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International Boy Names: Italy, Germany, and Ireland

October 10, 2017 Abby Sandel

It’s an international baby naming challenge! Let’s find a boy’s name that wears well in Italian and German, and might have just a hint of Irish, too.

Julia writes:

We are expecting a baby boy in a few months. I’m Italian, my husband is German, we live in Switzerland and we met in Ireland.

Our daughter’s name is Lidia Isabella. We love the name. Lidia is vintage and not common, works well locally and internationally, is easy to pronounce in multiple languages and it keeps my Italian heritage, as the last name is German. Isabella was my grandmother’s name. It ticks all the boxes.

We are stuck with the boy’s name. It should work in multiple languages.

Options could be Lorenzo, Mattia (both very common in Italy but not abroad), or Adrian, but we’re not 100% sure.

We would like to honor my husband’s grandfathers, Klaus or Julius. But maybe we should use an English version of Klaus. And I’m Julia, so Julius could be a problem.

Considering our many years spent in Ireland, Aiden or Oliver and other Irish names appeal, as long as they can be pronounced and spelled outside of Ireland.

Many thanks!

The Name Sage replies:

This makes for quite the puzzle, doesn’t it? You’re looking for a boy’s name that will be familiar and easily pronounced and spelled in German, Italian, and English – at a minimum!

Happily, plenty of names cross borders with ease. The challenge is finding one that appeals to you and your husband.

That leads to the next question. Would you rather have a name you love, like Mattia, even if it requires occasional explanation? Or does a name that travels well win out?

Boys’ names do tend to change, language to language. That’s true for girls’ names, too, but the difference between the German Sophia and the Italian Sofia is slight. In contrast, Alexander becomes Alessandro. They’re clearly the same name, but with a more noticeable change in spelling and sound.

The other hurdle has nothing to do with language. Instead, names are perceived so differently from culture to culture. Something that sounds fresh and new to your ear may strike your husband as overused. It’s tough to know from the outside!

With all of those challenges before us, let’s look at names in two categories: classic names that have been straddling linguistic boundaries for centuries, and more modern favorites that might just do the same today.

THE CLASSICS

Alessandro, Alexander – It’s an ancient name used in at least three dozen languages. Strictly speaking, it becomes Alastar in Irish – but Alex is much more popular with parents today. I like the idea of an Alessandro nicknamed Alex.

Anthony, Anton, AntonioRoman ruler Marcus Antonius takes this name back to the first century BC, and the fourth century Saint Anthony helped it spread throughout the Western world. Anton is used in Germany, and feels like the most distinctive choice.

Daniel – One of the few classics that appears to be used without alteration in modern Germany, Ireland, and even Italy – even though Daniele might feel more authentic.

LeoLeo names are used in nearly every European language. You could easily lengthen it to Leon or Leonardo, but perhaps Leo alone works best. The only drawback is that Lidia and Leo do share some sounds.

Luca – While Lidia and Luca would share a first initial, I think they sound different enough for siblings. The appeal of Luca is that it’s used in both Italian and German without a change in spelling. In fact, it’s quite popular in Germany today, and it’s also heard in Ireland.

NicolasKlaus traces its roots to Nicolas, so this would be a family name. You might hear Niklas, Nicola, and other Nic– names, too, but I suspect that Nicolas might be the most internationally recognized form of the name.

Patrick – Since you met in Ireland, would you consider Patrick? It works in all three languages, but it also ties to your family’s story in a way that could feel especially meaningful. Because it’s such a classic, you’ll hear it across Europe and throughout the English-speaking world, too.

THE MODERN MAYBES

Finn – Parents everywhere love Irish names, and I found Finn in use in Germany. However, I can’t find a satisfying Italian form. Still, it feels like a modern option that might appeal.

Gabriel – Sure, it’s an Old Testament name rich with history. But Gabriel only became popular in the last century or so. Gabriele is heard in Italy, but either form seems portable.

LiamRemember what I said about parents loving Irish names far beyond the borders of Ireland? I’ve spotted Liam in use in Italy and Germany. Like Patrick, it feels like a sweet reminder of the place you and your husband met.

If the sole consideration was finding a name that travels from country to country without alteration, I’d suggest Luca Julian. It’s a handsome name that feels current. The only drawback is that Luca seems to be fairly popular in Switzerland.

But looking at your list, I wonder if you’d rather choose something longer. Lorenzo and Adrian both seem at least as portable as most traditional boy names. Lorenzo Julian or Adrian Nicolas seem like great options, and I can imagine either choice wearing well nearly anywhere in the world. And if those aren’t quite right, I think Gabriel sounds perfect with big sister Lidia.

Readers, what would you suggest to Julia and her family?

About the author

Abby

Abby Sandel is nameberry's Senior Editor and resident Name Sage. Look for her baby name news round-ups every Monday, and her Name Sage columns on Wednesdays. Abby is the creator of the baby name blog Appellation Mountain and mom to Alex and Clio. For a chance to have your questions answered, contact Abby at namesage@nameberry.com.

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