International Boy Names: Italy, Germany, and Ireland
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.
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.
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.
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, Antonio – Roman 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.
Leo – Leo 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.
Nicolas – Klaus 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
Liam – Remember 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
View all of 's articles
You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.
on October 11th, 2017 at 12:11 am
Rafael/ Raphael Julius. Raphael travels very well through most European languages.
on October 11th, 2017 at 1:10 am
I like Kaius to honor Klaus and Julius, not sure about it being international. Also like Julian and PP’s suggestion of Raphael (more international version I think?). Luca made me think Lucas, which gives the grandfathers’ -us ending .
on October 11th, 2017 at 1:32 am
With Lidia Isabella, I like:
on October 11th, 2017 at 6:44 am
The suggestion of Raphael is brilliant. I would like to add Otto, Caio, Caius, Petrus, Pietro, Fabian, Piero, Luigi (who has never heard of Luigi from Mario bros?), Emil, Emilio, Dante, Hugo or Ugo, Marco, Rocco and Nico.
on October 11th, 2017 at 11:36 am
Sounds a lot like my mixed family! In fact, many of my cousins have had kids with your suggestions, Abby, and it works in all countries that we have branched out to, from Colombia to the Netherlands. Some other suggestions from my experiences:
Filippo or one of its other beautiful variants
on October 11th, 2017 at 12:01 pm
Popular and current in Germany right now:
Leo (as a nickname or on its own)
Also heard in Germany:
Nico (as a nickname or on its own)
Rafael is a good international suggestion!!
on October 11th, 2017 at 2:06 pm
I love all the ends-in-o names! I also like the A cluster of your pick of Adrian, and Abby’s of Anton. I’ll add André or Andreas. While not a perfect fit within one culture, that might be why it’s a perfect fit for you.
on October 11th, 2017 at 6:10 pm
I’d guess Oliver and Aiden would travel well, even if they aren’t the most multi-lingual sort of names; they’re popular enough that it might not matter.
I personally like the idea of Nico. It works in Italian, German, English, and I suspect it would work with most if not all of the official languages in Switzerland., and it could still count as a nod to great-grandpa Klaus.
on October 11th, 2017 at 9:41 pm
I think Matthias has an international flair and it well recognized in many European countries. I also like:
-Stefan or Stefano
-Leandro (nn Leo)
-Walter (works about everywhere)
on October 11th, 2017 at 9:53 pm
Matteo could work?
on October 11th, 2017 at 10:06 pm
The main thing to keep in mind when choosing a name for your son is that you can’t do everything and that he will carry this name for all of his life (no matter where he lives). While you might want to give him a completely universal name that isn’t always going to be what really fits him. At the end of the day, you have to give a name that you love simply because you love the name itself or the meaning, regardless of where you happen to be living. The following suggestions are names that I hope will suit your family and what you have been looking for.
Samuel- Samuel is a fairly universal name. It looks to be fairly common in Switzerland at the moment (coming at #7), and is in the top 50 for most of Europe and the US. Samuel means “told by God”, and while it isn’t a German, Irish, or Italian name it ranks in all three countries. In Italy and Germany, it comes in at #40, and in Ireland it ranked at #38.
Benjamin- Benjamin is another name that ranks in Switzerland and seems fairly universal. Again, this name is not Irish, German, or Italian, but it does rank it two of three of those countries. Benjamin came in at #61 in Ireland and #53 in Germany. It means “son of the right hand”.
John- John is a classic name that is wholly universal. John does rank in all of the countries you have listed, so this spelling is universal as well. I was able to find the ranking for John on Nameberry for both Germany (#52) and Ireland (#25), but had to out source to find a ranking for Italy. In Italy, John comes in at #100.
Of all of these names that I have suggested, I believe that Samuel Klaus would be my pick. It sounds adorable when said with Lidia Isabella and makes them sound like they belong together. (I think Klaus would work as a middle name for all of the names I suggested.)
Congratulations! Good luck on your naming journey. I hope I helped.
on October 12th, 2017 at 2:53 pm
Thanks everyone, great suggestions I will collect all of them and pick the one that feels just right.
on October 12th, 2017 at 2:56 pm
I really like the suggestion of Raphael. Out of Abby’s suggestions I think Anton and Nicolas works best with Lidia.
Here is a mix of names that sound that they could work in Italian, German and Irish:
Good luck with your search!
on October 12th, 2017 at 5:17 pm
Mom of a Raphael here! It does work well in many languages…but I believe there is an Italian variation and I thought from your post that reflecting your Italian heritage was a big point for you (it might be equal to other considerations, but that was just my reading of it)? In which case you’d probably prefer to use the Italian form of it or let it be.
If that is correct that the Italian feel is important, I really like Abby’s suggestion to give an Italian name with a more universally common nickname. Alex, Tom, Leo, Ric, etc work everywhere and the Italian full name will highlight your heritage.
Or some not-too-common suggestions that have their roots in Italian names might be Elio or Timeo?
Otherwise I think there are many internationally used names that would work equally well in various languages. So many suggestions above, of course, but also Elias, Martin, David…anything Biblical, really.
And just to end this ramble by saying that I like Lorenzo and Adrian (I personally like Mattia, but I think it skews feminine to Anglophone ears? Maybe I’m wrong!!!). I am sure you won’t go wrong in your choice!
leave a reply
You must be logged in to post a comment.