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Meneghino and Cecca, pin from the Carnevale Ambrosiano of 1885

Meneghino (Italian pronunciation: [meneˈɡiːno]; Milanese: Meneghin [meneˈɡĩː]) is a traditional character of the Italian commedia dell'arte, associated to the city of Milan. As such, it also plays a major role in the Milanese celebrations of Carnival (Carnevale Ambrosiano) and in local marionette traditional shows.[1]

It is uncertain whether his name is just a diminutive form of Domenico or a reference to the domenighini, a word used in Milan to refer to the servants that accompanied the faithful to masses on Sundays (domenica in Italian and domenega in Milanese).[1][2] Meneghino is in fact a witty servant (and thus a variation on the theme of the Zanni character),[3] but he is mostly characterized by honesty, sincerity and a strong sense of justice.[1] He is usually represented as wearing a cocked three-cornered hat, a pony-tailed wig, short green pants, red-white striped stockings, black shoes with buckles, a white shirt, a yellow or otherwise colorful flowered vest, a long jacket, and an umbrella.[2][3] Meneghino's sincerity is also symbolized by the fact that, unlike most commedia dell'arte characters, he doesn't wear a mask. While originally a servant, Meneghino has actually taken on different roles on stage, including that of the master, the peasant, and the merchant.[1] In Carnival parades, he is often accompanied by his wife Cecca (Milanese diminutive of Francesca).

The character was first popularized (and possibly created)[4] by Milanese writer Carlo Maria Maggi, who also gave him the surname Pecenna, a Milanese word which means "hairdresser" (from peccen "comb") but also conveys an implicit critique to the vanity and shallowness of aristocracy and clergy.[1] The character was further developed by Milanese poet Carlo Porta, who used it in several works, including his debut El lavapiatt del Meneghin ch'è mort ("The dead Meneghino's dish-washer", 1792).[4] Porta also developed the anti-clerical traits of the character in works such as Meneghin biroeu di ex monegh ("Meneghino Servant of the Former Nuns", 1820).[4] Meneghino thus eventually became the embodiment of the Milanese's critical attitude towards the powerful, the rich, and the oppressors of the people. As a consequence, in the years that led to the Italian unification (i.e., during the Risorgimento), he became a symbol of the Milanese revolutionary movement against the Austrian oppression.[1]

In modern Milanese culture[edit]

Nowadays, Meneghino is the prominent commedia character and carnival mask representing Milan, having gradually replaced an older character Beltrame, more akin to Brighella. The word meneghino has become a common antonomasia to refer to Milanese people and matters, as well as the Milanese language itself. Recently, a new model of trains called Meneghini have been introduced in the Milan Metro subway system.


  1. ^ a b c d e f "J2ME  "MENEGHINO"".
  2. ^ a b ""A Carnevale ogni Scherzo Vale" – Anything goes during the Carnival Time".
  3. ^ a b Cerulli, Claudia (2010). "Meneghino". Carnevale Italiano – Italian Carnival (in Italian and English). Long Bridge Publishing.
  4. ^ a b c "Carlo Porta".