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Top 20 Italian Surnames
Have you ever wondered what are the most common Italian surnames and where your family’s surname came from? I know I have and as a matter of fact, I thought my surname “Modica” came from the town of Modica in Sicily but I was wrong. If we had come from the town of Modica our surname would have been “da or di Modica” meaning from or of Modica. I can only guess that one of my ancestors changed it many years ago when they moved out of Modica.
Where do Italian Surnames Come From?
Italian surnames can come from anywhere like geographical areas, family occupations, descriptive nicknames or patronymics. Here are a few examples:
- Geographical = Leonardo da Vinci means “Vinci” which is a small town in Tuscany
- Occupation = The artist Botticelli whose brother was a pawnbroker was called “Il Botticello” or “Little Barrel”
- Nicknames = Giuliano Bugiardini means “Little Liars” or maybe they were good storytellers
- Patronymic = Painter Piero Cosimo means “Peter son of Cosimo”
- Matronymic = Painter Piero della Francesca means “Peter son of Francesca”
Other Surnames like Torregrossa mean “Big Tower,” Bella means “Beautiful” or one of my favorites Bonmatiro meaning “good husband.” As you can see Italian Surnames can come from anywhere or be after anything. There were no rules set in stone.
On a sad note, a name like Esposito means “To place outside or exposed,” Orfanelli which means “Little orphan” or Trovato/Trovatelli which means “Found little foundling” were given to those children abandoned and left on church steps or orphanages.
A Little History
Italians didn’t use Surnames until the 15th century when the “upper class” started using them. All Italians started using them after The Council of Trent around 1545 – 1563. The Council emphasized the need to record birthdates, baptisms, marriages, and deaths.
Top 20 Italian Surnames
Here is a list of the top 20 Surnames according to the Italian Government. The numbers are in thousands. And just in case your wondering… there are 2,120 Modica’s in all of Italy!
- Rossi 45.7k
- Russo 31.1k
- Ferrari 26.2k
- Esposito 23.2k
- Bianchi 18.7k
- Romano 17.9k
- Colombo 17.6k
- Ricci 15.1k
- Marino 13.4k
- Greco 13.3k
- Bruno 13.1k
- Gallo 12.9k
- Conti 12.7k
- DeLuca 12.6k
- Mancini 12.4k
- Costa 12.2k
- Giordano 12.2k
- Rizzo 12.1k
- Lombardi 11.6k
- Moretti 10.9k
Top 20 Surnames in the United States
Here are the top 10 Surnames in the United States according to the 2010 U.S.Census report. The numbers are in millions. Again… there are 2,655 Modica’s living in the United States!
- Smith 2.4M
- Johnson 1.9M
- Williams 1.5M
- Brown 1.4M
- Jones 1.4M
- Miller 1.1M
- Davis 1.0M
- Garcia .9M
- Rodriguez .8M
- Wilson .8M
SharonJune 13, 2020 at 10:17 am
Italian surnames seem so romantic compared with most of the US surnames. Jones, Brown, Smith — ha ha! It helps to have a distinctive first name in the US.
imodicaJune 13, 2020 at 10:19 am
Thanks for your comment Sharon – I completely agree!
Danielle NelsenJuly 18, 2020 at 10:35 am
I learned I’m a Modica, too! My Dad was adopted by his step father, so for years he thought he was born a Nelsen, but we’ve later learned biologically we’re Modicas! Kind of cool to learn something new.
imodicaJuly 18, 2020 at 10:53 am
OMG! That’s so amazing, Danielle! From a recent blog post, Gary just found a cousin living in Las Vegas… well she found us actually! Wonder if we are related? We’ve been to Modica and made a wonderful friend there. Gary’s family though is from Licodia Eubea, a town not far away. The town we are now from too with our Italian birth certificates! I think that is so awesome to find out! Thanks for sharing!!
