Maltese Symbolism and Meaning

The Maltese language is a unique and fascinating one, with its own set of symbols and meanings that hold great importance for the people who speak it. As an official language of Malta, it has been influenced by various cultures throughout history, including Arabic, Italian, and English. This article will explore the symbolism and meaning behind some of the most common words in the Maltese language, as well as provide examples of how they are used in everyday life.


The Maltese language is a Semitic language that has evolved over time, with roots in Arabic, Sicilian, and Italian. It’s spoken by around 400,000 people on the island nation of Malta and Gozo. The Maltese alphabet uses Latin script with additional letters borrowed from Italian and English, making it a fascinating blend of languages. This article will delve into the symbolism behind some common words in the language and their meanings, providing insights into the rich cultural history of this unique tongue.

Symbolism in Maltese Language

The Word “Għana”

The word “Għana” is a popular term in Maltese culture, meaning ‘song’ or ‘music’. It carries deep symbolic significance as it represents the importance of music and singing in Maltese society. Music has always been an integral part of their cultural heritage, with traditional folk songs called “Festi” being sung during religious celebrations and social gatherings. These songs often reflect historical events or local legends, showcasing the island’s history and traditions. The word itself is derived from the Arabic term “Ghina”, which means ‘to sing’.

Symbolism in Maltese Proverbs

Maltese proverbs are rich with symbolism, often reflecting local wisdom and beliefs. For instance, “Kif għandu l-għajtinu?” translates to ‘How is the sea?’ It’s used when someone asks about another person’s wellbeing but implies a deeper question about their emotional state. The sea symbolizes life’s unpredictability and ever-changing nature, reminding us that people should be prepared for any situation.

Symbolism in Maltese Names

Names in Malta are often steeped in symbolism too. For example, the name ‘Giorgio’, derived from George, signifies victory or triumph. Similarly, ‘Maria’ means bitterness and sweetness, reflecting the Virgin Mary’s sorrowful yet joyous role in Christianity.

Symbolism in Maltese Sayings

“Kif għandu l-għajtinu?” (How is the sea?) is a common saying used when asking about someone’s wellbeing, symbolizing life’s unpredictability and reminding us to be prepared for any situation. Another popular one is “Jien ma jien”, meaning ‘I am what I am’, emphasizing self-acceptance and individuality.

Symbolism in Maltese Literature

Maltese literature often uses symbolism to convey deeper meanings. For example, the novel “Il-Qamar il-Lewz” by Dun Karm Psaila portrays the island’s struggle for independence through its characters and settings. It symbolizes the Maltese people’s resilience against foreign rule.

Symbolism in Maltese Art

Artists like Alfred Camilleri use symbolism to depict Malta’s history, culture, and identity. His paintings often feature traditional scenes with hidden meanings, reflecting the island’s rich heritage.

Symbolism in Maltese Cuisine

Maltese cuisine is a blend of Mediterranean flavors, with dishes like “Rabbit Stew” symbolizing the island’s rural life and “Bigilla”, a traditional spread made from broad beans, representing communal meals shared during celebrations.

Symbolism in Maltese Festivals

Festas are an essential part of Maltese culture, each village having its patron saint with unique customs and traditions. They symbolize unity and community spirit.

Symbolism in Maltese Architecture

Baroque architecture is prevalent, reflecting the island’s history under foreign rule. The Co-Cathedral of St John represents this blend of cultures. Its ornate decorations symbolize the mix of influences on Malta’s culture.

Symbolism in Maltese Dialects

Maltese has several dialects, each carrying regional and historical significance. For instance, Gozitan dialect is distinct from Maltese, reflecting the island’s geographical isolation.

Symbolism in Maltese Clothing

Traditional Maltese clothing symbolizes social status and religious beliefs. Men wear traditional “Gozo” pants, while women don colorful dresses called “Għonnella”.

Symbolism in Maltese Music

Folk music is a significant part of the culture, with songs like “Il-Kantilena”, symbolizing love and loss. The national anthem, “L-Innu Malti”, represents patriotism and unity.

Symbolism in Maltese Sports

Soccer is a popular sport, symbolizing national pride and unity. The Malta National Football Team’s emblem features the Maltese Cross, representing the island’s history and identity.


Maltese language is steeped in symbolism, reflecting its diverse cultural influences. Its words, proverbs, literature, art, cuisine, festivals, architecture, dialects, clothing, and sports all carry deep meanings that define the island’s identity. Understanding these symbols helps us appreciate Malta’s rich heritage better.

Similar Posts