In 1642, the painter and biographer Giovanni Baglione used the expression bizzarro ammazzatore to qualify one of his contemporaries. The full sentence is quoted below. I understand what he's saying but have a problem with the expression itself. A bizarre murderer? An odd killer? It seems unnecessarily redundant. Unless there is a softer meaning to ammazzatore? How would you translate it, bearing in mind it's ancient Italian?

"E se havesse havuto l'animo volto alla professione, e non impiegato alle smargiasserie, e fare il furioso, e 'l bizzarro ammazzatore, molto più haverebbe fatto,..."

  • 1
    I think that the use of "bizarre" makes sense within the sentence context. Why do you think it is redundant?
    – user519
    Commented Sep 11, 2016 at 22:35
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    I think it is just Baglione's writing style, nothing more than that.
    – Denis Nardin
    Commented Sep 11, 2016 at 23:53
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    I'm afraid that in 1642 killing people was not always unconventional and unusual.
    – CasaMich
    Commented Sep 12, 2016 at 6:17
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    I must apologise, since I checked the meaning of ammazzatore in the old Crusca vocabulary, but not of bizzarro itself. And apparently in times past it could also meaniracondo, stizzoso”, i.e. irascible, easily offended (in addition to “capriccioso”, which had a meaning nearer to the modern one of bizzarro, and “vivace and spiritoso”, lively and witty). And actually, of a horse that takes fright we still say that si è imbizzarrito. So might that man be someone who killed on a whim, moved by wrath?
    – DaG
    Commented Sep 13, 2016 at 8:18
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    See also treccani.it/enciclopedia/bizzarro_%28Enciclopedia-Dantesca%29
    – DaG
    Commented Sep 13, 2016 at 8:19

1 Answer 1


Edit: Only after having posted this answer did I notice DaG’s comment, which points to exactly the same information; I’d like both to apologize for this, and to make it clear that I had drawn this information from a totally different source (a printed edition of the Commedia). I’ll probably remove this answer after a short grace period (some 48 hours).

The use of the word “bizzarro” dates back at least to Dante Alighieri, who used it (once) in his Commedia, more precisely in Inf. VIII, 62:

Tutti gridavano: «A Filippo Argenti!»;
e ‘l fiorentino spirito bizzarro
in sé medesmo si volvea co’ denti.

We are, here, in the fifth circle, where the sinners of wrath are punished. As a matter of fact, even the Italian annotators of the fourteenth century were rather puzzled by the word, and did not completely agree on its meaning. Boccaccio wrote about it:

Credo questo vocabolo sia solo dei fiorentini, e suona sempre in mala parte; perciocché noi tegnamo bizzarri coloro che subitamente e per ogni piccola cagione corrono in ira, né mai da quella per alcuna dimostrazione rimuovere si possono.

That is, more or less (please forgive my poor translation): “I believe that this word belongs to Florentines alone, and it always has a negative connotation; because we deem bizzarri those who suddenly and for every slightest reason rush into wrath, neither they can be turned away from it, whatever evidence they are given”.

  • Please leave this answer, and feel free to add to it anything you should deem useful from my comment, to finally have a good answer for this question.
    – DaG
    Commented Jun 28, 2017 at 21:53
  • Ciao! No need to remove your answer.
    – egreg
    Commented Jun 29, 2017 at 7:36

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