ShayJune 13, 2020 at 10:24 am
I’m about 50% Italian so this was a super interesting read! I wish I had an Italian last name they’re so much more fun.
imodicaJune 13, 2020 at 10:38 am
Thank you Shay for the comment! 50% is pretty awesome. I’m only Italian now with my dual citizenship!!
EmmaJune 13, 2020 at 12:14 pm
I find this kind of thing incredibly fascinating. My family are big on researching genealogy so it’s always interesting to see how names and place names evolve over time
imodicaJune 13, 2020 at 12:25 pm
Thank you for commenting, Emma! We think genealogy is very interesting – it really is who we are!
Sarah CampJune 13, 2020 at 12:55 pm
This is so interesting – what a fascinating read. Imagine trying to track down your family with one of these surnames? Haha!
imodicaJune 14, 2020 at 7:50 am
Thanks for the comment, Sarah. Genealogy is a fascinating thing for everyone of every background – not just Italian!
TaylorJune 13, 2020 at 3:34 pm
This is so interesting! I am an Italian American and have heard of a lot of these names. My last name is supposed to be Italian, but it was changed to an English name when my great grandfather came to the USA.
imodicaJune 14, 2020 at 7:48 am
That happened quite a lot, Taylor! When going for citizenship we had to have some of Gary’s papers changed as his father’s name was “Americanized” and it got a bit crazy!
ErinJune 13, 2020 at 3:48 pm
Such an interesting read. My partner is 2nd gen Canadian with Sicilian heritage. We’ve never encountered anyone else with his surname, Amormino. Now I’m wondering how many other Amormino’s are out there!
imodicaJune 14, 2020 at 7:46 am
It’s not hard to google, Erin. I can’t say I’ve run across that surname either. Thank you for the comment!
HannahJune 14, 2020 at 2:22 am
What a fascinating post! I love learning about family history and the history of names. Italian names always sound really interesting! We don’t see that many of them in the UK. Where I’m from, my surname is very geographical. Only an hour down the road and it is completely unheard of! I like having an unusual surname but it is a pain having to spell it any time I talk to someone!
imodicaJune 14, 2020 at 7:45 am
I love your comment, Hannah! So funny. Isn’t genealogy fascinating!
CharlieJune 14, 2020 at 4:01 am
This is so interesting! I’m also really jealous of your last name – with Modica being one of the most amazing places I’ve visited! Thanks for sharing.
imodicaJune 14, 2020 at 7:44 am
Love the comment, Charlie! We loved visiting Modica and I was so bummed when I got my dual citizenship because I have to use my maiden name! That was such a funny story. We’ll be telling it shortly – it’s a secret for now that we hope to reveal soon! Subscribers will hear it first (hint-hint)
Lynne NiemanJune 14, 2020 at 7:31 am
This is really interesting. And I’m not surprised that the Italians didn’t have surnames for a long time. I think that was the case in other European countries.
imodicaJune 14, 2020 at 7:41 am
Thanks Lynne for the comment. Both Gary and I are always interested in things like this.
LoraJune 14, 2020 at 4:59 pm
That’s so interesting! Italian surnames sound so much prettier than common Canadian surnames lol
imodicaJune 15, 2020 at 9:22 am
Funny Lora – everything Italian sounds so romantic, doesn’t it?
Rhonda AlbomJune 14, 2020 at 8:34 pm
I like your surname cloud in the shape of Italy. I had an Italian exchange student but her surname didn’t make the top 20. Thanks for the explanation on where some of the surnames come from.
imodicaJune 15, 2020 at 9:22 am
Thanks Rhonda for the comment! Quite a few people we know didn’t make the top 20 either!
Juan VegaNovember 2, 2022 at 4:38 pm
Can’t seem to find enough info on the name Monte Longo. My father’s side has an Italian background. Wish I could find more.
imodicaNovember 3, 2022 at 7:36 am
Are you just looking for sentimental reasons or for dual citizenship? Both are important, please don’t get me wrong, but we have some resources you might try depending on the purpose you are looking.
The Discovery NutJune 16, 2020 at 3:24 am
Very interesting! Thank you for sharing 🙂