The Four Horsemen – Glossary


(Words that are Venetian rather than standard Italian are indicated by V in brackets)


Altana (V)  – a wooden structure on the roof of buildings, used for various purposes (drying of clothes, taking of sun)

Arsenalotto (V) – a worker at the Arsenale

Bagattino  – the smallest Venetian coin, worth 1/240th of a lira

Barene (V) – the low-lying marshy terrain of the lagoon, often submerged at high tide

Barnabotto (V) – a Venetian nobleman fallen on hard times and granted cheap rented accommodation in the parish of San Barnaba

Bauta (V) – white face-mask

Bondì (V) – Venetian for Buongiorno (good morning)

Bravo – a hired thug

Bricole (V) – poles driven into the mud of the canals or the lagoon to act as markers or mooring-poles

Buranello – native of the island of Burano; also the name for a local biscuit often taken with wine

Caigo (V) – fog

Caleghero (V) – a shoe-maker

Calle (V) – a narrow street

Campo (V) – a city square (in Italian the word indicates a field)

Campiello (V) – a smaller city square

Canalazzo (V) – alternative name for the Grand Canal

Casino (V) – small room or set of rooms, used by Venetian aristocrats for various leisure purposes, including gambling

Cavalier servente – see cicisbeo

Cicerone – tourist-guide

Cicisbeo – married woman’s semi-official gallant, sometimes her lover; also known as a

cavalier servente

Codega (V) – “link-boy” (hired escorts holding lanterns)

Confidente – a confidential agent

Cortesan  (V) – literally a “courtier” (cortegiano in Italian); in Venetian indicating a gentlemanly man of the world

Cospetto – mild imprecation

Felze (V) – the cabin of a gondola

Filippo – coin, worth 11 lire

Fioi (V) – Venetian appellation, corresponding roughly to “lads”

Fondamenta (V) – road running alongside a canal

Fontego (V) – (also fondaco); literally a warehouse, but also a residence and meeting-place for foreign communities in Venice

Forcola (V) – the carved wooden structure on gondolas acting as a rowlock

Foresto (V)  – Venetian for foreigner

Furatola (V) – a cheap tavern

Guagliò  –abbreviation of guaglione, Neapolitan for “lad”

Illustrissimo – most illustrious or eminent; a term of respect, generally used in Venice to address those not of noble rank

Liston (V) – in Saint Mark’s Square, the area between the clock-tower and the pillars by the water-front, used as a fashionable parade-ground

Magazen (V) – cheap taverns, not allowed to serve cooked food

Malvasia  – malmsey wine; also used as the name of taverns that served such wine

Marangon (V) carpenter

Nicolotti (V) – inhabitants of western Venice (around the parish of San Nicolò dei Mendicoli); traditional rivals of the Castellani, inhabitants of eastern Venice

Osteria – hostelry or tavern

Passeggiata  – stroll, particularly the evening stroll along the Liston

Piano nobile – the first floor of a Venetian palace; containing the principal rooms.

Portego (V) – the central and most splendid room of a Venetian palazzo

Ridotto – the government-owned gambling house at Palazzo Dandolo (literally “the closed-off or private room”)

Rio (V) – Venetian word for a canal

Salizada (V) – a broad street in Venice (one of the first to have been paved)

Salotto – a salon, often understood as a gathering-place for refined conversation

Salottiere – one who attends a salotto

Sandolo (V) – flat-bottomed Venetian rowing boat, of simpler build than a gondola

Sbirro – officer of the law; often used derogatorily

Scudo – coin worth 7 lire

Scuola – literally a school, but in Venice often used to refer to a charitable institution, a guild-hall, or a meeting-place for foreign communities, usually under the protection of a patron-saint

Sior/Siora (V) – Venetian for Signor/Signora

Sottoportego (V) – archway or passage under a building

Tabarro – cloak

Zaffo (V) – see sbirro; also often used derogatorily

Zecchino – the principal Venetian coin, worth 22 lire (origin of the word “sequin”)

Zuechino (V) – inhabitant of the Giudecca island (la Zueca, in Venetian)