 2014 at 13:51

In addition to the other answers, which clearly and correctly identify the suffix –poli as meaning city, I would like an interesting historical point. The suffix can be used in two different ways:

  1. in common words, like baraccópoli;
  2. part of proper nouns, like Napoli or Costantinopoli.

Tangentopoli originally was an example of 2., because it was a nickname for Milan ("City of bribes"). Paperopoli is also another example of use in this sense.

After the corruption scandal became such a huge issue, the meaning of the suffix actually changed, and is now used in a manner similar to the English –gate suffix, which started with a proper name (Watergate) and was then extended to many other scandals.

In this sense, –poli is used in common words now, an usage which is called accidental usage, but it has lost the meaning of city, just like –gate has lost any geographical connotation. It just means large scandal.

A funny side note. The proper noun of the game Monópoli is pronounced with a second-last vowel accent like a proper city name. This is to imitate the English game name of Monopoly. In reality, the word monopólio does not use the suffix –poli but the suffix –polio which means vendor. In fact, the old spelling of the plural monopóli should be monopolii, monopolij or monopolî.

Normally, in Italian –poli never takes an accent.


  • Treccani, -Poli, Vocabolario on line
  • I second the form monopolî for the plural of monopolio, the more so since monopoli is the plural of monopolo (i.e., a (magnetic) monopole).
    – DaG
    Jan 5, 2014 at 16:10
  • Monopoli is an actual city in the province of Bari. And the use of the ^ accent is practically dead in modern Italian.
    – Bruno9779
    Jan 17, 2014 at 13:30

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