Why Is Pizza Called Pizza?

Did you know that the word pizza is believed to be more than 1000 years old? In fact, there is evidence to suggest that pizza dates back as far as 997 ad. However, the word has more recent origins that suggest is came from Naples in 1889 – but is this true?

A quick look through history shows us that the word pizza does indeed date back more than a thousand years and is an original form of the Italian word for pie.

However, in Italy, it is very rare that pies are called pizza, and the word ‘torta’ is more common. You may be surprised to learn that where language and history are concerned, there is far more detail to the word pizza than first meets the eye.

Deeper Meanings Of Pizza

When we break down pizza – linguistically speaking of course, not directing our favourite baked treat, we see that the traditional meaning of pie in Italy, actually comes from Greek and German, respectively.

The word in Greece for bread is pitta, and Italy borrowed this phrase for pizza. Additionally, an ancient language spoken in certain parts of Germany gave us ‘bizzo’ which means ‘to bite.’ Put these together, and you have the ingredients for the most popular Italian food in the world.

The Latin Document

As we mentioned earlier, a Latin document found in Gaeta, Italy details evidence that the first pizzeria may have been established far earlier than we have been led to believe.

Most pizza fanatics will be familiar with the story of Raffaele Esposito, who is an important figure in the history of pizza. He made the first pizza as we know them today in Naples, Italy in the late 1800s to celebrate a visit by Queen Margherita – whose name, although frequently associated with Italy, is in fact, Neapolitan.

Esposito crafted an open pie that was slathered in tomato sauce, mozzarella cheese and basil which may well closely resemble the offering we see in pizzerias all over the world, including one of the American pizza capitals of the world – New York City.

The ingredients he used were said to be symbolic of the Italian flag and of course, are staples of Italian food.

Of course, we now see many Pizza Margherita recipes, and we can thank the good queen for passing her approval of the dish, which earned it its name.

However, Sig Nocca, who studied the ancient document, explained that the son of a feudal lord used pizza as a bargaining tool with a local bishop. What is called pizza today may not have been the type of food that was referred to here, however.

Pizza In The United States

As more and more Italian immigrants left for the shores of America, some of the first pizza dishes were introduced to the country. As a way to make money, these immigrants from Italy sold the modern pizza to the masses in New York, and the craze soon caught on.

By the early 1990s, the popular Italian food had gained so much credibility in the American market that Gennaro Lombardi opening the first pizzeria in the country, on Spring Street in New York. Many people enjoyed the dish, but it didn’t really erupt until world war II, when soldiers from all over the world enjoyed a Margherita pizza and spread the news to their families back home.

Why Is Pizza Called Pizza?

Of course, the origin of the word pizza has a linguistic explanation, and the history of pizza is rich and interesting. Therefore, it isn’t difficult to understand where the word came from.

But there is a small point of contention over the correct name for the dish. Depending on where you are in the world, you may use a different slur for the food – with some referring to it simply as ‘za.’ Although this is a drastic shortening, it is quite common.

In America, many people will use the term pizza pie to talk about this popular Italian recipe, but in the rest of the world, this is largely unheard of. You may even hear some Americans calling pizza simply ‘pie.’

Professional Pizza makers will have special terms for the various parts of the pizza, most notably, the crust will be referred to as the ‘bones.’


Whether you call it pizza, pizza pie or simply ‘za’ there is no denying that pizza became incredibly popular in a short space of time when it was offered to royalty back in 1889.

However, since then, there has been evidence to suggest that this tomato and mozzarella based bread goes much further back.

In terms of the word, we can thank not only the Italians for their traditional word for pie but also the ancient Germans and Greeks for their linguistic input into creating a word that is recognised the world over – and what’s more, frequently brings people together.

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