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Surnames and Their Origins – December 2021


This month’s surname feature focuses on names related to Christmas and/or their biblical origins. This month’s feature also confirms that which our regular monthly feature doesn’t stress. That is that a majority of Italian surnames often evolve from a proper name of an ancestor or saint; for example, the surname Giannino is derived from San Giovanni, indicating that an ancestor of the present-day Giannino families was probably a devotee of San Giovanni or St. John.

We begin with the most obvious. Christian, or in Italian Cristiano, which appears in Acts 11:26 first indicating a follower of Christ. Eventually as Christianity spread the use of the word developed into a proper name which today gives us a number of derivatives as a proper name and as a surname. Related proper names: Christine, Chris, Christopher. Related surnames: Di Cristoforo, Cristi, Cristaldo, Cristaldi.

David, or in Italian Davide, is most often associated with the Old Testament. However- scripture states that Jesus descended from the “House of David.” The word David means well-beloved, dear – feelings that followers of Jesus hold strongly to the Messiah. Related surnames: Daviddi, Daviti, Davidi.

Emmanuel, or in Italian Emmanuele, actually is another word that Christians use to refer to Jesus. It’s one of few biblical words attributed simultaneously to Latin and Hebrew. In either language, it means God with us. It is a common first name in Italy. Related surnames: Emmanueli, D ’Emanuele, Manuello.

Epiphany, or in Italian Epifania, is practically unheard-of as a proper name in the United. States. However, in Italy it is somewhat still given as a proper name. As a surname, it is more frequent. Related surnames: Epifanio, Epifana, Epifania, Epifanio.

Nazzaro or Nazzareno and their feminine forms are common proper names in Italy. An obvious name which translates to Nazarene is directly connect to Jesus who was known as “Jesus of Nazareth” or in Italian “Gesù il Nazzareno.” The form Nazzari is the usual form when adopted as an Italian surname.

Natalie, or in Italian Natalia, derives a proper name from the Italian word for Christmas, Natale. In the word we see the English “natal,” indicating that Italians name the special day from the Latin “natalis,” refer-ring to birth. As a proper name it is heard frequently here and in Italy. If parents wish to name their son after the holiday, it actually is Natale. Diminutives are Natalino and Natalina. Related surnames: Di Natale.

Joy, or Italian Gioia, is from Latin and means happiness. The relationship to Christmas is quite clear, appearing in song, greetings, and just a very joyous time of year.

Common biblical names in English, their origins and the Italian equivalent.
Joseph (Hebrew) – Gen. 30:24 – increase; addition. (Giuseppe)
Stephen (Greek) – Acts 6:5 – crown; crowned (Stefano)
Angela (Greek) – Gen. 16:7 – Angelic. (Angela)
Anna (Greek, from Hebrew) – Luke 2:36 – gracious; (Anna)
Bethel (Hebrew) – Gen. 12:8 – the house of God. (Bettina)
Elizabeth (Hebrew) – Luke 1:5 – the oath, or fullness, of God. (Elizabetta)
Mary (Hebrew) – Matt. 1:16 – rebellion; sea of bitterness. (Maria)
Joanna (Hebrew) – Luke 8:3 – grace or gift of the Lord. (Giovanna)
Joy (Old French, Latin) – Heb. 1:9 – happiness. (Gioia)

Buon Natale a tutti!

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