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Surnames and Their Origins


By Joseph Cannavo

This month we continue with Italian surnames that begin with the letter C.

CAMPANELLI — As a nickname from campana, “bell,” or from a place called Campana, a municipality in the province of Cosenza in Calabria, this surname is found in all of Italy’s regions except the Aosta Valley. It is most prevalent in Puglia and least registered in vital statistics of Trentino-Alto Adige. Variations: CAMPANA.

CAMPETTI — This surname comes from the Italian word “campo” or Latin word “campus” meaning field. Though most would think with Italy’s history of farming, particularly vineyards and olive groves, that there would be many families whose ancestors would have acquired a surname related to fields, this surname and its variations are not that common. Variations: CAMPISANO, CAMPITELLI, CAMPITELLO.

CAMPLI — This surname indicates people coming from the town of Campli in the province of Teramo, Abruzzo. The town name derives from the same root as Campetti, “campo or campus.” Because this surname and its variations are rooted in a town in Abruzzo, they are not that common and limited to the Abruzzo region and closely around Abruzzo. Variations: CAMPLONE, CAMPLONI, CAMPOINI, CAMPOLI, CAMPOLO, CAMPONI.

CANDELORI — This surname is connected to the Italian word “candela” meaning candle. Families that have this surname are descendents of ancestors that were in the ancient profession of making candles. As was the norm it probably started out as a nickname before evolving into a surname. It is not very common and appears on vital records in only five central Italian regions and two northern Italian regions. Variations: CANDELORA, CANDELORI, CANDELORO.

CANNARSA — This surname derives from the nickname meaning “dry throat” jokingly given to someone who drinks excessively. I am aware of this “nickname’’ being in the context of drinking excessively. However it should be noted in the case of the word cannarsa itself, that the drinking excessively does not necessarily meaning alcoholic beverages, but rather a person who gulps down even water as some
tend to do, especially on a steaming hot summer day. 

CANNAVO — This surname is derived from a nickname from Greek κάνναβις meaning “gray.” During the period that the Greeks were occupying southern Italy, they named a town in the Calabria region, Cannavo, whose many inhabitants eventually inherited the town name as a habitational surname. It is present in all of Italy’s regions, excluding Basilicata and Molise. What is odd, however, is that it is not common in Calabria as a surname, but rather in Sicily where it is significantly present. Variations: Cannava, Cannavaro.

CANTAGALLO — This surname is derived from the name of a municipality in the Province of Prato in Italy’s Tuscany region. It is also said to derive from a nickname from the expression “singing rooster.” It is found in only 12 regions, Tuscany being one of them. However from what public records indicate, the surname has more descendents whose surname comes from the expression “singing rooster” rather than from the municipality Cantagallo. Vital statistics show only one family in Tuscany with that name. It is most prevalent in Abruzzo and Lazio. Variations: CANTAGALLI.

Next issue: More “C” surnames.

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