Old-Fashioned Italian Baby Names

Above: a monument to Varenna’s WWI dead. If your last name was Pensa (“think”), why would you name your child Innocente? Monuments like this also give clues to names which were once common but have now fallen out of popularity: Gaspare [GAHS-pah-ray], Eliseo [ell-lee-ZAY-oh], Oreste [oh-RES-tay], Sigismundo [sih-jiss-MOON-doh] and Corrado [cor-RAH-doh] are very rare today.

War memorial in Lecco: more names which are now rare (and might be considered funny):

  • Ermenegildo [air-may-nay-JEEL-doh]
  • Eufrasio [ey-you-FRAZ-ee-oh]
  • Mansueto [mahn-SWAY-toh] (“gentle”)
  • Fortunato [for-too-NAH-toh] (“lucky,” but this may also be the name of a saint)
  • Onorato [on-oh-RAH-toh] (“honored”)
  • Severino [seh-veh-REEN-oh] (a saint)
  • Domizio [doh-MEET-zee-oh] (Roman name)
  • Calimero [cah-lee-MARE-oh]
  • Arnaldo [are-NAHL-doh]

Wilma [VILL-mah] and Giuseppina [jews-ep-PEEN-ah] would be considered old-fashioned. Carolina [car-oh-LEAN-ah] is still current (my daughter has been at school with at least one Carolina).

  • Ines [ee-NESS]
  • Gioconda [joe-COND-ah] – In Italy, an alternate name for the Mona Lisa is La Gioconda. Note that this one was the widow of a Mr. Orfeo [or-FAY-oh] (Orpheus).
  • Adalgisa [ah-DAHL-jizz-ah] – Very old-fashioned.

  • Egidia [eh-GEE-dee-uh]
  • Rosetta [Rose-ETT-uh]
  • Cherubina [care-oo-BEAN-uh] – “Little Cherub” – Huh?!?
  • Chiarina [kya-REE-nah] – unusual, but cute. A diminutive of Chiara [KYA-rah], meaning clear, transparent, or light.

  • Achille = Achilles
  • Valentino – well, you all know that one
  • Ermanno – no less than two of them! = Herman
  • Carmelo – very current in southern Italy

  • Gottardo [go-TAR-doh] – a saint with an important Alpine mountain pass and two major highway tunnels named after him.
  • Cesare [CHAY-za-ray] – Caesar. You knew that, right?
  • Oreste [o-RESS-tay] – the Greek Orestes

  • Edoardo Enrico – It’s unusual for an Italian to use a middle name in any context. My husband, for example, has several which may be on his baptismal certificate, but do not exist on his birth certificate or any other legal document, and which are never used. Beyond that, Edoardo [eh-doh-AR-do] and Enrico are both names that are not unusual, but not overly common, either.
  • Piera – [pee-AIR-a or PYAIR-ah] Female version of Piero, of course.
  • Candida [CAHN-did-ah] – Carries the connotation “white” or “pure.”
  • Armanda [ar-MAHN-dah]
  • Quinto [KWEEN-toh] – “Fifth”.
    In some families it seems to have been the practice, dating back to Classical Rome, to give your children numbers rather than names: Primo, Secundo, etc. Or, having grown tired of trying to find names after the first few, the parents seem to take this easy way out.
  • Pierluigi – Pier is often used as a sort of adjunct to other (male) names: Piergiorgio, Pierluigi, even Piermaria (still a male name by virtue of the Pier on the front).

Anything you can add on the lore and history of old-fashioned Italian names will be welcome!

Related: Italian Baby Names I Happen to Like

26 thoughts on “Old-Fashioned Italian Baby Names

  1. Typesetter

    Ottorino does not mean eight, it’s a diminutive of the german name Otto, which indicates a rich man, someone with extensive possessions, a powerful man. The numerals names are used quite a lot in Emilia Romagna. My granny hs a cousin named Primo, and I have personally met a Settimo (by the time you tget to sevel children you are allowed to have exhausted your naming options!). Emilia also has the most unusual names. I have cousns named Waomi (prnounced “vaòmi”), which may be a corruption ow Wyoming! other members of my family are Nelso (it ought to be Nelson, but they didn’t knoiw about the final “n”), Vitige (she was a woman, but Vitige was a celtic chief that surrendered to Cesare), Dilva (???)…

  2. Walter

    my grandfather’s name is Antonio Bennedetto Molinari . Bennedetto must be extinct because I havent head of it and thats the middle name.

