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Surnames and Their Origins


By Joseph Cannavo

CARNEVALE — This surname is thought to have derived first as a nickname from the Latin festival of Carnival, then evolving as a surname, as is often the case. As a surname it is very common and has a presence in all of Italy’s 20 regions. It is most present in Lazio and least present in the Aosta Valley. Variations: CARNEVALI.

CAROFALO — This surname is derived from the name and nickname Garofalo, which is the proper Italian word for the carnation flower. The “C” spelling is from southern dialects so the few families in Italy with this surname would have origins in southern Italy. The surname Garofalo with the “G” is much more prevalent. Variations: CAROFANO.     

CAROSELLA — This surname derives from the “carosello,” kind of medieval representation, and was used as a nickname and eventually evolved as a surname. It is found in 16 of Italy’s 20 regions, most prevalently in Abruzzo. It is not present in Trentino Alto-Adige, the Aosta Valley, Umbria, or Sardinia. Variations: CAROSELLI, CAROSELLO CARUSELLI, CARUSELLO.

CAROTA — This surname was originally a nickname possibly referring to the carrot color of a person’s hair. Given redheaded Italians are far and few between might account for the small presence of this surname among Italians. It is present in 15 regions, but in low numbers at that. Variations: CAROTE, CAROTI.

CASARI — This surname is derived from the Latin for cheese maker, casearius. On the family tree of present day families with this surname, an ancestor was involved in some way with cheese production. As a surname today, it is present in all regions except Sicily, Calabria, Basilicata, and Molise. Variations: CASARO.

CASSANO — The surname may derive from names of places, as Cassano d’Adda in Lombardy, or Cassano delle Murge in Puglia, Cassano Spinola in Piedmont, Cassano in the province of Modena and others. As to the etymology of the word, it is generally uncertain, but may be different for the various places. The variation Cassiano may more probably derive from the Latin name Cassius. The surname is found in 19 regions, the Aosta Valley being an exception. It is most prevalent in the Puglia region. Variations: CASSIANO, CASSIANI, CASSANELLI.

CASTAGNA — Possibly this surname derives from a nickname from the word castagna meaning “chestnut.” An indication that an ancestor of modern families with this surname might have been a chestnut farmer. It is a very common surname found in all 20 regions, predominantly Lombardia. Variations: CASTAGNI, CASTAGNOLI, CASTAGNONE.

CASTAGNARO — Possibly this surname derives from a nickname meaning someone who sells or roasts chestnuts. Deriving also from the word castagna, chestnut, this surname is not at all as prevalent as the actual surname Castagna, It is found only in the vital records in 13 regions, and sparsely at that. Variations: CASTAGNERI.

CASTAGNETTI — Another surname with a derivation from the Italian word for chestnut, this surname possibly evolved from a place of origin. Ancestors of the modern day families with this surname may have lived in chestnut woods. Today the surname is found in the vital records of 16 regions, most prevalently in Emilia-Romagna. The regions that have no record of this surname are the Aosta Valley, Abruzzo, Molise and Basilicata. Variations: CASTAGNETO.

More “C” surnames next issue! 

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