This is not a pure Italian translation issue, it looks, after investigation and discussion with Italian native speakers, a question more related of how professions are recorded in Calabria (or whole Italy?).

The question is related to a record from the 19th century located in Calabria. I do not know if the registers are in Italian or are in Calabrese (notice during that period Italian unification happened, so each country was having a different language/dialect).

I have noticed that several registers include Italian adjectives as professions, more concretely the professions "civile" and "legale" (which translates to civil and legal in English).

  • What do "civile" and "legale" mean exactly in English as professions?
  • How are professions recorded in Italian (Calabrian) records?

2 Answers 2


In 19th Century Italian documents, I've seen avvocato for lawyer, as well as legista. While legale translates as law, like you I've been unable to find a conclusive answer. However, if not lawyer as we understand the term today, it shows legal knowledge, perhaps one who gives legal counsel and, thus, a person in a higher position in society, as does civile. Civile translates as civilized, a middle class citizen, someone who was well off (and perhaps a landowner although other terms were used, such as possidente, one who owns, and proprietario, literally owner). I lack insight into Calabrian records, as my research has been confined to Campania.

  • I have, recently, found a person that was said to be a "legale" to be a "dottore di legge". I have found a significant number of "civile" in the same city, looks that at least that profession is not conclusive. Aug 31, 2016 at 21:07
  • @Trebia Project: even better, as dottore di legge shows an educated person, those in the upper social strata
    – Giorgio
    Aug 31, 2016 at 22:13
  • I would say that legale is clear now thanks to dottore finding, but civile not yet. Sep 1, 2016 at 5:56
  • @Trebia Project: this excerpt from one of a series of Cambridge studies in Italian history and culture might do it: Society and the Professions in Italy 1860 - 1914: catdir.loc.gov/catdir/samples/cam031/94047222.pdf
    – Giorgio
    Sep 1, 2016 at 13:15
  • I have not found civile in your reference, but I found this webpage this very morning: freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~mmange/itengocc.html It was really difficult to find... easy when you know the keywords. Basically confirms your answer. Thanks Sep 1, 2016 at 19:40

In the archives of the Mezzogiorno we find civile used in different manners - as noted here already, at times we find it used more liberally to include the middle class but quite often it in fact denotes a more elevated class.

I have controlled records where nobles were listed as "civile" and even more often as "legale" which at times was used to denote an actual legal class that thanks to a real dispaccio di ferdinand iv, gave families that held that class for 3 generations and did not enter a more base line profession or marry a lower class family, they would potentially meet requirements to apply to become recognized as nobles (the third class of nobility, first being ancient feudal families - nobilta generosa, second class being the families that gained nobility from service to the crown - nobilta di Privilego, and the third being the families that are often listed as "legale""

1.3.) PRIMO CETO "FAMIGLIE NOBILI" - TERZA CATEGORIA "NOBILTA' LEGALE O CIVILE": comprenda quelli, [i]i quali facciano costare avere così essi (*), che il loro Padre, ed Avo vissuto in Città demaniale, e regia, escluse le baronali, sempre civilmente con decoro, e comodità, senza esercitare carica, e impiego basso, e popolare, e sono sempre stati riputati dal Pubblico Uomini onorati, e dabbene. Quella della terza equivalga alla seconda, e comprenda anche i Negozianti di Cambio, o sia di Ragione, i di cui Padre, ed Avo abbiano esercitato lo stesso impiego, e non altro d’inferior condizione. Con i Figli delli Ufiziali Subalterni si abilitano ancora quelli degli Uditori di Provincia, e di Governatori Regj: i primi all’età di 16 anni, i secondi in quella di anni 18. E finalmente i Figli de’ Mercanti di lana, e di seta, de’ quali il Padre, ed Avo abbiano fatto ugual negozio, possian essere aggraziati a servire da Cadetti solamente nell’età di anni 18.

For some further classification of possidente and propretario - in many cases we find possidente to mean someone not working and living off of a pension of some business or inheritance, whereas propretario often suggests the owner of the land/business is more directly involved in the management/trading of the operation. A possidente may have had someone to do this. Granted both are used interchangeably and alone don't qualify any family into any sort of class.

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