Category: Italian baby names
By Abigail Cukier
As we all know, choosing a name for your baby can be a daunting task. Many factors come into play – trends, tastes, opinions from relatives. But parents are also often guided by religious or cultural traditions. Here are some naming customs from around the world.
Personally, when naming my own children, we had to be careful not to choose anything too similar to that of a loved one, because for Ashkenazi Jews this goes against tradition. We usually name a baby after a deceased relative. Some will use the full name, while others use just the first letter. For example, I am named after my grandfather, Arthur.
This is to honour loved ones who have died but also to a superstition. The old belief was that there might be a mix-up and the angel of death might take the baby instead of the older relative.
On the other hand, among Sephardic Jews, who originated in Spain or Portugal, it is actually an honour to name a child after a parent or living relative.
Babies usually receive an English and a Hebrew name. Some parents translate the child’s secular name while others choose a separate Hebrew name.
A boy is named on the eighth day after the birth during the bris (ritual circumcision). Loved ones have the honour of carrying the baby and often the grandfather holds him during the ceremony. A girl is named in the synagogue, where the father reads from the Torah (Bible) and the baby and mom are blessed.
Until recently, Italian names–particularly for boys– have rarely ventured outside their own neighborhoods, but lately we’ve seen several popping up in the celebrisphere—though usually, if not always, used by celebs with Italian roots. There have been at least four Mateo/Matteos, two Roccos, two Romeos, Annabeth Gish’s Enzo, Ricky Martin’s Valentino, and Jill Hennessey’s Marco Gianni.
These are names that have all been pretty firmly assimilated, but there are loads more undiscovered rhythmic and romantic nomi belli that could be considered—a few of which have already gained entrance via their female forms. Here are the Nameberry Picks of 15 of the best underused Italian boys’ names.
Nearly two years ago we ran a nameberry contest asking you to guess the name of Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garner‘s second child; now the challenge is to come up with the name of Affleck pal Matt Damon and wife Luciana‘s fourth daughter, due to be born any minute.
Will the new baby’s name harmonize with her big sisters’ stylish Latinate names, or strike out in a new direction? Will the new baby have a surname as a middle name, as do Gia (Zavala is a common Spanish last name) and Matt himself (his is Paige), or, like Isabella, no middle name at all?
To everyone who guessed early and chose a boy’s name, before I heard the news that the baby is definitely a girl, you get another shot: I can tell who you are.
The person who guesses the new Matt Damon baby name correctly wins a full signed set of our baby name books, including The Baby Name Bible, Cool Names, Beyond Ava & Aiden and Cool Irish Names. If no one guesses the name exactly, we’ll choose the winner by whoever comes closest, in the opinion of the judges aka Pam and Linda.
A bit about the names of the Damons’ children: All three are rising in popularity and have a Latin feel, undoubtedly thanks to mom Luciana‘s Argentinean roots. Gia is a short form of such Italian names as Gianna, Giovanna, and Giada, first known in this country via 60s movie star Gia Scala, born Giovanna. Most recently, it’s gained notoriety as the oldest stage-bound daughter of Real New Jersey Housewife Teresa Giudice.
Isabella, the Spanish and Italian version of Elizabeth, is both classic and mega-trendy – it’s now the most popular name in the U.S. Alexia, a more modern offshoot of Alexandra/Alexandria, has also been steadily rising along with other members of the Alex family.
Those characteristics offer some good clues to what the couple’s fourth baby might be named. Or do they?
Post your entries here; one to a customer. Since everyone started with first names only, let’s keep going that way. Check and make sure someone hasn’t already entered your guess, as the first one to claim a name will win the prize. Different spellings counted separately, so if someone has already guessed Sofia, you can guess Sophia. (But sorry, those two are already taken.)
Adding a middle name does not mean you get to reclaim a name — so if Sophia has already been guessed, you can’t guess Sophia Rose. You also can’t guess two names — i.e. “Sophia or Sofia” — or both guesses will be disqualified, though if you’ve made any of those mistakes before I wrote this — 7:19 a.m. EST on October 12 — you get to choose ONE of your “or” names or reguess if you’ve guessed a double name already guessed by someone else. The computer logs the time you post, so who gets what first is free from human error.
