The Origin Of The Term Paparazzi

For many, the term paparazzi evokes disgust and outrage, and for good reason. Paparazzi, or celebrity photographers, are often quite invasive and sometimes obnoxious, leading to a few heated confrontations here and there. Problems with the paparazzi have gotten so out of hand that some people have even tried passing laws against them. An anti-paparazzi bill, which floated about in California back in 2013, had received the support of celebrities like Halle Berry and Jennifer Garner, per the Guardian. There have even been lawsuits involving paparazzi, though often over copyright troubles, according to Bloomberg.

And while most people are undoubtedly familiar with that aspect of the paparazzi, what about the etymological one? Where does the word paparazzi actually come from? The answer might actually surprise some, as it came from the world of cinema, according to BBC News. The director Federico Fellini was the one who essentially created the word. It all started back with Fellini's film "La Dolce Vita."

Who is Federico Fellini?

Italy has a long and rich film history with thousands of influential movies spanning decades. One of the more well-known art movements within Italian cinema is Italian Neorealism. This movement got its start in the 1940s, and was heralded by groundbreaking filmmakers like Vittorio De Sica, Luchino Visconti, Roberto Rossellini, and more. As Movements in Film says, this movement was about post-war disillusionment, and often centered working-class frustrations at the forefront of the narrative. Among these talents was a director by the name of Federico Fellini.

Fellini was born on January 20, 1920, in Rimini, Italy, and is considered one of the most important and influential film directors to ever walk the planet. According to Britannica, Fellini grew up poor, resorting to selling stories to humor magazines just to earn a living wage. He eventually collaborated with one of the pioneers of Italian Neorealism, Roberto Rossellini, to write the 1945 masterpiece "Rome, Open City," which many consider to be one of the founding Neorealist movies. Fellini would go on to make such movies as "Amarcord," "City of Women," "La Dolce Vita," and more.

The word paparazzi comes from a character in La Dolce Vita

"La Dolce Vita" is considered to be one of the greatest movies of all time. Per Britannica, the film was directed by Fellini and came out in 1960. The premise follows a tabloid journalist attempting to live out his life in Rome while getting tangled up in shenanigans involving women, booze, and nightlife. The comedy was nominated for several Academy Awards at the time, such as best director, writing, and costume design.

It is also the film where the word paparazzi originated. As BBC News says, the word is derived from a character in the film named Paparazzo, who is an invasive photographer hellbent on getting that perfect shot. Fellini had said that he got the idea for it from opera and that the word had a buzzing, insect-like sound to it, which has come to symbolize the paparazzi. However, Ennio Flaiano, Fellini's co-writer on the film, said that the name actually came from "By the Ionian Sea" by George Gissing. Since then, news media and everyday people have used the word to describe the incessant photographers.