While names like Isabella, Leo, and Arianna have become established options in the United States in recent years, plenty of Italian names have yet to conquer our shores. Let’s expand our horizons by exploring il bel paese - the beautiful country. Here are fifteen attractive names, for both boys and girls, that have yet to reach the top 1000.
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Giada. Celebrity chef Giada De Laurentiis brought this name to the attention of many Americans - in fact, the name had only made records once before 2003, when her cooking show first aired. Since then, Giada has caught on considerably, but it’s still far from popular. It’s similar to Gianna or Jade (its English equivalent), but Giada has an elegant flair all its own.
Carmine. A classic Italian name, alluring Carmine has been in use for centuries. The meaning relates to “bright red,” bringing the vibrant qualities of Ruby and Scarlett over to the boys’ column. The Car- beginning connects it to other names on the playground, like Carter or Carson, but Carmine is far from the top 100 - only 150 boys were given the name last year.
Desideria. Though Desiree peaked in 1983, this Italian variation brightens it up and augments its femininity and romance. Desideria offers the adorable nicknames Desi or Deri, with a substantial long form - perfect for a multitude of personalities and ages. The name has never been recorded in US lists, either, so if you’re looking for a truly unique name, you may desire Desideria!
Raffaello. While Rafael is well-rooted in the American name landscape, ornate Raffaello rearranges the pronunciation and adds some pizzazz. The name has a firm religious background as well - it comes from Hebrew, meaning “God has healed,” and is the name of one of the four archangels. The nickname Raffi tones down its complexity, but Raffaello is truly a gorgeous choice.
Elettra. Names like Elizabeth, Eliana, and Elise have become popular routes to the nickname Ellie - why not try an unexpected, dynamic option? Elettra, the Italian form of Electra, is bright and shining without seeming too ancient or scientific. It’s also become more recognizable in the US as the name of film star Ingrid Bergman’s granddaughter.
Ludovico. Consistently in the top 100 in Italy, Ludovico is one of the Italian variations of Louis, meaning “famous warrior.” Its melody and masculinity balance well, creating an enticing sound that complements a classic vibe. Ludovico also offers a plethora of nicknames, from Harry Potter-inspired Ludo to Vico or Louie.
Serafina. Another Italian name with a beautiful melody, Serafina is a marvelous name that could catch on well in the United States. It’s similar to darlings Sofia and Sabrina, but its tone is far more angelic and delicate. The seraphim are the highest-ranking group of the Christian angelic hierarchy, associated with light and purity. Alternate spelling Seraphina is another pretty choice, picked by celebrity parents Jennifer Garner and Ben Affleck.
Ezio. It’s no coincidence that Ezio popped up in name records at the same time the Assassin’s Creed video games premiered - the protagonist of the game, Ezio Auditore da Firenze, has now been in more than five popular games. Meaning “eagle,” Ezio is a fantastic alternative to Ezra or Eli, with a super-cool recent history that would make any little boy proud to wear the name.
Fiammetta. Romantic and fiery, Fiammetta is a name fit for any confident little girl, from future princesses to future astronauts. It’s all over art and literature; from Bocaccio to Rossetti to Gilbert and Sullivan, Fiammetta has been inspiring. NFL player Tony Fiammetta may be the most recognizable wearer, but this “flame” of a name is a breathtaking feminine choice.
Giacomo. This Italian variation of James currently ranks at #33 in Italy, with hundreds of famous namesakes throughout history. It’s a less common alternative to Giovanni, Gianni, or even Jack - plus, the first syllable allows for Jack as a nickname. Only twenty-five little Giacomo’s were born in the United States last year, making it even more of a unique option.
Alessia. Pop star Alessia Cara has been rising up the Billboard charts, but Alessia has yet to make the top 1000. It’s the Italian form of Alexia, with a lighter, more serene sound. While it sounds very much like other popular names - Alyssa, Alisa, Allison - it lends itself to a far less popular (though still pop-music-inspired) nickname: Sia. Alessia is currently at #16 in Italy, and #24 in Switzerland.
Paolo. Once only ascribed to heartthrobs or Latin lovers, Paolo has become more accessible with the rise of Mateo and Leonardo among American audiences. Another name with Biblical origins, Paolo is familiar and friendly, surpassing both Paul and Pablo in style. While there are plenty of interesting Paolo’s in the history books, only a few dozen Paolo’s were born in the US last year.
Ginevra. Another Harry Potter name that has flown under the radar for years, Ginevra is the full first name of Ginny Weasley. It’s the Italian variation of Guinevere or Jennifer, and could be used as a subtle honorific for an aunt Jen. For a second literary connection, Percy Bysshe Shelley’s poem “Ginevra” begins “Wild, pale and wonder-stricken” - a dramatic verse for a dramatic name!
