I recently saw the term "il porco maiale" pop up a few times on my facebook feed. Upon google translating it, I was given the translation "pork pork", which was not at all helpful.

The Italian Wikipedia page for the pig gives the following quote:

Il suino (Sus scrofa domesticus L.), chiamato comunemente maiale o porco

"Suino" and "maiale" redirect to the page with the scientific name, and "porco" redirects to a disambiguation page, which states that "porco" is the common name of Sus scrofa.

What are the nuanced difference between the terms that cannot be captured in an automated translation program?

  • 2
    I'd say what got lost in the machine translation is that "porco" is adjective, "maiale" noun. :)
    – Nemo
    Jan 23, 2015 at 8:08
  • False, "porco" can be a noun. Think Porco Rosso. Mar 28, 2015 at 23:52

1 Answer 1


Suino is the most formal, scientific, commercial term, and also more generic (boars are suini, even not being maiali).

Maiale is the most neutral term, and probably the one to be preferred when talking about both the live animal and its meat.

Porco is pretty synonymous of maiale, for both the animal and its meat, but is more colloquial and may carry more overtones of filthiness (both actual, and figurative). If you make a mess when eating, or look at a woman who is not your partner, she might tell you: «Sei un porco!» («Sei un maiale» is less used, and only in the first case, I'd say).

  • 2
    Also interesting, although unrelated, may be the term "porco cane!", where the "porco" works as an adjective. The expression, which demonstrates the fact that the word "porco" is indeed more informal, can be translated "damn it!". Jan 22, 2015 at 18:30
  • 2
    Yeah, "porco" tends to be used in a lot of profanity, both mild and extremely offensive. "porca miseria", "porca vacca", "porco giuda" can be said in most company, but avoid ever saying "porco {insert italian word for god here}", even in the company of atheists - it's extremely offensive.
    – Ben Power
    Jan 23, 2015 at 0:30

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.