"Fugazi": Meaning & Usage of This Crazy Word! (2023)

Every time we explore the definition of a new word, we inevitably look into the interplay of language and culture: We learn how culture gives birth to new words, like YOLO, Poggers and oof, but let others fade into oblivion, only to be found in our history books (seriously, when was the last time you heard someone say “groak” or “apricity” in a sentence?).

We also get to see how language shapes culture, how it is used to convey new ideas and, and how it becomes central to empowering entire movements.

However, this interplay goes beyond a culture and its language.

It is often the case that not only does a particular language influence another, different language, but that an entire culture also enriches another culture.

And, this process of enrichment breeds new words.

This is certainly the case with our word today:Fugazi.

"Fugazi": Meaning & Usage of This Crazy Word! (1)

What does Fugazi mean?

The word fugazi has two main meanings. On the one hand, fugazi can mean fake, in which case it is used to refer to something inauthentic. On the other hand, it is used to refer to a messed up situation, one that has deteriorated quickly. Interestingly, this latter meaning was how the word made into both the music scene and pop culture: Fugazi was the name of a music band as well as the name of an album by a different band. Additionally, Fugazi is the name of a popular theater and nightclub in San Francisco, one that has been around for more than a century.

Let’s look at both meanings of Fugazi, followed by how this peculiar word infiltrated pop culture.

Fugazi as fake

The simplest definition of a fugazi is a fake. It can be used to refer to either an object or a person, an individual who pretends to be something he isn’t.

For instance, in the movie Donnie Brasco, a Mafioso named Lefty Ruggiero, played by the ever-talented Al Pacino, approaches a character named “Don da Jeweler.” Ruggiero wants to sell a stolen diamond ring, but the problem is, upon inspection, the ring was declared “a fugazi,” a fake.

Obviously, Ruggiero is livid once he learns this piece of information and decides to go back to the individual who sold him the ring, and the film picks up from there, following Ruggiero’s character along with another character named “Donnie Brasco,” played by Johnny Depp.

Speaking of Donnie Brasco, the book “Donnie Brasco: My Undercover Life in the Mafia”, the book upon which the aforementioned film was based on, was one of the first times the term appeared in print. However, “fugazi” was written differently: Rather than ending with an “I”, it ended with a “Y,” giving us “fugazy.” In the book, the word “fugazy” was used five times and referred to counterfeit jewelry.

As mentioned, the term can also be used to talk about people. For instance, it can be used as follows:

Mark: What do you think about Jocelyn?
Jordan: Forget Jocelyn, man. She’s nothing but a fugazi.

(Video) Fugazi: The Word That Has No Meaning

Aside from fake, fugazi can mean doesn’t exist. This is best exemplified by Martin Scorsese’s film “The Wolf of Wall Street,” in which two characters, played by Leonardo DiCaprio and Mathew McConaughey, are having a conversation.

This is a snippet of the conversation:

Mark Hanna: You know what a Fugazzi is?
Jordan Belfort: Fugazi… yeah, it’s a fake…
Mark Hanna: Faguzzi, fugazzi, it’s a whazzie, it’s a whoozie… it’s a.. fairy dust. It doesn’t exist. It’s never landed. It’s no matter, it’s not on the elemental chart. It… it’s not f***ing real!

Today, fugazi, with its definition of being fake, has become part of our pop culture, appearing in numerous TV shows, such as “The Real Housewives of New Jersey” and “Jersey Shore.”

It has also been used in several rap songs: Jay-Z used it in “Imaginary Player,” where he labeled “fake” objects and people as fugazis. In fact, the exact line goes something like this: “You crazy, you fugazi, I’m loco with dough papo.”

The origin of the word

Some people claim that fugazi as fake comes from the Italian language. The idea is that the word might have originated from the word fugace, which means fleeting or impermanent.

Another possible Italian word that might have birthed fugazi is fu+cazzo, which means “it was s*.”

Even though the Italian origin is uncertain, it is believed that the word got picked up by the Italian mafia and became slang among the Italian community in the United States.

Another possible origin is a New York limousine service, the type a person trying to display wealth without really having it would hire.

The service was called Fugazy Continental, after Bob Fugazy, its owner and the man who promised the public “high class for a low price.” For one thing, the company had really cheesy commercials.

Fugazi meaning messed up situation

There are many unique interesting acronyms floating around. For instance, did you know what Fubar stands for? Well, fret no more. It means “F***ed Up Beyond All Recognition.” As uncouth as that may be, Fugazi is really quite similar.

