Popular Italian Baby Names that Most Americans Don’t Know About

When you think about Italian names, you probably think about ones that are really popular in the U.S., like Gianna and Leonardo.  But what about more distinctive names like Ludovica and Enea?  They’re popular in Italy, but so rare in America that you probably haven’t heard of them!

Every year, Italy releases a list of their country’s 200 most popular baby names.  We share many names with them, from their most popular (currently Sofia and Francesco), to our most popular (Noah and Emma), to oddball American invaders like Bryan and Mya.  Italian has even given America some names (i.e., Enzo) that are rare in Italy!

I’ve sought to create a list of Italian names Americans probably don’t know about but should consider.  Unfortunately, their 2016 data isn’t available yet, so for this post, I’m looking at the 2015 set.  For comparison, I will note whether the names below had any American usage in 2015 and 2016.  Italian rank will be listed first; American numbers are somewhere to the right of the semicolon.

Girls:

  • Ginevra – #12 in Italy; 15 girls in the U.S. born 2016 (14 in 2015).  This is one of the few names on this list that Americans might be familiar with, since it’s Ginny Weasley’s formal name.  Ginevra is the Italian form of Guinevere.
  • Ludovica – #32 in Italy.  Only 5 girls were named Ludovica in the U.S. in 2015, and an unknown number (possibly zero) in 2016.  Ludovica‘s most popular American relative is Louis, though she’s more closely related to the German Ludwig.
  • Benedetta – #40 in Italy; hasn’t charted in U.S. since 1979.  Benedetta is an Italian form of Benedicta and a feminine form of the name Benedict, which means “blessed.”
  • Azzurra – #53.  English equivalent Azure (another word for “blue”) is cool, but Azzurra is stunning!  It’s possible that no American has named their child Azzurra, making it a truly unique name here.
  • Diletta – #58 and rising quickly!  This comes from the Latin dilecta, which means “beloved.”  Like Azzurra, Diletta is extremely rare or non-existent in America.
  • Sveva – #61 and rising; unknown or no American usage.  Sveva looks chic!
  • Ambra – #63; Stateside, 5 in 2015.  Ambra is the Italian word for Amber.  She also looks remarkably like the word “umbra,” so Shadow could make a punny (and awesome) middle name.
  • Lucrezia – #86; here, 14 in 2015 and 8 in 2016.  If Americans know this name, they probably know her through The Borgias, a TV show that ran from 2011 to 2013.  Lucrezia Borgia was the daughter of Pope Alexander VI.  Lucretia is the even rarer English form of this name.
  • Ilenia – #129; last appeared in 2012.  A version of Ilena that was a lot more popular around 1999/2000.  Ylenia (#200) is another spelling, which last appeared in the U.S. circa 2011.
  • Morena – #139; 9 girls in 2016.  Presumably, last year’s reintroduction of  Morena to the American charts has to do with Morena Baccarin, who played Deadpool’s girlfriend Vanessa. 
  • Siria – #171; in America, 6 girls in 2015.  Since Syria is also a popular name in Italy, I assumed Siria was a place-name.  That said, both spellings were popular before the Syrian Civil War, so maybe not.  Behind the Name suggests that Siria is a feminine form of Sirius.
  • Giusy – #173; unknown U.S. usage.  This is probably a nickname for Giuseppa or Giuseppina, making it an Italian version of Josie.  Visually Giusy is cute, but it’s supposed to be pronounced a bit like “juicy.”
  • Rossella #175; 5 in 2015.  Diminutive of a name that means “red.” 
  • Clelia – #187; last U.S. appearance in 2013.  Form of Ancient Roman Cloelia.
  • Elettra – #194; unknown American usage.  A sleeker form of Electra.

Honorable mentions include Carola, Federica, Flavia, Gioia, Ilaria, Letizia, Micol, Mariasole, Syria, and double first names.  How do you like Aurora Maria?

1200px-Flag_of_Italy.svg

Boys:

  • Jacopo – #30; last appeared in U.S. in 2010.  As much as I love Jacob, his Italian form is much more flavorful!
  • Gioele – #36; 5 in 2016.  Also popular in Italy is another more Americanized spelling, JoeleJoele has only ever charted in the U.S. as a women’s name.
  • Enea – #54 and rising quickly; 5 in 2015.  Modern Italian form of Aeneas.
  • Valerio – #60; 5 in 2016.  Think Valeria or Valerie, only masculine. Valerio comes from the Ancient Roman Valerius.
  • Ettore – #64; hasn’t charted in U.S. since the 1980s.  Italian form of Hector.
  • Loris – #91; 6 in 2015.  A curious nickname for Lorenzo!
  • Achille – #95; hasn’t charted in the States since 2010.  Achilles has only just become popular in America, but if he continues to rise we might see Achille reappear.
  • Ludovico – #98; has never charted in U.S.  This is the Italian form of the French name Ludovic, and masculine form of Ludovica.  One namesake, Ludovico Sforza, famously commissioned The Last Supper.
  • Giordano – #125; stateside, 6 boys in 2015 and 7 in 2016.  This alternative to Jordan is probably most famous for its connection to Giordano Bruno, who was burned at the stake in 1600 for heresy.  Among other things, he promoted heliocentrism and speculated on the existence of exoplanets.
  • Umberto – #133; hasn’t charted in U.S. since 2014.  Umberto Eco famously wrote The Name of the Rose and Foucault’s Pendulum.
  • Biagio – #146; in U.S., 9 boys in 2015 and 6 in 2016.  Italian form of Blaise.
  • Tiziano – #159; 7 in 2015.  Tiziano is the real name of the artist we know as Titian.
  • Amedeo – #174; in U.S., 5 times both in ’15 and ’16.  The Italian form of Amadeus, this was the first name of Modigliani and many medieval rulers of Savoy.  Another Amedeo (and descendant of the Savoyards) became king Amadeo I of Spain in the 1870s.
  • Lapo – #189; never charted in U.S.  It’s a nickname for Jacopo, which would make this an interesting alternative to Jake!

Honorable mentions: Francesco Maria, Francesco Pio, Saverio, Zeno

What’s your favorite Italian name?  Would you use any of these?  Let me know in the comments!

 

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