Where Does Agida Come From?

Collina Italiana

Ciao everyone!

It’s Luna here with a new episode in our series Cosa Dici?!

Today we’re looking at the history of one of my favorite words; one that has actually changed meaning over time. The word is AGIDA! Now you may have heard this word pronounced a couple of ways, AGITA, or the way I pronounce it, AGIDA. It only makes the word more interesting to see the various spellings, pronunciations, and meanings that it has.

The word was first popularized here in the States in the 1980s. Its usage was at first limited to the NYC area, but now it’s pretty widespread. You might even hear it used in your favorite TV show!

So, what does this word mean?

AGIDA signifies a general feeling of uneasiness, discomfort, or anxiety. Although it sounds like a shortened version of the English word agitation, it actually comes from an equivalent to the Standard Italian word for “acid”, acido.

When it comes to the linguistic history of AGIDA, linguists are still speculating the precise origin of the word. What we can say for certain is that it most likely comes from a regional equivalent of this Standard Italian word, acido. For example, a possible origin of the word could be Sicilian, which has clear differences in spelling and pronunciation.

Possible regional origins of AGIDA.

Interestingly, in Standard Italian, acido, is used to refer to indigestion or heartburn, which is a meaning that AGIDA still retains for some people today.

The origin of the word is still a bit murky, but what’s clear is that in the United States, we’ve not only changed the pronunciation, but also the meaning. We’ve gone from this physical feeling of indigestion to a more figurative feeling of discomfort, and you can see how they’re still a bit connected.

What does the word mean for you?

Well, there you have it, another lesson in Italian American!

Hopefully. now when you hear the word AGIDA, you won’t have any AGIDA about what it means!

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10 Responses

  1. Agida is a word that Caribbean people, specifically Guyanese people because thats my experience, use to mean some kind of aggravation or irritation. Like, “I can’t work on this project anymore, it’s giving me agida.” Or, “That dog barking is giving me agida.”

  2. the word was popular in the 80s because it was used in a movie by woody allen called broadway danny rose. he wrote a song for the movie called agita with lyrics like agita my goombah…truly funny movie. but the word dates back to before 1800 and was brought here via immigrants but had a resurgence after the movie.

  3. Yikes, the 1980s? Began in NY?
    My Italian family used this term in San Francisco since AT LEAST the 1930s. And no, we didn’t come from NY.

    1. Ciao Frank,
      Thanks for your comment. The emphasis here is that the term became popular in the 1980s in NY, but of course, since there are multiple meanings to the word and many Italians who immigrated to different part of the US, the word can have multiple roots! That’s what makes these words so special.

  4. My Italian family brought it over from Italy, circa 1913, region from Roma. It meant heartburn or chest tightness from anxiety, mourning , aggravation or GERD.

    1. I Absolutely love the history lesson of this word or word(s) rather with the T and D variations! It was informative to me because I had no idea there were other meanings in use other than the indigestion, acid reflux, heartburn definitions. I’m from Boston and I’m not Italian, I am Irish and Polish. With that being said, where I learned of the word; was from my maternal grandmother, my Babci!!! (Polish equivalent to Nonna) My Babci, before my mother was even born (so prior to 1955 here guys we are talking) would “hangout” with all the women her age in the “old neighborhood”. We weren’t in Boston
      Proper nor in the North End, but Babci’s husband my Dzidzi (pronounced judge-ey, Polish for grandfather) Would always eat the food the that all the woman were making each other and for each other’s families. It was a microcosm of America as there were Greek, Italian, Irish, Polish, Russian, Romanian, and some African American and Hispanic ladies that would all meet and play cards at St. Michael’s Hall after mass on Sunday’s in West Lynn. So my Babci was trying to explain why “Joe” (my Dzidzi wasn’t feeling well as the girls all heard through harmless gossip and my babci was having difficulty explaining to some of the woman what exactly my Dzidzi Joe Kohanski was suffering from and my Babci’s close friend Marie Rossi simply said “Joes got the bad agida!l he has been eating too m in red sauce” and my Babci’s reply was, look at his belly. He has been eating too much, period.” And the girls all broke out in laughter some explained to others who hadn’t grasped enough English yet, in their own language the punch line and I’m also assuming their word for agida. So this was great to see some of the history, but I’d like to see the equivalent word in all the backgrounds/nationalities I listed above. That would be neat. That way old friends from the old neighborhood in West Lynn, MA where so many lived in 3 family houses right near the huge General Electric plant and where even more of the populace worked and families were living all along and the Saugus and Revere, MA borders. Where I’m sure agida was used frequently because those area were heavily populated in the 50’s and 60’s with Italian immigrants and still to this day. But all this typing and thinking has given me “AGIDA”!!!!!!

    2. Oli said
      “Love your history of this word I grew up hearing in New York. We used Agida, meaning indigestion!”

      Exactly. I grew up in an Italian family. That has been the meaning to us.

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