  3. Patrick Pregiato

    Great Blog!!! Enjoyed it immensely.
    I teach languages – including Italian. My passion, however is Italian dialects. I am basically fluent in Sicilian (messinese) and have informally studied Neapolitan and others. Contrary to what you may have mentioned, the accent most widely used in the States is Neapolitan due to the millions of Italo-americans who claim ancestry from the Campania region – it is also universally understood by most other southerners. Sicilian has a very different cadence and never drops final vowels as in Neapolitan – that said it is Neapolitan that is mostly used and immitated by Americans – to the point where most Americans think that “FONGOOL” (not FUNGOO) means FUCK YOU in Italian.
    Regarding names: there was, back in the days og huge families, strict rules for naming children – up to the 4th & 5th daughter. (at least in the South)
    I’ll save that for another time.
    PS Quattro would be, acc’d to your spelling, QUACCHRU not Quacchro.
    Ciao, e tante belle cose!

  4. webmaster

    Thanks – it’s always good to get info from real experts. I (to my shame) have as yet spent almost no time in southern Italy – something I hope to remedy when I have time from all my other travels!

  5. Patrick Pregiato

    Glad you read my comment. Haven’t spent much time in the Mezzogiorno? That’s like having foreplay without actual intercourse!!
    Hope you get down there real soon. Here I am in NY with a wife, 2 kids and a mortgage, cringing everytime I look at the exchange rate and wishing I were in Taormina- my favorite place in the whole world and there you are so close….. ma non e’ giusto!!
    Auguroni per le feste,
    Patrizio

  6. Mary

    Just wanted to add a name…My grandmother’s name was Aqualina Petrocce. I have never heard of anyone else with this name. Very interesting web site! Also,to the gentlemen who’s middle name is Bennedetto, that was my uncle Angelo’s (uncle by marriage) last name, but I have never heard it used as a first name before.

  7. courtney

    My great grandmothers name was Liberata. Which I find pretty uncommon. But other than that we have all traditional names; Rita, Marietta, Ada, Palmina, Pietra, too many Dario’s! Somehow my mother stuck me with a Scottish name, but I’m hoping to sneak Liberata into one of my children’s middle names!

  8. Stefania

    I am an Italian & Canadian citizen, fluent in both Italian & English. Just wanted to add some more ancient Italian names to the list:
    Elfio, Guglielmo, Eufemia, Clelia, Cassia, Annunziata, Immacolata, Crucifissa, Gelsomina, Calogero, Igliana, Eufemio, Guido…there are a few for now!

  9. Maria Teresa

    I found LUPERDI as a girl’s Italian name twice
    Do you know the origin of this name?
    Thank You,
    Maria

  10. Caterina

    Ciao:
    In my family we have several aunts called Filomena, Fortunata, Ippolita and some cousins called Assunta and Annunziata. It has been through these “older” names that we have been able to track our genealogy around the world.

    Interesting topic, vero?

  11. Linda

    When my ancestors came from Campania region(Morra De Sanctis) in early 1900’s they had beautiful romatic Italian names..Giuseppe, Maria, Angelo, Pasquale, Domenico, Rocco, Gerardo,Rosaria, Vincenzo. But to fit in the names changed to, or because there were mostly Irish teachers that where heavily inudated with Italian-Americans: Joseph, Mary, Angelo, Patrick, Dominick, Rocco,James, Rose and Vincent.
    Anyway, I enjoyed the site very much.
    Thank you. ps. Pennella was my family’s surname.

