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Surnames and Their Origins – August 2021


A reader recently asked, “Do all Italian surnames end in a vowel, and what is the most common Italian surname?”

The idea that all Italian words end in vowels is an age-old misconception, as Dante himself would probably concur. There are even some people with a knowledge of Italian or an ex-pat that moves to Italy for a long period who often believe this to be true. There are actually many Italian words that end in consonants. In reality, they are not that common if you compare Italian to its sister languages, French or Spanish. This also applies to surnames.
To answer the reader’s question, the most common surname in Italy is Rossi. When we get to the letter R, we’ll cover its origins.

Now, let’s move on to Italian surnames ending in consonants. Before we cover the first one, keep in mind that Italy, particularly the south from Naples on, was perhaps the most invaded area in Europe, occupied for centuries by conquerors who left their mark behind.

SARAGAT – This surname owes its fame to Giuseppe Saragat, an Italian politician who served as the fifth president of the Republic of Italy. He was born in Turin. The surname itself is only registered in the vital statistics of Lazio and Sardinia. The surname is probably Sardinian in origin.

DE ANGELIS – The surname appears in the vital statistics in 15 regions. These families live predominantly in the north, but smaller numbers are found in the southern regions.

Moving ahead, readers must keep in mind that southern Italy was occupied by Spain for about 500 years. So, it should come as no shock when you see the following surnames.

VASQUES – This surname is as Sicilian as it is Iberian. Altogether, it appears in the vital statistics in 11 regions. These families live largely in Sicily, but smaller numbers are found in 10 other regions.

LOPES – Once again, this surname can be considered Sicilian. These families live largely in Sicily, but smaller numbers are found in 17 other regions. The exceptions are Val d’Aosta and Umbria.

RODRIQUEZ – This surname shares its Sicilian presence with Campania. Both regions have about equal numbers of families with that surname. Ten other regions have families with this surname, albeit in small numbers.

PEREZ – This surname popularity shares its Sicilian presence with Lombardia. It is also present in the other 18 regions. Sicily has the greatest number of families with that surname, followed by Lombardia.

There are other surnames that don’t end in vowels, such as DeSantis and Cavour, which maybe we’ll cover at another time, but for now we hope that this feature clears up the misconception that all Italian surnames and words must end in a vowel.

You can research your surname on these two websites:

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