Elia. Though there were more girls than boys named Elia born in the US last year, this attractive El-name is actually a form of Elijah. One notable namesake is Elia Kazan, an influential Hollywood film director whose films are still well-loved today: A Streetcar Named Desire, East of Eden, and Splendor in the Grass, for instance. Elia has great multicultural appeal as well, appearing as a name in more than just Latin language-speaking families.
Think smooth. Imagine a name with the gloss of honey and the flow of water. If it's an English name, chances are it's fashionable for American girls today. From the trim sweetness of "raindrop names"like Lily to the lyricism of "liquid names" like Aurelia, parents are drawn to the sleekest sounds around.
One of the beauties of the fluid sounds is that they travel well. To demonstrate, I've collected examples of smooth girls' names from all over the world. These names, from 33 different languages, show off an extraordinary range of styles. But not one has hard stops or rough edges; just silky-smooth flow.
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|SMOOTH GIRL'S NAME||LANGUAGE||MEANING/ORIGIN|
|Naiara||Basque||Form of the place name Nájera|
|Emina||Bosnian||From Amin, "Trustworthy, truthful"|
|Raya||Bulgarian||"Paradise," also a diminutive of Rayna|
|Mireia||Catalan||Form of the Occitan name Mirèio, a literary invention meaning "admirable"|
|Lenna||Estonian||Short form of names such as Helena|
|Minea||Finnish||From a character in the famous Finnish novel "The Egyptian"|
|Malou||French||Contraction of Marie-Louise|
|Nele||German||A pet form of names such as Cornelia|
|Lilla||Hungarian||Originally a short form of names starting with Li|
|Orla||Irish||From Órfhlaith, "golden princess"|
|Airi||Japanese||Can be written with kanji of various meanings, frequently "love + jasmine"|
|Aiman||Kazakh||From Ai, meaning "moon"|
|Iria||Portuguese||Saint's name, possibly a form of Irene|
|Linnea||Swedish||The name of a flower, after the Swedish botanist Linnaeus|
For many parents, unisex baby names feel like a breath of fresh air. A name like Lennon or Landry steps outside the traditional name stream and can't be immediately labeled "boy" or "girl." That freedom from preconceptions is part of the name's appeal, both in style terms and in deeper dreams of a lifetime without limits. But an analysis of name stats over the past generation suggests that a balanced gender ratio is unlikely to last. Few unisex names stay unisex.
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I Identified all baby names in regular use 25 years ago that were "unguessably unisex." (My threshholds were at least 200 babies born in the year, and no greater than a 2:1 gender ratio in either direction). 33 names made the cut. A generation later, here's what has happened to the balanced names:
• 23 have shifted to single-sex dominated usage (11 male, 12 female).
• 10 have remained unisex.
So as a starting point, a unisex name had less than a 1 in 3 chance of remaining balanced. If you look closer, though, the numbers are even more dramatic.
Quite a few of the names that moved single-sex did so dramatically, becoming hit names for girls or boys. Every single name that remained unisex dropped in popularity. Some have essentially disappeared. Names like Loren and Codie, it turns out, weren't so much lasting unisex names as former sex-stamped hits fading out of use.
If we look just at the unisex names of 1990 that are still at least modestly popular, the stable unisex rate falls to 1 in 5. A parent who chose a unisex name in 1990 was essentially rolling the dice on the name's ultimate gender makeup. A single-sex name of either sex was a more likely outcome than an unguessably androgynous adult name.
The graph below shows the sex ratio of these names drifting over the 25-year period. The center 50% line represents names given to equal numbers of girls and boys:
Name styles are evolving fast, but this phenomenon doesn't seem to be fading. Looking at a more recent sample, almost half of the unisex names of just 10 years ago have already swung one way or the other.
The data suggest that unisex names as a group are a style in flux. They're a mix of new names that have yet to settle into an image or identity; older names slipping out of style; girlish respellings of passingly trendy boys' names; names in mid-transition from masculine to feminine; and a handful of lastingly unisex names.
From the point of view of the here and now, the future direction of an individual name is hard to predict. In 1990, Kirby and Avery were both uncommon androgynous names. Today Avery is a huge hit girl's name while Kirby is vanishing for both sexes. The fluid identity of unisex names also makes them particularly susceptible to celebrity influence. Ashton and Kendall were unisex in 1990, but thanks to Ashton Kutcher and Kendall Jenner, Ashton is now overwhelmingly male and Kendall overwhelmingly female. If fluidity is your goal, you'll find it a maddenly hard quality to bottle for the future.
Just to be clear, I am NOT saying everyone should choose a single-sex name. Each name choice is unique, and parents may be drawn to unisex names for many reasons. If Hollis is a family surname, if Emory is your alma mater, if Lennon is a personal hero, or if you just love the sound and meaning of Ever, those qualities are intrinsic and will never fade. Choose the name you love for all the reasons you love it. But if you're looking for androgyny for its own sake, go in with your eyes open.