Italian Given Names
Given Name Identification
The gender of an individual in a birth, christening, marriage, or burial entry written in Italian can usually be determined by analyzing the first given name. If the entry is written in Latin, the gender can also be determined by analyzing the given names mentioned in the entry, but the following description will only apply to records in Italian. The surname, however, will be of no help in determining the gender.
Gender Assigned to Nouns
Common Nouns. All nouns in Italian are classified as feminine or masculine, even though the English equivalents may seem no more masculine than feminine. For example, the Italian word libro (book) is masculine and the word casa (house) is feminine. The Rule: Most nouns ending with o are masculine. Most nouns ending in a are feminine.
Proper Names. The rule mentioned above applies with given names as well. The names Adriano, Agostino, Bartolomeo, and Eugenio are clearly masculine because they end with o. If parents wanted to give these names to a daughter they would use the name variations ending with a: Adriana, Agostina, Bartolomea, Eugenia. Similarly, a name that does not end with either a or o can be used for a child of the opposite sex by substituting the letter a or o at the end of the word: Giovanni-Giovanna.
Variations in Assigned Gender
Greek names. Occasionally you will find a word that doesn't fit the a-o rule. The Greek masculine names Nicola, Andrea, for example, end with the letter a. For this reason, you should look for other words to help you determine gender so that you will not be misled when you come across names that do not correspond with the regular pattern.
Nouns ending in "E". A noun ending with the letter e may be either masculine or feminine. The name Natale is feminine but the name Emanuele is masculine. Because there are no clues in the name itself, each time you determine the gender of an individual whose name ends with e, you want to add the name to a list of "exceptions to the rule" and begin to commit it to memory.
Name origin. One method of determining the gender of a name is to ascertain its origin. Daniele, (Daniel) was an old testament prophet. This name is therefore masculine. Iside is derived from Isis, the Egyptian goddess. It is feminine. Other examples include Matilde (feminine) and Cesare (masculine).
Nouns ending in "I" or "T". Names which end with i or t are usually masculine. Examples: Giovanni, Luigi, Tancredi, Giosafat, Iafet.
Female names with accented vowel endings. A few feminine nouns in Italian end with an accented vowel. Examples: Virtù (virtue), Castità (chastity), and Verità.
Male names ending in "io". Another small group of masculine Italian names end with the letters io. Examples: Mario, Aurelio, Ambrosio, Apollonio, Gervasio.
Names referring to Mary. Adoration of the Virgin Mary influenced many to name their children after her or after one of her qualities. Feminine names such as Concetta, Assunta, Annunziata, Addolorata, Immacolata, Incarnata, and Purificata are variations of the following nouns or adjectives related to the life of the Virgin Mary:
|concezione : conception|
|assunzione : ascension|
|annunziazione : annunciation|
|addolorata : grieved/sorrowful|
|immacolata : immaculate|
|incarnazione : incarnation|
|purificazione : purification|
Some of these names may also appear in their masculine forms ending with o, such as Immacolato, Assunto, Purificato, etc.
Maria (Mary) is frequently used as a second given name for males.
Examples: Mateo Maria Boiardo, Galeazzo Maria Sforza, Francesco Maria della Rovere, Giovan Maria Cecchi.
Biblical names. In addition to Maria, there are many popular Italian names taken from the Bible, especially from the New Testament. Examples:
|Elizabetta : Elizabeth|
|Gesù : Jesus|
|Giovanni : John|
|Giuseppi : Joseph|
|Mateo : Matthew|
|Paulo : Paul|
|Pietro : Peter|
Names of saints. The Catholic Church has honored many individuals from the Bible and from among outstanding church members by canonization (a procedure by which a person is declared to be a "saint.") Many parents named their children after saints. Often the saint's name chosen for a child coincides with the name of the patron saint of a town, city, parish, or section of a city or with the day of the year on which that particular saint is honored. In Genoa, for example, the name Battista is popular. Bernardo is a popular name in Teramo. Other popular given names honoring saints are:
Other Popular Names
Names of famous Italians. Italian history is also full of notable characters whose names have been given to male children through the years.
Examples: Antonio, Adriano, Agostino, Vittorio, Emanuele, Amadeo, Umberto, Elena, Margherita, Yolanda, Mafalda, Garibaldi, Dante, Michelangelo.
Popular Roman Names. Many old Roman names have been given to Italian boys: Faustus, Severus, Calvus, Paulus, Taurinus, Probus, Victor. But the -us ending is changed to -o in modem Italian. Roman numerals are also used as given names: Primo, Secondo, Quinto, Sesto, Settimo, Ottavio, Decio.
Latin names. In the provinces of Lazio and Umbria, many old Latin names are popular. Examples: Ascanio, Catullo, Cesare, Livio, Tarquinio, Virgilio.
Geographic variations. Because of the cultural differences between Northern and Southern Italy, many names have a different form. Examples:
For more detailed guidelines on Italian handwritten documents, we recommend the following resource, from which most of this section was taken: Italian Records Extraction - An Instructional Guide, © by Intellectual Reserve.