  12. Eros Amaro

    Are we talking about old fashioned names? Huh! I can stay hours telling my relatives’ names! By first me: my name is Eros Laerte. My father third name is Ermes (without the H), his brother have name Massimo Marcello Curzio, and another brother of him is named Ivan Silvio. My paternal grand-father was Socrate (like philosopher) and his siblings names are: Spartaco, Florio, Alba (dawn), Sigfrido, Wanda, Pierino (little Peter), Osvaldo, Vittoria and Ovidio. Finally, my great-grandfather’s sister was named Brigita, with only 1 T. My paternal grand-mother is Delfina (she-dolphin), but is better known as Pia: in fact in her family seems that all want not to use their real name!. Her siblings are: Andrea (a.k.a. Silvio), Pompeo (a.k.a. Giovambattista), Anna, Maria, Federico, Margherita (daisy, a.k.a. Rita), Teresa, Ottaviano (a.k.a. Novelio). Some cousins of mine are: Ivo, Goffredo, Virginia, Lucrezia, Manlio, Moira, Silvana, Leone (lion), Annetta (2), Erminio. Finally, my mother’s aunt is Nelia: a name that, by her own ammission, means absolutely nothing.
    I enjoyed this site
    Hello

  13. Richard Davies

    It’s interesting that Italians don’t use their middle names much if at all, considering that you’ve mentioned elsewhere that many people have the same first names, though I understand there are more surnames used in Italy than other countries.

    This was a particular for my Dad when he was young as he had the same name as my Grandad, often opening each other’s post by accident.

    Talking of numbered names Octavia (8th child) is another Roman name that has survived to recent time.

  14. paolo

    I am a 22 year old Italian-Canadian living in Toronto, Canada. I have a Bartolomeo, Gaspare, Luigina, Giacomina (Jacqueline?), Assunta, and Rafaella in my family. That is a combination of paternal sicilian0 and maternal calabrese family. There were many other italiani children in MY generation who had these names also in my communities, including Corrado, Settimo, Serafina, and the like. Whether these names will remain in the Italian-Canadian community I can’t say.

  15. Karen

    I have the death certificate of one of my grandmother’s brothers who died young. It’s handwritten and not easy to read, but it looks like Marchillino. Has anyone heard of that? I haven’t found any reference to it yet. The closest I’ve seen is Marcellino. I’ve found several spelling mistakes for my family’s names in census, birth certificates, … I found Chiarina spelled Catherine and she never went by that name. I think if the person doing the writing wasn’t Italian they just put down whatever looked right to them.

  16. Carmine De Lucia

    Im trying to decypher my great grandmothers first name as it appears on a ships passenger list, dated 1908. All I can make out from the ship’s pursers handwriting is A—arasia. Its very possible that there are only 2 letters missing rather than 3. She was from Monteforte, in Campania. Ive looked at several lists of names and a few appear to end in “rasia” Does anyone have any ideas. Also she was not a passenger, but rather, was only listed as a next of kin by my grandfather. She remained in Italy.

  17. Angela

    Love this site !!! My dad is named Innocente , and he is named after his Grand father, was called Cente, or chinteh growing up and changed to Joe when he started working ..he has a brother Guido, And one Named emilio , father named Elia , .. Some more unique names in the family as well. !!!

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  19. Julianna

    I loved this site! And I have some names for you mostly Calabrese:

    Fortunato
    Basilio
    Dovizia
    Severio
    Congettina
    Salvatricia
    Bennedetto/Bennedetta
    Nunzio

    I find there are tons of great male names but, perhaps because everyone is named Maria Theresa, there aren’t as many good female names.

  20. Paul

    My surname is Scaturchio – I have a baby on the way, struggling for boys names….Guiseppe is my dads name, help

  21. Jamie

    I love this site. So i recently did my ancestry DNA test and i happen to be 26% italian… not much! However both of my parents have always clamed to be mexican… this site just oppended my eyes because all along i thought my dads name was 100% mexican but his name is ermenegildo calderon and my grandfathers name is onorato calderoni and my uncles name name is gregorio tito calderon

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