Unusual Italian Baby Names

photo taken in Mantova

Dino [DEEN-oh] is a common nickname for a number of names. This guy must have a sense of humor: “Dino Nosari” sounds like dinosauri – dinosaurs.

photo taken in Mantova

I’d never heard the name Modestino [mod-ess-TEEN-oh] (literally “little modest one”), but it’s rather sweet, especially in combination with his surname, Lieto [lee-AY-toh] – Happy.

photo taken in Lecco

More names from death announcements.

“Maria Bambina” I suppose refers to the childhood of the Virgin Mary, but seems an odd choice of name. No wonder she was nicknamed Mariuccia [mahr-ee-OOCH-ah] (“cute little Mary”). Then she married into the Rats (Ratti).

Nives I’ve heard before, but would have thought it a Spanish name.

Upper left: somebody, widow of Horses

Gustavo is an old-fashioned name, Jorio I’ve never seen before [YOR-ee-oh], Salvatore [sahl-vah-TORE-ay] is very southern Italian, and… Colombina [col-om-BEAN-uh] – Little dove

Heavens, what a name! Altavilla (high villa) Nobili (nobles). At least he gave his kids fairly normal names (Annarita and Franco).

Marshall reminded me of a very funny and supposedly true case in Italy. It requires some explanation: When a woman marries, she is formally known as “Maidenname Firstname in Husband’s Surname,” I guess “in” signifies that she has married into the husband’s family (though I’ve only seen this construction used in death announcements). So there was a lady with the surname Milolava (“I’ll wash it”) whose parents rather cruelly named her Domenica (Sunday). She married a Signor Piazza, so she became “Sunday I’ll wash it in the piazza.” What “it” may signify is up to your imagination.

Really, some parents ought to be shot for how they name their kids. Years ago, in Washington, I had a data entry temp job for an insurance company. One of the records I entered was for a woman named Candy Caine. Evidently her parents wanted her to grow up to be a Playboy Bunny.

Jan 19, 2004

Ivo wrote me about his friends, interestingly surnamed “Della Bella” (of the beauty), who have relatives with the unhappy surname “Della Morte” (of death). So what did these sadistic parents name their child? Angelo.

And another in the series: “What were your parents thinking?!?”

In the Italian online white pages, you can do a reverse lookup (when you know the number, get the name). Some time ago, the following Internet meme was circulating: go to the white pages and look up a certain number. The resulting name, presumably someone’s legal name, was Bocchino Generoso (Bocchino being the surname – names are listed surname first). Bocchino is slang for fellatio, Generoso… well, you can guess. Unless this is the stage name of a gay porn artist, this guy must hate his parents. Interestingly, when I went back to check a few weeks later, the number was no longer listed.


35 thoughts on “Unusual Italian Baby Names

  1. Annika

    Well I don’t really have an unusual Italian baby name to share, but I thought it would be fun to be the first commenter (?) on your site. Keep up the good work!

  2. Christine

    Well, they are not italian names, but I went to high school in NJ with Crystal Glass, and knew a woman named Bonnie Ann Clyde.

  3. Jake

    Well, I’m not really sure if it’s uncommon or not, but I’ve never heard it before. I once knew someone named Ottavio, we used to call him Otto in school, because he was the 8th child in the family.

  4. Lorenzo

    well. do you really want weird name? you have to go in an emilian graveyard. I don’t know why, but they have a real passion for unusual names: my granmother was from there so…her brothers (nine!) had names likes Omero, Avio (cause his father loved aviation) Nabro (cause a relative was saved in the first world war from a yugoslavian named Nabor, but fascism permitted only “italian name”…) Euro (also a cousin of my father) and so on…

  5. webmaster

    Now that you mention it, a friend of ours from Bologna had a father or grandfather named Vasinto. The best they could figure was that it was an homage to (George) Washington.

  6. Jo-Dee Collins

    Thanks for such a great site. We moved to Abruzzo from Portland, OR two years ago. We have two kids in the elementary
    school here so we thought it would be a good idea to Italianize their names. Our son went from Noel to Natale and our daughter went from Adeline to Adelina. Come to find out these were pretty poplular about 80 years ago. We often see the death posters around town announcing that Adelina died. And when my daughter was introducing her brother to one of her teachers, the teacher responded “E mio nome è Pasque°. Both kids were confused, until they realized the teacher thought they made a language mistake. When corrected, she was pretty embarassed.

