Curious words: “gattara”

Every language contains words that evoke, for a native speaker, such an immediate meaning that they are hard to translate into a foreign language. This is the case for the Italian word “gattara”. Apart from being a small town in Emilia-Romagna, it is a very evocative noun in Italian, which is widely used in a colloquial context.

For anyone familiar with Latin languages, it will be easy to understand the meaning of the word: “gattara” comes from the root “gatto”, cat, and the suffix “-aro” (or “-ara” in this case), which in many dialects is used to indicate jobs and activities. So the literal meaning of the word would be someone who works with cats, who likes cats or who has lots of them.  But there’s more. Far from being gender-neutral, this word is almost exclusively used in the feminine form to indicate a woman or a girl who likes cats, who has lots of them and who would spend her Saturday night with them rather than going out with her friends. A cat lady if you wish. But we are not talking about a “loner”: a gattara does like people, she just prefers cats!


If you really want to sound as Italian as a jar of freshly made pesto, you really need to know that while “gattara” is not a compliment (so don’t use it on a first date!), it’s not an insult either. It’s a playful comment about someone who likes spending time at home by themselves. Can’t you smell old laces and tea on a cloudy afternoon already?


Generally speaking, nobody will get upset for being referred to as a “gattara”, but just so you know, this is one of the better known “gattare”:



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