Italian Word of the Day: Pignolo (fussy / pedantic)

The adjective pignolo (also written as pignuolo in rare cases) in Italian is used to describe someone who is fussy, pedantic or extremely meticulous in nature.


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It derives from the word pigna (pine cone), but precisely how it came to denote a fussy person is uncertain.

According to Treccani, this figurative use is probably based on the comparison between the pine nut (pinolo) embedded inside the pine cone and the kind of person who cannot free themselves from a meticulous mindset.

Parolata also draws an interesting comparison between the expression cercare il pinolo (lit: to search for the pine nut) and the more well-known idiomatic expression cercare il pelo nell’uovo (lit: to search for a hair in an egg) which means to split hairs.

Lawyer signing document at night at office, working overtime
Un avvocato molto pignolo – A very meticulous lawyer

Because it is an adjective, the ending changes according to the gender and/or plurality of the person it modifies.

  • pignolo = masculine, singular
  • pignola = feminine, singular
  • pignoli = masculine, plural
  • pignole = feminine, plural

Pignolo and its feminine equivalent pignola can also be used as nouns to mean fussy person, nitpicker or fusspot. You’ll often see it used in the expression fare il pignolo / fare la pignola which means to be fussy.

Fossi in te accorcerei il video ancora di qualche secondo. – Dai, non fare il pignolo adesso! Va bene così com’è!

If I were you I would shorten the video by a few extra seconds. – Come on, don’t be fussy now! It’s fine as it is.

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