Do you say “arancino” or “arancina”? Here is the response from the Accademia della Crusca

In Sicily if you mention the issue you risk triggering a war: it is more correct to call “arancino” or “arancina” the rice ball stuffed (with meat sauce or other ingredients), breaded and fried? Being one culinary specialty of the island, included in the list of traditional Italian agri-food products, and since the Sicilians are a people who are very proud of their traditions, the correct name of this dish is likely to spark heated debates. In particular, the two “schools of thought” are represented by Catania and eastern Sicily with “arancino”, e Palermo and western Sicily with “arancina”. To resolve the issue and, we hope, to bring everyone to an agreement, theCrusca Academy, for centuries a real authority on the Italian language. In short we anticipate that both variants are acceptable, but let's take one step at a time.

First we describe the difference in usage between the two names: in very general terms the term “arancina” is used in Palermo and in Western Sicily; in these areas the timbale almost always has round shape. In the rest of the island, however, in particular in Eastern Sicily, “arancino” is used more frequently; furthermore, the timbale is often made with a conical shapeprobably to make it look like a volcano Etna.

We come then to the origin of the name: theetymology of “arancino/arancina” would depend on the Orange colour of the fried breading of the timbale or (in the case of the round version of the specialty) by the direct resemblance to the orange. On the other hand, it could depend on both factors. Whatever the correct origin, the first written attestation of the dialect word “arancinu” with a “u”, it is del 1857 inside the Sicilian-Italian dictionary by Giuseppe Biundi. Be careful, though: theorange it is defined as a food made of rice but Sweet and not salted. So it may be that the timbale only became salty at a later time. In fact, 11 years later, in 1868L'orange is associated with a croquette made of rice, potatoes or something else inside the New Sicilian-Italian vocabulary of Traina.

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The starting point identified by the Accademia della Crusca, therefore, is the term “arancinu”. It should not surprise us, given that in the Sicilian dialect the orange is called “orange”, always with the final “u”. The dialect term “aranciu”, with the progressive spread of Italian in our country, was transformed into various regional Italians in “orange” and not in “orange”. In many parts of Italy, including large areas of Sicily (but also Tuscany, for example), the fruit of the orange (the plant) is still called “orange” and not “orange”. For the same reason we have a parallel transformation of “arancinu” into “arancino”, with the terminal “o”, in Sicilian regional Italian. The first attestation of the term “arancino” in an Italian vocabulary (although reported as being of Sicilian dialect derivation) was in 1942inside the Modern dictionary of Panzini. “Arancino”, on the other hand, is the form that has spread most in Italy, so much so that it has also been adopted by the Ministry of Agricultural, Food and Forestry Policies.

So is the matter closed? Is “Arancino” the correct version of the term? Yes and no. In standard Italian, the correct one in all respects, is “orange” the right way to define the fruit of the orange (the tree). This is a distinction and a rule, however, which became widespread in our country only in the second half of the 20th century. Having said this, it is probable that in the Palermo area and in other urban areas, more receptive to standard Italian, and in other areas of Sicily where the orange was called in other ways (in the Ragusa and Syracuse areas “partuallu/partwallu” was often used ), “orange” and, consequently “rice ball” have prevailed as a logical transformation of the original “arancinu”. Attestations of this use for women (although numerically smaller than those of “arancino”) can be found starting from the end of the 19th century. The first is inside the work The Viceroys by Federico De Roberto from Catania, published in 1894.

In conclusion, therefore, the Accademia della Crusca admits both variantsso let's put parochialism aside and enjoy the arancini without any more controversy.

Crusca Academy