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Surnames and Their Origins


By Joe Cannavo

CAVALLARI — This surname was passed down to modern-day Cavallari families from ancestors who were most likely associated with horse breeding. This surname is among one of the fairly popular surnames in Italy. It is found in all but two of Italy’s 20 regions. The two regions which show no presence of this surname in their registry of vital statistics are Basilcata and the Aosta Valley.

CAVALLO — This surname is possibly derived from a nickname from the Italian “cavallo,” which means horse. There must have been a lot of individuals with the nickname Cavallo because it is one of the most popular Italian surnames. It is found very heavily in 11 regions and sparsely in the remaining nine regions. The region with the largest number of families with this surname is Puglia. The region with the least number of Cavallo families is Umbria. Variations: CAVALLONI.

CECAMORE — Is a surname derived from a nickname meaning “blind love.” It appears that the this surname is very sparsely found in Italy which probably reinforces that Italians seldom are victims of blind love and confirms the notion that Italians are among the world’s best-known lovers.

CECCO — This surname is from the first name Cecco, a diminutive for the Italian first name Francesco which means Francis. It is found in 13 regions, mostly in central and northern regions of the country. The only southern region showing any Cecco families in the vital statistic records in Campania.

CENTOFANTI — This surname is from the nickname of medieval origin, meaning “one hundred pedestrian soldiers.” The surname is found 19 regions. The exception is Basilicata. Of the 19 regions where it is found, Abruzzo leads with the number of families with this surname.
Variations: Centofante.

CENZO — This surname is derived from the first name Censo, a diminutive  of the first name Vincenzo, Italian for Vincent. This name comes from Latin “Vincentius,” which means the winner. It is recorded in only four regions and sparsely at that. Veneto is where it leads, but again very sparsely found even there. Variations: Cenzi.

CERASANI — This surname derives from a nickname from the dialect word “cerasa” meaning “cherry” (the proper Italian word for cherry is ciliegia). The nickname was probably given to someone with a cherry like nose or associated with cherry farming. It is found in the vital statistic records of nine regions, Abruzzo showing the largest number of Cerasani families. Variations: CERASA, CERASO, CERASOLA.

CERRA — This surname is derived from the Italian word “cerro” used in many places to mean steep rock. It is found in 17 of the country’s 20 regions. The regions that show no presence of the surname are Abruzzo, Molise and Sardinia. Of the regions where it is present, Calabria has the largest concentration of families with the surname, Cerra. Variations: CERRETELLI, CERRETI, CERRETO, CERRETTI, CERRI, CERRINA, CERRINO CERRIO, CERRIONE, CERRONE, CERRONI.

CESARI — This surname is derived from the Latin first name “Caesar,” which in Italian becomes Cesare. It is present in 16 regions. Of the regions where it is present, it is most prevalent in the Campania region and least prevalent in the Marche region.

More “C” surnames next issue! 

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