Phew! I better stop now or the rules will be longer than the entries. Everyone clear?
Entries accepted until the minute before the baby’s name is announced.
Last week we perused the character names in classic French New Wave films and today, as promised, we do the same for the Italian cinema produced (mostly) in Rome’s Cinecittà, from the gritty neorealist works of Vittorio De Sica and Roberto Rossellini to the fantasies of Fellini, the surreal films of Antonioni, et alia.
Italian names, almost universally, end in vowels, so here’s an opportunity to explore a fresh source of feminissima girls’ names ending in ‘a,’ ranging from the simple Lia to the elaborate Elisabetta, and boys’ names with the popular ‘o’ ending—some of which will be more familiar than others.
This time—as prompted by one of you berries– I’m including the names of the films the characters appear in. The movie titles are in Italian or English (sometimes both), depending on how they are best known in the US.
- Adelina – de Sica, Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow
- Adreina –Antonioni, The Cry/Il grido
- Amalia– Rossellini, Dov’é la libertà?
- Annarella – de Sica, Bread, Love and Dreams
- Bruna – Bertolucci, La commare secca; Pasolini, La Mamma Roma
- Cabiria—Fellini, Nights of Cabiria
- Clelia — Bertolucci, Before the Revolution; Antonioni, The Girlfriends/Le amiche; Rossellini, Vanina Vanini
- Clementina –de Sica, The Voyage/ Il Viaggio
- Dorotea –Fellini, And the Ship Sails On
- Elisabetta – Fellini, Juliet of the Spirits
- Elvia –Antonioni, The Cry/ Il grido
- Filumena – De Sica, Marriage, Italian Style
- Giuditta—Zeffirelli, Sparrow
- Giuliana –Antonioni, Red Desert
- Lauretta – Rossellini, Open City
Elisabeth Wilborn, creator of one of our absolute favorite blogs, You Can’t Call It “It,” introduces us to the wide world of great Italian girls’ names beyond Isabella. Elisabeth, a writer, artist, and mom, lives in Brooklyn, New York.
You don’t have to be Italian to fawn all over Isabella.
She’s lyrical, historical, and even practical with nicknames Bella and Izzy at the ready. It’s no surprise that she and cohorts Olivia and Sophia would be storming up the charts, now assuming spots 1, 3, and 4. But are these the only options for little girls if you want to honor your Italian heritage?
Let’s take a look at what people are choosing in New Jersey. As housewife fame has evidenced, they’re heavy on Italian pride.
Top picks for the state include:
Adriana (#64), Adrianna (#95), Angelina (#30), Ariana (#46), Arianna (#43),
Gabriella (12), Gianna (#11), Julia (#19- Giulia in Italy), Isabella (#1), Juliana (#49), Julianna (#63), Maria (#65), Natalia (#72), Olivia (#2), Sophia (#3), Valentina (#92), Victoria (#22- Vittoria in Italy).
Italian-American mothers often lament that all the good names are taken by their family and friends.
I assure you the options are vast!
If you’ll be summering with Nonna in Toscana, you may want a choice that is both well loved there and reads undeniably Italian here (rankings are from Italy in 2008): Alessia (#8), Chiara (#5), Federica (#21), Francesca (#9), Giada
(#13), Giorgia (#6), Ludovica (#27), Ilaria (#25), Vittoria (#26).
Italy also has a few popular names that wouldn’t necessarily scream Carbonara: Alice (#10), Anna (#11), Beatrice (#18), Elisa (#12), Emma (#14), Greta (#14), Marta (#29), Martina (#3), Matilde (#15), Nicole (#30), Noemi (#19), Sara (#4). Note Alice and Beatrice are pronounced ah-LEE-che and be-ah-TREE-che.
A triumvirate of recent Cosimas, Claudia Schiffer’s child, Sofia Coppola’s baby, and a Windsor 22nd in line to the throne, remind us that there are still other genuine Italian names to cull from the history books. Some are quite antique, but just as we have “old lady chic” here, so too do they in Italy.
I urge you to take a chance on an ancient beauty: