Italian Girls’ Names: Le tante sorelle di Isabella

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:

Agnella

Alessandra

Anastasia

Antonia

Artemisia

Aurelia

Aurora

Cecilia

Chiara

Claudia

Cosima

Costanza

Diana

Elena

Elisabetta

Fabrizia

Filippa

Filomena

Fiora

Flavia

Flora

Gemma

Ginevra

Giulianna

Letizia

Lucia

Lucrezia

Maddalena

Marcella

Mariella

Marina, Marinella

Milena

Minerva

Ottavia

Paola, Paolina

Priscilla

Raffaella

Renata

Romilda

Rosalia

Sabina

Serafina

Serena

Sibilla

Silvana

Silvia

Simona

Susanna

Taddea

Tiziana

Valentina

Veronica

Vincenza

Violetta

Viviana

Should you have a boy, Armani may rank in the top 100 for males in Rhode Island, but does not come recommended as a genuinely Italian choice.

Elisabeth can be reached at:

Twitter:  youcantcallitit  LINK: http://twitter.com/youcantcallitit

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24 Responses to “Italian Girls’ Names: Le tante sorelle di Isabella”

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Michelle Says:

August 3rd, 2010 at 1:37 am

It’s true that your family and family friends have so many great names. I grew up surrounded by interesting Italian names such as Elisabetta, Savina, Fortunato, Stella, Pacifico, Silvia and Paloma. It’s only know (and reaching throughout my family tree) that I have begun to realize their beauty.

Guest Post at Nameberry « You Can’t Call It “It”! Says:

August 3rd, 2010 at 7:09 am

[…] join me over at Nameberry today as we talk about Italian girls’ names: Le Tante Sorelle di Isabella. Posted by youcantcallitit Filed in baby names Leave a Comment […]

Laurann Says:

August 3rd, 2010 at 7:57 am

Although NJ does have a lot of Italian-Americans, RI actually has the most Italians per capita of any other state. Practically everyone in this state can trace their heritage back to Italy (with the last name to prove it). If you look at the top names in RI for 2009, Isabella, Olivia and Sophia are 1, 2, 3, but also in the top 31 are Mia (#8), Gabriella (#10), Ella (#11), Gianna (#15), Julia (#17), Sofia (#18), Natalie (#20), Anna (#30), and Arianna (#31).

Span out through 100 and you find Brianna, Natalia, Angelina, Sophie, Isabelle, Ariana, Juliana, Adriana, Bella, Julianna, Ciara, Angela, Ciara, Liliana, Eliana, Gabrielle, Sabrina, Alexandria, Brielle, Gabriela, and Giada.

So anytime you’re looking for an Italian name, you can always go to the RI state page on the SSN website! (don’t even get me started on the boys .. nothing but little Tonys (Anthony) (by FAR the most popular), Mikeys (Michael) and Nickys/Nicos (Nicholas). 🙂

literaturegeek Says:

August 3rd, 2010 at 8:07 am

I think it is about time we knock Isabella off.the charts and let some of these other beautiful names have a chance.

Mariah Says:

August 3rd, 2010 at 10:12 am

Many of my favorites are on here. Italy knows how to do names!

Angela Says:

August 3rd, 2010 at 10:39 am

I’ve been considering Cara Mia as a name, since it means “my dear” in Italian.
Does anyone know how to pronounce Cara in Italian??? Is it Car-a, or does the Italian language make c’s as a ch sound, like Char-a???

Nisey Says:

August 3rd, 2010 at 10:50 am

At a summer program I worked at there was a little girl named Giada and she had the most beautiful eyes! I don’t think her parents were Italian. Her brothers name was Schuyler I believe or something close to it.

Elisabeth@YCCII Says:

August 3rd, 2010 at 10:55 am

Hello Berries! Thank you Linda and Pam for giving me this forum to talk about one of my favorite groups of names.

Angela, Italians would pronounce the first syllable in Cara like “car”, as in driving a car. Strictly speaking though, they would never name a girl Cara Mia. It’s a term of endearment.

Laurann, I looked at the Rhode Island list and almost used it. What stopped me was the sheer number of births in Rhode Island, it’s a very small number. I wanted to sample a larger population. I love the additions of Lilianna, Giada, and Ciara (Chiara in Italy) to a top 100 list though.

Natalie, Mia, Ella, Sophie, Isabelle, Alexandria and Brielle are not Italian names to my knowledge. Ella means “her” in Italian, and Mia means “mine.” The others have cognates in Italian– except for Brielle.

Carolyn Says:

August 3rd, 2010 at 12:08 pm

Reaching back into my Sicilian family tree, we have:

Calogera (pronounced like Ca-law-di-ah?? (you have to roll your tongue for the “r”) This was my favorite great-aunt’s name and she went by Clara; I’m trying to remember how her name was really pronounced so i could be wrong.

Guiseppina (another great-aunt; went by Josie)
Katerina (Katie)
Genevieve (Genny)
Antonette
Antonina
Maria (Mary)
Aurelia (Ria)
Vincenza (Jenny)

aziza Says:

August 3rd, 2010 at 12:25 pm

I’m originally from NJ and we have a lot of Italians with Italian names to match, but we also have what I call “guido” names. They’re names that are chosen by the parents who are usually of Italian descent, but know little or nothing about Italian language and culture. They are obnoxiously proud of their Italian heritage, but they know very little about it. One such name that I have come across many, many times is Giavanna (not Giovanna), which is pronounced and spelled incorrectly, though the parents don’t realize it. I’ve also seen Jeovanny, a respelling/repronunciation of Giovanni.

Mila Says:

August 3rd, 2010 at 1:13 pm

I have friends in Italy…here are a some other names I didn’t see listed:
Patrizia
Francesca
Luisa
Livia
Sonia
Sveva
Catarina
Violetta
Stefania
Perla
Gioia
Bianca
Allegra
Agnese

Elisabeth@YCCII Says:

August 3rd, 2010 at 3:13 pm

Great additions Mila! Love Agnese, Allegra, Catarina, Luisa and Sveva particularly.

Andrea Says:

August 3rd, 2010 at 9:55 pm

I like Assunta, which I assume is dreadfully old-fashioned and out of style. The standard nickname for it seems to have been Susie.

Wv Says:

August 3rd, 2010 at 10:58 pm

This post raises an issue that my husband and I ran into: How important is the cultural link between the first name and last name, or at least family heritage?

We love Italian names but don’t have a drop of Italian blood between the two of us (think English, German, etc) and our last name is anglicized Norwegian. We came to the conclusion that it comes accross as too forced/fake to adopt one of these names. Any thoughts from the professionals on this subject?

Elisabeth@YCCII Says:

August 4th, 2010 at 8:13 am

WV- In this global village we live in, I don’t think it really matters! Of course Italian names are up for grabs and I didn’t mean to cordon them off from others to use. I know Irish-American Isabellas, African-American Olivias, and Korean-American Sophias.

In Europe for example, there is a lot of trading going on within the continent: France and Germany have Italian names in their top 10, Holland has French names in their top 10, etc. If you fall in love with an Italian name, it’s not off limits by any means. I would consider the flow of the first name and last name foremost. Email me if you want me to discuss it more based on the specific names– youcantcallitit (at) gmail (dot) com.

I do think that sometimes we can be in danger of cultural appropriation, say, using Cohen on a Presbyterian boy, or Nirvana for the daughter of atheists.

http://www.legitbabenames.wordpress.com Says:

August 4th, 2010 at 10:18 am

Great post! My favorite Italian names are Fiammetta, Flaviana and Tiziana.

babynamesrule Says:

August 5th, 2010 at 5:46 pm

This post warmed my heart! My name is Carrera, and though its origins are of the Latin variety, my Italian family takes great pride in my name.

Allegra, Chiara, Livia, Rosalia, Violetta and Cosima were my faves!

Plato Says:

August 10th, 2010 at 12:39 am

Can anyone give the pronounciation of Chiara?

Elisabeth@YCCII Says:

August 11th, 2010 at 1:06 pm

Plato, Chiara is pronounced kee-AR-uh

Lady Nocturne Says:

August 12th, 2010 at 3:05 pm

Chiara is my sister’s name–it’s pronounced Key-ah-ra. (Think “chianti”)

It was tough growing up (no one in the US could pronounce it correctly!) but it’s much more common to hear now. I give credit to people these days knowing how to pronounce the wine!

Kewky Says:

December 8th, 2010 at 10:25 am

@ Angela It’s pronounced C-ah-ra. ‘Cara Mia is cute in the US’ but here in Italy her name would be My Dear

Namesy Says:

March 28th, 2011 at 9:04 pm

I am looking for an Italian name with a long O sound. The problem is (please don’t kill me) I just don’t LIKE Italian names. They’re way too feminissima for my taste. The two I do like are Ottavia and Verona (which doesn’t really count because it’s a place in Italy, but not necessarily an Italian name). Anybody have ideas?

Baby Name of the Day: Silvana | Appellation Mountain Says:

May 2nd, 2011 at 3:04 am

[…] I’ve heard that she’s considered dated in Italy, but in the US, she’d fit right in with Olivia and Gabriella.  Remember Elisabeth’s Le tante sorelle di Isabella? […]

Arcelia Petropulos Says:

June 17th, 2011 at 7:45 pm

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