During the Vietnam War, soldiers would use fugazi to refer to a situation that was messed up. Fugazi stood for “F***ed Up, Got Ambushed, Zipped In (a body bag).” Interestingly, other people propose that the expression “F***ed Up, Got Ambushed, Zipped In” isn’t the word’s etymology but rather is a backronym.

Instead, they argue that fugazi originated as an amalgamation of the name flame fougasse, which was a type of improvised explosive, one that was used during the war. In either case, the meaning of messed up comes to us from the Nam era.

(Video) Fugazi: The Path of Most Resistance

(A backronym is sort of the opposite of an acronym. Whereas an acronym is a word that is formed by taking the first letters from words in a phrase, a backronym is a phrase of words that are made up specifically to suit the letters in a certain word.)

In fact, when Mark Baker presented the world with his book Nam, an oral history of the Vietnam War taken from veterans who were there, he recounted several stories, one of which contained the following line:

“We didn’t know anything was fugazi until we got to a certain place in the South China Sea.”

In that line, the word fugazi has an asterisk above it, and if you look the word up in the book’s glossary, you will find the following definition: f***ed up or scr***d up.

Fugazi in pop culture

We’ve already seen how fugazi, with its allusion to fakeness, made its way into the songs we here, the films we see, and the TV we watch. However, the meaning of being messed up also caught on and had a significant impact on our culture.

Fugazi, the band

In 1987, Fugazi, a punk rock band, formed in Washington, D.C. The band consisted of Ian Mackaye and Guy Picciotto, both of whom were guitarists and vocalists; Joe Lally, the bassist; and Brendan Canty, the band’s drummer.

The band was famous for having a distinctive sound, one that was a mixture of dub/ reggae with punk/hardcore guitars.

The band also shunned the corporate music industry, opting for a Do-It-Yourself ethic, one where they promoted themselves, pressed their own labels, and booked their own live tours.

Nevertheless, they were very successful, performing several tours worldwide and producing six studio albums, a movie, and a live series.

Now, the million-dollar question is why did the band call themselves Fugazi?

Well, the story goes as follows: The band’s frontman, Ian Mackaye, got the name from the book Nam, the one we just talked about.

In fact, Mackaye’s exact words were:

“I was reading a book called Nam…. A number of stories in there were kind of woven into Apocalypse Now… It is of course filled with a lot of jargon and slang, and at some point the word fugazi… and I thought, “what is that?” And I went back to the glossary at the back of the book, and it just said “a f***ed-up situation.” And, I thought, that was a great term!”

The band enjoyed decades of success. They released their last album in 2001 and called it “The Argument.” The album was a critical success, and the band went on tour for the following year.

(Video) Waiting Room

Once they were done with their 2002 UK tour, the band announced that they were going on an indefinite hiatus because the band members wanted to devote more time to their families as well as other professional projects.

Ever since the hiatus that started in 2003, there have been rumors about a possible reunion, but even though the band was offered lucrative deals to get back together, they have declined these offers. They insist that if they reunite, it won’t be for the money; it will be for the music.

Fugazi, the album

In 1984, Marillion, a British neo-progressive rock band, published their second album and called it Fugazi. The album was produced by Nick Tauber, the British producer who worked with Thin Lizzy and Toyah.

Fugazi was a bit of a shift for Marillion; the band was known for leaning towards progressive rock, but the new album was more hard rock.

That said, Fugazi was a large success, making it to the UK Top 5 and going Gold, largely thanks to the earlier success of the band’s first album, “Script for a Jester’s Tear.” One of the tracks on the album was also called “Fugazi,” and the track was one of the more critically acclaimed songs along with “Assassing” and “Incubus.”

Again, the album got its name from the Nam definition of fugazi. If anything, the titular song that carries the same name as the album contains the following lines:

Do you realize? Do you realize?
Do you realize, this world is totally fugazi

In the end, “Fugazi,” the album, wasn’t as successful or as loved as the first album, “Script for a Jester’s Tear,” or the third album, “Misplaced Childhood.”

Fugazi, the club and theater

If you go to North Beach, San Francisco, California, you will find a small theater and nightclub called “Club Fugazi.” The club/theater is located on the ground floor of a building called the “Casa Coloniale Italiana John F. Fugazi,” which is a community center for the Italian population of San Francisco.

Now, the building gets its name because it was financed through a donation by John F. Fugazi, the man who established the Columbus Savings and Loan Society back in 1893 along with the Banca Popolare Operaia Italiana in 1906.

Eventually, both these banks merged into what we know today as the Bank of America, but it was known as the Bank of Italy back then.

