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Surnames and Their Origins


This week we start with L. We skip H and K, which are not official letters in the Italian alphabet. J was an official letter, but as explained in last month’s column the J sound is substituted by Gi or Ge. Seldom do we find Italian surnames that start with J.
LANCIA — The surname is relatively common and is widespread in Italy, appearing in almost 400 different municipalities. The largest concentration is in southern Lazio. It derives from the Italian verb “lanciare,” meaning to throw or to hurl. There is a definite connection between this surname and knights. For certain in these family trees there are ancestors who were knights. In fact the famous Sir Lancelot’s name derives from this Italian word and the Italian related surnames to Lancia attest to that. Related surnames: LANCI, LANCIA, LANCINI, LANCIONE, LANCIONI, LANCILLOTTI LANCELLOTTA, LANCELLOTTO, LANCIOTTI.
LANESE — This surname derives from the Italian “lana,” meaning wool. Therefore it is easy enough to see that ancestors of these families were sheepherders or worked in processing wool. Related surnames: None.
LATTANZI — From the first name Lattanzio, derives from the Latin “Lactantius,” from an ancient vegetation goddess, “Lactans.” However close examination of this word indicates that this goddess also had some connection to breast-feeding given her name derives from the Latin “lactis,” meaning milk. Related surname: LATTANZIO.
LATTARO — This surname is derived from the Italian word “latte,” meaning milk. The work milkman in Italian is” lattaio” The aio ending in southern dialects becomes aro. Therefore in the history of these families, some relative was involved in the processing and selling of milk. The name is widespread in the south. Related surnames: LATTARI.
LE DONNE — This surname is from the Italian word “donna,” derived from the Latin “domina,” meaning lady. In addition to the term “donna” that refers to woman or lady, it is often placed in front of a women’s proper name as a sign of respect. Example: Donna Maria. Hence as a surname it applies to families who have ancestors that were of female nobility. Related surnames: None.
LECCE — This surname and its related surnames are from the name of the town of the same name in Apulia. So as one might imagine, these families descend from ancestry of Lecce. However, this name appears widespread in the Campania province of Salerno. Related surnames: LECCESE, LECCESI, LECCISI.
LEONE — From the Latin “leo” meaning lion, this surname is widespread throughout Italy. Its popularity is derived from devotees of San Leonardo, Leonardo being a name derived from Leone, and passed down to their descendants. Pope Leone I choose of his papal name also helped boost its popularity. Related surnames: LEONARDA, LEONARDELLI, LEONARDI, LEONARDINI, LEONARDO, LEONARDUZZI.
LEPIDO — From the family Latin name “Lepidus,” or from the adjective “lepido,” meaning someone good to talk and write or very polite. It indicates ancestors that were very educated and even ancestors that may have been court scribes or other people in positions that require an eloquent speaker or good writer. Related surnames: LEPIDI.
Next month we continue with more surnames beginning with the letter L. I

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