  7. Daniele

    We have friends in Abruzzo, completely Italian family with no members living overseas, who have called their baby boy Klady.
    No, we can’t figure it out either.

  8. Kate

    Daniele – I’m afraid your Abruzzese friends have been watching too much tv – Klady is/was the heart-throb dancer on the Fame Academy program. Yes, I am embarassed to admit I know this!

  9. Alex

    My favorite Italian name is ‘Calogero’. It’s wonderful. I don’t know why, maybe it’s because it conjours up and image of a grumpy old man. Yet the person I knew with this name was neither young nor grumpy!
    Annunziata and Concetta also get my votes as pretty odd names – I think Annunziata means ‘announced’ and ‘Concetta’ I believe means ‘conceived’! And how about Incorinata? ‘Crowned’, I guess. I had a student with the surname Cangialosi, which I translated as ‘Jealous Dog’. Naughty me. I have a Mr Happy and a Mr Bored at the moment too…..

  10. Gaby

    In Sicily, the names Accursio (derived from the Italian “Soccorso” = “Help”), Calogero (a Sicilian Saint, already mentioned by Kate) and Carmelo (probably derived from the Mount Carmel), as well as the female forms Accursia, Calogera and Carmela are quite common, but nearly unknown in the rest of Italy. You also often find other antique names there like e.g. Aurelio.
    Some examples of typical Sicilian surnames: Sclafani, Grisafi, Spanò, Cusumano.

  11. Levi

    I choose my 2yr olds name due to the fact that it is my great great grandfathers brothers name….. Dominiko….i thought that when i heard that name that it was very unique and ear catching….-please let me know what you think??? if you have any more unique names that are Italian either boy or girl me and my girlfriend woud love to hear them

  12. Larissa

    my husband is of Sicilian decent with both sides of his family living in Partanna. We’ve been as a family once (i was 35 weeks pregnant with my second child/ daughter) and prior to that had been twice dating/engaged.

    We named both our children after his parents. Our son is Bruno Luca and our Daughter Grazia Sofia. Our american friends (i’m 100% Polish and even MY family didn’t understand but got used to it) had a very hard time. They came to adore Bruno’s name b/c it fit him well ..but as a baby was hard to see him as a “Bruno” and not a typical american name instead. My daughter Grazia still stumps people. Bruno is 3, Grazia just turned 1. I absolutely despise americans who mistake her name for “grazie”..

    Other than that..just wanted to post that passing down of the family name is alive and well here in our family..my husband carries his dad’s father’s name. Hence our son carries his name..

    The middle names we chose for fun. Otherwise..our american friends honor their family and relatives by giving their names as middle/second names. To me, if it isn’t the first name…why bother?

  13. Qt

    Someone mentioned that in Emilia you’ll find strange names and that is true for a couple of (related) reason: Emilia’s strong communism movement and more then average presence of atheist.
    So, as the first named their children after early russia communist leaders the latter named their with everithing but saint names.
    In some (planned to be) big families, decades ago children were named with the cardinals of theit birts: Primo (first) Secondo (second) Terzo (third, never heard this myself), Quarto (fourth) Quinto (fifth) and so on…

  14. marti

    Dominko is traditional Croatian name, probable the samee meaning as Domenico in Italy. Not so popular nowdays but still common in use.

  15. Lisa

    My baby boy is 3 weeks old/ was born very near Christmas. We wanted to choose a name that reflects the season, yet not something as obvious as Nick/ Niccolino or Noel/ Natale. While scouring the dictionary, DH mentioned “Pino = pine tree” and I knew a Pino, but there aren’t many around here in Detroit, so I took it. I actually wasn’t aware that the name is short for Peppino which is short for Giuseppe (apparently). Now to explain that his name is Pino but not Guiseppe is a pain already. Not to mention that my brother walked in and said, “So, let me see this little Penis- oh, I mean Pino.”


    Three weeks later, I’m still searching for a seasonal, Italian, not-too-common-yet-not-too-uncommon name to change it to!

