Italian Baby Names: Straight from the Map
By Abby Sandel
Place names are big for boys and girls alike, from Brooklyn (Beckham) to Caspian (son of Neve Campbell) to Ava Berlin (daughter of Jeremy Renner). But could it be that Italy is a hotbed for wearable place names, and that the best Italian baby names are the names of its towns, cities, and even bodies of water?
Some of these Italian baby names feel traditional, even vintage. Others could make bold, unexpected picks for a child’s name. Whether Italian baby names honor your heritage, or simply express your love of the country, there is something here here to please every style.
Florence – Pioneering nurse Florence Nightingale makes this name feel accomplished and dignified. Florence Welch of indie music group Florence + the Machine lends it an edge. Lest you imagine that naming children for places is completely new, Miss Nightingale was born in the Italian city, and named accordingly. While it’s still out of favor in the US, Florence has returned to the top of the charts in England.
Siena – It’s no surprise that this Tuscan town has already been discovered by baby namers. The lovely Siena ranked Number 642 in the US last year; double the ‘n’ and Sienna comes in at Number 229. Credit actress Sienna Miller for the boost. It’s also a color name, thanks to the yellow-brown hue of the clay first produced there. The name might also honor fourteenth century philosopher and theologian, Saint Catherine of Siena.
Loreto – Speaking of saints, Loreto, Italy has been a pilgrimage site for centuries, and is occasionally bestowed as a given name for that reason. Loreto is home to the Basilica della Santa Casa, believed to contain the house in which Mary lived as a girl, and later raised her son, Jesus. The name was given to five boys in 2015, but it would work equally well for a girl, a less expected choice than the classic Laura.
Milan – In Slavic languages, Milan means gracious. The origins of the Italian place name aren’t nearly as clear. Ever since singer Shakira and footballer Gerard Pique welcomed son Milan in 2012, American parents have embraced the name. 723 boys were named Milan last year alone. It might also wear well for a girl, especially considering the city’s ties to high fashion, putting it in the company of London and Paris.
Rome – Rome fits in with brief, brisk names for boys like Jax, Jude, and Kai. 119 boys and 20 girls were named Rome last year – not enough to crack the US Top 1000, but enough to attract more notice. The eternal city’s name comes from legendary co-founder Romulus. And while the bump in baby Romes is recent, we can find uses of the name going back to at least the 1800s.
Venice – Will Lisa D’Amato’s birth announcement be enough to boost this Italian place name? Maybe. Venice, the city of canals and bridges, inspired the name of 45 girls and 7 boys in 2015. The city became a medieval maritime power, growing wealthy on trade, and serving as a strategically important location. With all of this romance and history, plus that great V sound, it’s no surprise we’re hearing more of Venice as a given name.
Verona – Speaking of Vs, Verona is another rarity worth a look. Not only is the northeastern Italian city historic, it’s literary, too. Shakespeare set three plays – Romeo and Juliet, The Two Gentlemen of Verona, and The Taming of the Shrew – in fair Verona. It’s been given to girls in small but steady numbers over the years – usually a few dozen.
Vico – This next name comes from the Lago di Vico, a large lake in central Italy, located high in the Cimini Hills. Legend claims that it was created by Hercules himself. With o-ending names for boys in vogue, Vico could be a modern favorite. As a given name in the US, it’s almost unheard, but brings to mind trending names like Arlo and Nico.
Sicily – Sicily sounds a lot like Cecily, which suggests that the island would make a very wearable name for a girl. Actor Sicily Johnson helped garner more attention for her name in the early 2000s, but the name has yet to enter the US Top 1000. If you love Siena, but worry it’s too common, Sicily might be one to consider.
Would you consider any Italian place names for your child? Which names should be added to this list?
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on September 25th, 2016 at 11:33 pm
Venetia & Ravenna are two names that come to mind immediately. More unusual:
on September 25th, 2016 at 11:48 pm
Amelia, another Italian city name may be a good idea.
on September 26th, 2016 at 1:24 am
I have a friend named Tuscany who is the only one I’ve met with her name– she’d be the first to put her name out there as another option! Also Venetia is lovely, and IMO has more “flow” and grandeur than Venice.
on September 26th, 2016 at 8:13 am
I know a young Venetia, who goes by Veta. I think its a lovely name. My personal fave is Florence.
on September 26th, 2016 at 10:47 am
Not a fan of the name Florence, but the Italian version Firenze(a) might be cool. Cortina too.
on September 26th, 2016 at 11:40 am
I, too, would prefer to see Venezia or Venetia and Firenze or Firenza to Venice and Florence.
on September 26th, 2016 at 12:30 pm
I love Italian names but haven’t really thought about Italian place names. Florence is a family name and one I’d love to use. Sicily is one I could also see myself using. I like Verona and Rome. I used to work with a woman whose daughters were named Gianna, Rome & Petra. Her little Rome was the sweetest and cutest little thing. There is also a Milan at my daughter’s bus stop.
on September 26th, 2016 at 1:20 pm
I love Florence (but so popular in the UK) and Venezia, rather than Venice.
on September 26th, 2016 at 1:22 pm
Ravenna should be on here! as well as Emilia (Emilia-Romagna region)
I found a few more:
Italy is a goldmine of beautiful names
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