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Names: Name Structure

Italy is a homogenous country; more than 90 percent of the population is ethnically Italian. Names are almost exclusively in the Italian language, which is spoken by almost all Italian residents. The naming convention used in Italy is the same as most of the rest of Western Europe, with a given name and a surname.

Name Format / Sequence

Given Name(s) | Surname

Names in Italy have two parts, one or two given names followed by a surname (family name).


  • Silvio Berlusconi, Italian media tycoon and former prime minister of Italy (male)
  • Umberto Eco, Italian essayist and novelist (male)
  • Gianni Versace, Italian fashion designer and fashion house founder (male)
  • Benito Amilcare Andrea Mussolini, Italian politician and creator of fascism (male)
  • Sofia Villani Scicolone, known as Sophia Loren, Italian film actress (female)
  • Luciano Pavarotti, Italian opera singer (male)
  • Alessandra Moretti, Italian politician (female)

Given Name

Italian children are often given more names at christening than are included in civil registration records, which usually only list one or two given names. Additional christening names typically include those of parents or other relatives.

Italian given names for men generally end in -o or -e, names for women in -e or -a. New names can be invented by adding gendered -o or -a endings to almost any word. The vast majority of Italian given names, however, are derived from the bible, such as Maria, (Mary), Giuseppe (Joseph), and Francesco (Francis), or historical references (e.g., Cesare/Cesarina, Claudio/a, Flavio/a, Marco). Many names are Italianized Latin or Greek words; examples include Flora (flower; female), Sofia (wisdom; female), and Silvio (from the forest; male).


  • Andrea (male)
  • Antonio (male)
  • Marco (male)
  • Beatrice (female)
  • Giulia (female)
  • Maria (female)
  • Valentina (female)


Italian surnames are traditional and very numerous, with more than 350,000 surnames documented. Surnames are passed through the male line; prior to becoming established inherited names, traditional Italian surnames were derived from four main sources. Surnames typically refer to occupations, as does Contadino (farmer); descriptors, as in Amabile (friendly); geographical locations, such as Pugliese (from Puglia); or fathers’ given names, such as d’Alberto ([son] of Albert). Several prefixes and suffixes are common elements of Italian surnames, including diminutives such as -ini, -ino, -etti, -etto, -ello, and -illo, as well as elements such as -ucci (descendent of). The prefix di- (of, from) is used in surnames to indicate place of origin, and the particles lo and la (the) are used in surnames based on ancestral nicknames (e.g., lo Greco, “the Greek”).

Spelling and common names differ from region to region within Italy, and surnames can often indicate where in Italy a family originates. Surnames ending with -o generally come from southern Italy, surnames ending with -i from northern Italy.


  • Rossi
  • Esposito
  • Bianchi
  • Romano
  • De Luca
  • Costa
  • Lombardi
  • Moretti

Married / Maiden Name

Women in Italy do not change their name upon marriage. Maiden names are used in nearly all legal documents. However, since children are given their father’s surname, married mothers may sometimes be casually referred to by family acquaintances as Signora (Mrs.) + husband’s surname for reasons of convenience.

Diminutives / Nicknames

Nicknames are common in Italy and can be formed in several ways. Given names are often shortened, condensed, or used with diminutive suffixes such as -ino/-a (e.g., Nino for Antonio). However, particularly in southern Italy, sopronnomi or ingiurie nicknames are also frequently used. These nicknames, which reference personal characteristics, often seem somewhat insulting. Examples include Pacchiarotto (fat) and the family nickname L’Cantaredi (the singers) for a family known for singing loudly in church. While the tradition is less popular now than it was several generations ago, locals may know individuals better by their sopronnomi than by their given name.


  • Antonio becomes Antò, Nino, Toni, Tonino, or Totò (male)
  • Francesco becomes Checco or Ciccio (male)
  • Guiseppe becomes Beppe or Peppe (male)
  • Maria-Teresa becomes Matresa (female)
  • Filomena becomes Menuccia (female)

Forms of Address / Honorifics / Titles

The polite forms of address in Italy are Signor (Mr.) or Signora (Mrs./Ms.). These salutations are used in casual acquaintanceships and business situations. Other Italian titles of respect, which usually have different masculine and feminine forms, include Dottore (male) and Dottoressa (female) for a holder of a university degree; Maestro/Maestra for a grade-school teacher or expert musician such as a composer or conductor; and Professore/Professoressa, used for high school and university teachers.


  • Signor Veneziano (Mr. Veneziano)
  • Signora Agostini (Mrs. Agostini)
  • Dottore Bertinelli (Doctor Bertinelli, male)
  • Dottoressa Gallo (Doctor Gallo, female)
  • Prezidente De Luca (President De Luca, male)
  • Professoressa Morelli (Professor Morelli, female)