Club Fugazi itself has been hosting the same show for over forty years: “Beach Blanket Babylon,” a show where actors wear ridiculous wigs or hats, dress-up in funny costumes, and sing popular folk songs.

They also parody countless famous people, including presidents, kings, well-known politicians, actors, singers, businessmen, and financial tycoons. Sadly, recent news indicates that the show might be coming to a close this year.

Is any of this real?

Fugazi is one of those words that are shrouded in mystery; people know what it means, but no one is certain where it comes from. Even the definition of messed up isn’t a solid thing as several veterans during the Nam era have reported being totally unfamiliar with the word.

(Video) Fugazi-Waiting room

As for the definition of fake, several people associated with the mob have admitted to not knowing what the word meant.

And, this is what is so confusing here: For every book or account you get that includes the word, other people find it completely foreign to them.

For every Mark Baker, the author of “Nam,” who uses the word when talking about the harrowing experiences the veterans went through, other vets will deny ever hearing it.

For every Joe Pistone, the author of “Donnie Brasco: My Undercover Life in the Mafia,” who uses the word when talking about the mob’s lingo, other mafiosos will gawk at the word and find it incomprehensible.

So, the real question is this:

Given how fugazi the situation is, is the word fugazi just a fugazi?

"Fugazi": Meaning & Usage of This Crazy Word! (7)

Marcel Iseli

Hey fellow Linguaholics! It’s me, Marcel. I am the proud owner of linguaholic.com. Languages have always been my passion and I have studied Linguistics, Computational Linguistics and Sinology at the University of Zurich. It is my utmost pleasure to share with all of you guys what I know about languages and linguistics in general.


What does the slang term fugazi mean? ›

fugazi (plural fugazis) (US, slang) A person or thing that is fake; a fake, a fraud.

How do you use fugazi in a sentence? ›

We sound like a punk band, not a rock band. All of these songs sound all fugazi.

What is slang for fake Italian? ›

Finto, when used as a noun, is also what you'd call a phoney, imposter or fraud in Italian. A great expression in Italian is fare il finto tonto, with tonto meaning stupid person.

Is the word fugazi Italian? ›

It is not an Italian word, but looking for a meaning it turned out the term was used as a name for a rock band, Fugazi.

What does fugazzi mean urban dictionary? ›

[urban slang] fake; phony; broken beyond repair.

What is a goomba in Italian slang? ›

goom·​bah ˈgüm-ˌbä plural goombahs. informal : a close friend or associate. used especially among Italian-American men. informal + disparaging : a member of a secret chiefly Italian-American crime organization : mafioso.

What is Fugazi known for? ›

Fugazi became known for its intense live performances, marked by consistently tight sets and the magnetic stage presences of MacKaye and Picciotto. Onstage, the band utilized its trademark sound—the buildup of extreme tension followed by calm—to draw its audience into a visceral, emotional experience.

Why is Fugazi so popular? ›

Their music is anchored by complex, yet, steady bass work, played against very skronky, treble-driven guitars, as shouted vocals punched in and out of the verses and choruses. That was the basis, but Fugazi's sound and songwriting expanded on each album as they grew tighter, giving them more space for noise or quiet.

What does ugatz mean in Italian? ›

(inanimate) breast synonyms ▲ Synonyms: bular, titi. (inanimate) breastmilk.

What does chooch mean in Italian? ›

Noun. chooch (plural chooches) (Italian slang) A stupid person; a meathead.

What is sneaky in Italian? ›

sneaky {adjective}

subdolo {adj.}

What do Italians call their friends? ›

If you want to say “friends” in Italian, you would say either “amici” (male friends or mixed group) or “amiche” (female friends). “Best friends” would be either “migliori amici” (male/mixed) or “migliori amiche” (female).

What does Scifo mean in Italian? ›

Schifo is how you say 'disgust', which is exactly what you'll provoke in most Italians by drinking milky coffee after noon. It comes from an early Germanic word that meant 'to frighten' – the same that gave us the English word 'eschew'. In Italian it's most commonly used as an exclamation… Che schifo! How disgusting!

What does Bobo in Italian mean? ›

English Translation. fool. More meanings for bobo. fool noun. tonto, necio, idiota, imbécil, bufón.

What does Flodging mean in Chicago? ›

Americans from other cities rarely guess what flodgin means, but in reality, it's pretty simple. It just means to be lying.

