Since I’ve been knee-deep in Italian research for several families (Serago, Sorrentino, Bugni, & Pescatore) I decided to take a more in-depth look at Italian surnames, their history and what they mean. Today’s blog post goes over the twenty* most popular Italian surnames according to the Italian Surname Database. While this list is by no means exhaustive, it is a start on some of the more popular Italian surnames you will find in your research. What other ones have you come across? Leave a comment below with your favorite Italian surname.
*Yes, there is two picture missing, but that is because Rossi and Russo are derivatives of each other as are Ricci and Rizzo.
Rossi is said to be the most common surname in all of Italy and very common in other countries due to the Italian diasporas during the 19th and 20th centuries. Due to these diasporas, you can individuals with the last name Rossi and Italian heritage across the globe, including in Argentina, Australia, Austria, Brazil, Canada, Chile, France, Mexico, Paraguay, Peru, Switzerland, the United States and Uruguay.
Alternate Surname Spellings: ROSSO, ROSSA, RUSSI, RUSSO, RUGGIU, RUBIU, ROSSELLI, ROSSELLO, ROSSELLINI, RISSIELLO, ROSSILLO, ROSSETTI, ROSSETTO, ROSSETTINI, ROSSITTI, ROSSITTO, ROSSINI, ROSSINO, ROSSOTTI, ROSSOTTO, ROSSINI, ROSSONE, ROSSUTO, RUSSELLO, RUSSINO, RUSSOTTI, RUSSOTTO, RUSSIANI, RUSSOLILLO
This last name is an occupational (job) surname from the Italian word ‘ferraro’, which means blacksmith. This is originally derived from the Latin word ‘ferrum’ meaning iron. This particular surname is the Italian equivalent of the surname Smith, meaning it is incredibly common.
Alternative Surname Spelling: Ferari
This was a surname commonly given to children in Italy who were abandoned or given up for adoption by their parents. This name is from the Latin word, ‘expositus,’ the part participle of the Latin verb ‘exponere,’ which literally means to ‘placed outside’ or ‘exposed. After the unification of Italy in 1861, laws were put in place that forbid the practice of giving surnames that reflected a child’s origins.
Alternative Surname Spelling: Esposti, Esposto Esposti, Delgi Esposti
This surname comes from the word ‘bianco,’ meaning ‘white’ and was often given to a person who had white hair or a very light complexion.
Alternative Surname Spelling: Bianca, Bianco, Bianchessi, Bianchetti, Bianchini, Bianciotti, Biancolini, Bianconcini, Biancotto
Romano is the Italian for of ‘Romanus,’ the Latin word for Rome. This popular Italian surname was often used to denote an individual from Rome, Italy.
Alternative Surname Spelling: Romani
This surname is from the word ‘colombo’, which means dove and was a last named often give to dove keepers. This name also increased in popularity during the Middle Ages due to the fact that the dove is a symbol of the Holy Spirit in Catholicism.
Alternate Surname Spellings: Colombani, Colombera, Colombini, Colombrino
This surname is drived from the Italian adjective ‘ricco’ which means ‘curly. Ricci and its variations like Rizzo are a nickname for someone with curly hair:
Alternate Surname Spellings: Riccio, Rizzi, Rizzo, Rizza, Risso, Riccelli, Ricciarelli, Riccetti, Riccini, Riccioli, Ricciolino, Ricciulli, Ricciotti, Riccioni, Ricciuto, Ricceri, Riccitiello, Rizzello, Rizziello, Rizzetti, Rizzetto, Rizzini, Rizzoli, Rizzola, Rizzotti, Rizzoni, Rizzone, Rizzari, Rizzato, Rizzieri, Rizzuti, Rissolo.
The surname Marino has derived from the Latin word, ‘marinus,’ meaning ‘of the sea,’. The Marino and Marini surnames indicated someone who lives or works near the sea (‘mare’ – Italian/Latin).
Alternate Surname Spellings: Marini, Marin, Marinelli, Marinella, Mariniello, Marinetti, Marinuzzi, Marinolli, Marinotti, Marinoni, Marinato, Marianacci
This surname indicates an individual from Greece.
Alternate Surname Spellings: Grieco, Greci, Grechi, Grego
From the Italian word for brown, Bruno was a nickname for a person with brown clothing, hair, or skin. It comes from the German word, ‘brun,’ meaning dark brown.
Alternate Surname Spellings: Bruni, Bruna, Brunazzi, Brunello, Bruneri, Brunone, Brunori
This was a nickname for a proud person or one with a vain or cocky attitude. It comes from the Latin ‘gallus,’ which means cock or rooster.
Alternate Surname Spellings: Galli, Galletti, Gallini, Galloni, Gallucci
Deriving from the Old French word, ‘conte’ meaning count, it denoted someone who worked for a count (noble) or was possibly himself a count. It was adopted as a mark of nobility for many individuals.
Alternate Surname Spellings: Conte, Contiello
A patronymic (a name that derived from the name of the father) surname meaning ‘son of Luca.’ The given name Luca is the Italian translation of Luke, from the Grek name Loukas meaning from Lucania, a region found in Italy.
Alternate Surname Spellings: Di Luca, Diluca
This surname denotes a person who lived by a river or the sea and comes from the words coast or riverbank. It is Italian, Spanish and Portuguese in origin.
Alternate Surname Spellings: Da Costa, Di Costa, De Costa
Giordano comes from the Italian form of the name Jordan. This particular surname has its roots in the Hebrew name “Yarden” which is the name of the Jordan river flowing between the countries of Jordan and Israel. It is derived from ‘yarad’ which means to descend or flow down.
Alternate Surname Spellings: Giordani
This comes from the Italian word ‘manco’ which literally means left-handed and is Italian in origin.
Alternate Surname Spellings: Mancino, Mancinelli
This is a geographical surname for someone who came from Lombardy, a specific region in Italy which received its name from the Lombards, a Germanic tribe who invaded the region in the 6th century.
Alternate Surname Spellings: Lombardo, Lombardini, Lombardelli
This name is derived from the diminutive of the given name of Mauro, the Italian form of Maurus, meaning dark-skinned of someone coming from Mauritania in northern Africa. This surname may also be derived from the word ‘morro’ meaning rock.
Alternate Surname Spellings: Moreti, Moroelli, Morini, Morucci, Moruzzi, Morucchio, Moratelli, Morisi, Moratti, Morazzi, Morassutti, Moreschi, Moroni
That is is for the 20 (er..18) popular Italian surnames. Which other names have you come across in your Italian research?
My Italian surnames are Galfre (which is French, but so far we haven’t discovered which generation brought it to Cuneo), Bergamasco, one that appears to be Manassero, DeMatteis, and Cavallo. Definitely not among the most popular or common surnames in Italy!
Definitely not the most common, but I like those ones! 😀