What’s the meaning of “L’abito non fa il monaco”?

In this short lesson, we will learn the meaning of the Italian proverb L’abito non fa il monaco along with its pronunciation. If appearance is more important to you than substance, this idiom is for you!

Let’s get started! Iniziamo!

L’abito non fa il monaco

Meaning of the proverb

L’abito non fa il monaco can be literally translated as “the clothes don’t make the monk” and it means that no matter how well you dress, your value and personality will not change. It’s roughly equivalent to the English idiom you can’t judge a book by its cover.

Abito means gown and monaco means monk, but what’s important to understand here is that gown doesn’t refer to the clothes a person might be wearing, but rather to their appearance and the impression they make on others.

It doesn’t matter if you pretend to be gentle and virtuous, this is just an outer shell and doesn’t change what you really are on the inside. If you are an evil person and wear gold from head to toe, you are still an evil person!

monk under a waterfall - l'abito non fa il monaco

There is also the proverb L’abito fa il monaco, but it’s not as common. It is the opposite of L’abito non fa il monaco, because it literally means “the clothes make the monk”.

It means that your personality changes for the better when you wear nice clothes. Basically, your personality reflects your clothes, which isn’t exactly true. This is why the first proverb is much more common.

Pronunciation of L’abito non fa il monaco in Italian

Now let’s hear how this proverb is pronounced.

L’abito non fa il monaco
You can’t judge a book by its cover
Literally: The clothes don’t make the monk

You might have trouble pronouncing gli, which is a masculine Italian article. If you need help with Italian pronunciation, check out the lesson on the Italian alphabet and pronunciation.

Where does L’abito non fa il monaco come from?

The proverb probably comes from an old Latin saying, cucullus non facit monachum, which means “the hood does not make the monk”.

man wearing a white hood

Its meaning is similar to the proverbs L’apparenza inganna, “appearance is deceiving”, and Non è tutto oro quello che brilla, “Not all that glitters is gold”, similar to the English proverb All that is gold does not glitter.

And that’s the end of our lesson on the Italian proverb L’abito non fa il monaco!

What next?

See all the other Italian idioms!

Now that you’ve seen what the meaning of the proverb L’abito non fa il monaco is in Italian, you might want to keep learning Italian online with these free Italian resources:

Title: Italian All-in-One For Dummies
Language: English / Italian
Publisher: For Dummies
Pages: 672

Learn to speak Italian like a native? Easy.
Italian All-in-One For Dummies appeals to those readers looking for a comprehensive, all-encompassing guide to mastering the Italian language. It contains content from all For Dummies Italian language instruction titles, including Italian For Dummies, Intermediate Italian For Dummies, Italian Verbs For Dummies, Italian Phrases For Dummies, Italian Grammar For Dummies, and Italian For Dummies Audio Set.

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