What are some Philly slang words? ›

12 Philadelphia Slang Terms You Should Know
  • Wooder.
  • Jawn.
  • The Linc.
  • Youse guys.
  • Drawlin'
  • Hoagie.
  • Wit/witout.
  • Chumpy.
May 20, 2022

What does Fugazi meaning Wolf of Wall Street? ›

Nobody - and I don't care if you're Warren Buffet or if you're Jimmy Buffet - nobody knows if a stock is going to go up, down, sideways or in circles. You know what a fugazi is? Jordan Belfort : Fugayzi, it's a fake. Mark Hanna : Fugayzi, fugazi.

What does stugats mean in Italian? ›

According to Lingo2word.com, Stugotz could be derived from the Italian word 'Stugats' which means testicles. According to my producer Jerry P, his Italian Mom used to say "don't be a Stugotz" which meant quit being a ding dong.

What does Gabagool mean? ›

Italian Slang 101: gabagool. This is pronounced ga-ba-'gool. It's slang for cappicola, a highly seasoned type of ham that is a popular cold cut.

Why does Italy say Prego? ›

You are welcome

It basically is an automatism and it is considered the cornerstone of basic politeness. If someone says “grazie” to you and you don't reply “prego,” you might be considered rude, so watch out for that!

Who started Fugazi? ›

Fugazi. In 1987, MacKaye founded Fugazi, a band that has been cited as one of the most important post-hardcore groups. Fugazi set itself apart from most other bands by never playing a show with high-priced tickets.

Who is the great Fugazi? ›

Guitarist and vocalists Ian MacKaye and Guy Picciotto, bassist Joe Lally and drummer Brendan Canty comprise the groundbreaking outfit. Formed in 1986, before creating Fugazi, three of its members had already made an indelible mark on the realm of alternative culture, including punk and indie.

Where was Fugazi from? ›

Fugazi emerged from the Washington D.C. hardcore scene in the late 1980s. They had a profound impact on the music industry without ever joining a major label or breaking into Billboard's Hot 100. Musically, Fugazi produced what would come to be known as a seminal post-hardcore sound.

What does Stugotz mean in Italian? ›

Stugots is Italian mob slang lingo - Italian term that refers to the male genetalia. It is used to describe an idiot or a jerk. Stugots is also the name of Tony Sopranos boat on the HBO series The Sopranos.

What does Scifusa mean in Italian? ›

[skiˈfoso ] Word forms: schifoso, schifosa. (che fa ribrezzo) disgusting ⧫ revolting. (pessimo) dreadful ⧫ awful.

What does it mean when an Italian says Marone? ›

Marone – To swear by saying: 'damn it!

What is stunad in Italian? ›

[Italian slang] a stupid person.

What is aho in Italian? ›

Ahó – This roughly translates to “Hey” and is heard all over town. This informal exclamation/sound is used to catch someone's attention and is often drawn out to sound like 'Aooooooo'. Bella!

What does Oobatz mean in Italian? ›

OOBATZ (Ooo BAH TZZ) - Crazy!

What is Paisano Italian? ›

Noun. paisano (plural paisanos) Among Italian Americans and Americans of Italian descent: a fellow Italian or Italian-American; a fellow ethnic Italian.

What does Doobie mean in Italian? ›

1. slang. canna {f} [slg.] doobie (also: joint) spinello {m} [slg.]

What is Pooh in Italian? ›

cacca {f} [child.

What do Italian dads call their daughters? ›

Immediate family members in Italian
EnglishItalian SingularPronunciation
28 more rows
Jun 28, 2022

What do Italian Americans call their mom? ›

The name almost all children call their mother (madre) in Italian, no matter their age, is mamma, which translates as mom / mommy in American English or mum / mummy in British English.

What does Tutto mean? ›

An extremely useful word in Italian is tutto which translates as everything in English.

Is Tutto Bene Italian? ›

Pictures bearing the slogan andrà tutto bene – everything will be alright – are all over Italian social media today as people seek to reassure each other and brighten up days spent at home under quarantine.

How do you say no in Italian politely? ›

As mentioned, to say no in Italian, simply say “no, grazie” (no, thank you) to answer negatively but respectfully. But there are also various Italian alternatives. Let's see how to use Italian phrases like non penso/non credo, macché, or neanche per sogno!

What does Fazool mean in Donnie Brasco? ›

Fazools. Actually spelled "fagioli" Italian for bean. Term used for money or a bill.

What is a fugazi Wolf of Wall Street? ›

A term used to describe something or someone as fake. The term is rumored to have Italian origins but there is no such word that exists in Italian. It was famously used in the mob film "Donnie Brasco" to describe fake jewelry and in the Wall Street movie "Wolf of Wall Street".


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