Italian Word of the Day: Pecora (sheep)

The word pecora (feminine, plural: pecore) is the common name for all bovine mammals of the genus Ovis, comprising six wild species and numerous domestic breeds. It is also the specific term for the female adult sheep.

italian word for sheep

The male is known as montone or ariete (ram) whereas the offspring is called agnello (lamb) up to one year of age.

La pecora sta pascolando sulla collina.

The sheep is grazing on the hill.

Sheep and lamb walking in a field

The generic term carne ovina (sheep meat) refers to any kind of edible meat that comes from a sheep including abbacchio (meat of a suckling lamb), agnello (lamb), montone (mutton) and castrato (meat of a castrated male).

In a figurative sense, pecora can also denote someone who is silly, cowardly or submissive, or someone who allows strong-willed people walk all over them.

Along with the augmentative pecorone (big sheep), pecora may also function as a derogatory term for someone who mindlessly follows the crowd or a particular trend, much like the word lemming in English.

Siete una massa di pecoroni! Ragionate con la vostra testa per una volta!

You’re a bunch of lemmings! Think for yourselves for once!

Another very common term that derives from pecora is the diminutive pecorella (little sheep). In addition to referring to a small or young sheep, it also has two figurative meanings: a faithful Christian follower or a small white cloud whose appearance resembles a sheep!

Sheep resting near a rock on the field

Expressions using the word ‘pecora’

Chi pecora si fa, il lupo se la mangia

Literal translation: Those who act like a sheep will be eaten by the wolf
English meaning:
If you allow yourself to be weak, you will suffer harmful consequences

Meglio vivere un giorno da leone che cent’anni da pecora

Literal translation: Better to live a day as a lion than one hundred as a sheep
English meaning:
It’s better to be brave than live in fear

Un cuore di pecora

Literal translation: a sheep’s heart
English meaning:

Essere la pecora nera

Literal translation: to be the black sheep
English meaning:
to be the black sheep

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