Italian Baby Names Traditions

baby eating broccoli in high chair
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The nursery is freshly painted and has a new crib. You've aced your Lamaze classes and have an overnight bag packed, waiting at the door. When you last visited the baby doctor your delivery date was confirmed. The only thing you haven't decided on is an appropriate name for your new baby. None of the combinations you've considered have appealed to you. What about an Italian baby name? Maybe there's a Cipriano or a Tranquilla in your future!

Every Tizio, Caio, and Sempronio

How many Italian names are there currently? A recent poll counted upwards of over 100,000 names at the national level. The greater part of these, however, are extremely rare. Experts think there are approximately 17,000 Italian names that appear with regular frequency.

This guide to Italian baby names contains over 1,000 of the most common names, divided equally between male and female. Each entry contains a description with an account of the historical origins of the name, its significance, the English equivalent (if applicable), the name day, and other related Italian names and variations. For instance, the name Antonio (Anthony in English) is derived from the Latin surnameAntonius. The female form, Antonia, has several diminutive forms including Antonella, Antonietta, and Antonina. Nicknames and diminutives of Italian names are interesting, not only from an abstract linguistic standpoint, but also because understanding a conversation becomes easier when you know who's being referred to.

And Tizio, Caio, and Sempronio? That's how Italians refer to every Tom, Dick, and Harry!

Italian Naming Conventions

Traditionally, Italian parents have chosen their children's names based on the name of a grandparent, choosing names from the father's side of the family first and then from the mother's side.

According to Lynn Nelson, author of A Genealogist's Guide to Discovering Your Italian Ancestors, there has been a strong custom in Italy that determines how children are named:

  • the first male is named after his paternal grandfather
  • the second male is named after his maternal grandfather
  • the first female is named after her paternal grandmother
  • the second female is named after her maternal grandmother

Nelson also points out that: "the subsequent children could be named after the parents, a favorite aunt or uncle, a saint or a deceased relative."