  16. Lisa

    Just to mention… I don’t have anything against Noel or Natale or Nicco or Nick. For us, we just wanted something less obviously related to Christmas. 🙂

  17. webmaster

    Just off the top of my head, you could use his onomastico (saint’s name, from the saint of the day on the day he was born). I don’t know the calendar, but one around this time of year is Santo Stefano, whose day, Dec 26th, is a national holiday in Italy. Stefano as a name is not too common these days, but neither is it old-fashioned or strange, and your brother can then call him Steve. ; )

  18. Ann Ratcliffe

    Pier Angelo (Pier Angel): my husbands name.
    Angelo (Angel): his father’s name.
    Lidia Undecesima (Lydia 11th-was the 11th child): his mother’s name.
    Vittoria (Victoria): his sister’s name

    Our favorite baby names:

    Goelle (Joel)
    Emmaly (Emily spelt with the Italian pronuciation so there will be no confusion and her nickname will become Emma: his single Aunt’s name. The translation for Emily would be Emilia here, but I don’t like it. Seeing as his Aunt never married, no one will think to give her name to their child. She is my husband’s favorite Aunt and my best friend in America’s name is Emily, so we figured it out.

    We like in the North (Lecco, to be exact) so these are strange names here… but we like them.

  19. kathleen Brophy

    You know, as silly as it sounds, I love the name Pinnochio. The more I say it, the less it reminds me of the puppet. Do you think there are really people out there named Pinnochio? It means “pine nut” or “little nut.” I’m sure it would probably ruin a young boys life to me names Pinnochio….I’ll have to find another name that has that -chio at the end.

    I have just married a man with a nice Italian name and I am always thinking of names that will sound nice.

  20. Frank

    well, for unusual italian names. Im not sure if these are unusual in Italy, but they arent common north american-italian names at all.

    These are the names of my aunts.

    Laurina (la-ow-ri-na)
    Milva (mil-va)
    Nita (knee-ta)
    Iva (Italian spelling for Eva)

  21. Salvatore

    Here are some unique Sicilian names, usually found in the Palermo area, mostly in Cefalu. These names may also be found in far North Italy aswell, from the Sicilians moving there for job oppurtunity.

    Salvatore Mauro
    Rocco Giosue
    Guerrino Ambrogino
    Beppino Agostino
    Renato Giuvanettu

  22. Rachel

    38 1/2 weeks pregnant and my husband and I can’t agree on a name. We have 3 kids now, Nico, Tomasina and Antonio.
    I like Santino but, we want our kids to have a traditional saint name and Santino is not listed as a saint. Does anyone know anything about this name….?IT’s origin, nicknames (besides sonny) or does anyone have any other list….of sicilian/italian boy names??? Help..
    We don’t have much time…

  23. pippawilson

    Why give a baby an unusual name? traditional names are so nice and help kids feel part of the community instead of a name-freak… anyway I really like Emma, simple, easy to remember and to write and you pronouce it easily in Italian and English. Think about it!

  24. Denise

    My grandmother’s name was Adaljisa and I am trying to find out more about it. I don’t think it was a common Italian name (especially since there is no “j” in the Italian alphabet.) She lived in a tiny hill town called Villetta Barrea (in the Abruzzi region.) I have been told that her relatives were scandalized when her family gave her that name! Is it Italian or is it of Spanish origin? Why would the name upset her relatives? I can’t find a thing on it.

    Denise DeJulio (originally DiGiulio)

  25. Isabella DeCarlo

    im originaly from italy and have a few cute baby names to share. some girls names are: Terrastella(meaning earth and star), Leonella, Rachelle or Rochelle, Monique, Dulcinea, Janelle, and Vestalla. my favorite is Devri-Kierre( a friend of my mothers) and Charrli. i love that boys name Dario in the article by hte way.

  26. Lisa

    I am 38 weeks pregnant and we have two Italian girl names picked out. If it is a girl, Gianna and if it is a boy, Nico. My husband is Gianni. His family is from Italy, I am second generation. Other Italian family names we have are, Angela, Silvano, Rosario, Rosa, Rosalia, Gisella, Nicoletta, Valentina, Gabriella, Sofia, Ariana,and others that were already mentioned on this site. I also LOVE Stelina and Stella!

  27. Pamela

    We have some nice italian names in our family. Angelina, Anabella, Josephina, And Bambina just to name a few

  28. webdesign

    Nowadays it is very popular to give old unforgiven names. I live in Russia, and such situation is increasing now. I think is not so bad, but parents should understand that old russian names such AGRIPPINA,EVLAMPIA,FOKA,FOMA can spoil the kids future.

  29. Terri

    Lisa – I see the post is a year old but I was wondering if you had a boy or a girl. My daughter is almost 3 and is Gianna (Gianna Rose)and my nephew born yesterday is Nicco. Small

  30. Fabio

    Very nice post. And very nice blog.
    Just a minor correction: “Milolava” has no meaning in italian; the anectode here in Italy is narrated using the correct “Melalavo” form.

    Good luck for your radio.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.