Italian surnames derived from a toponym preceded by the preposition da, de or di

Italian surnames derived from a toponym preceded by the preposition da, de or di

The surnames derived from place names are the most common in Italy. Sometimes the toponymics are preceded by the prepositions da, de, or di, or in the contracted form del, della, dello, which indicate in a more explicit way a relationship of origin, origin, or any type of relationship between the bearer of the name and the toponym. The preposition can be attached to the name or separated. Also in this case, the variety is very wide. Examples: Da Milano, Damilano, De Napoli, Di Napoli, Denapoli, Di Bari, Dibari, De Lucca, Dipadova.

Most of these surnames are more common in regions far from the territory of the toponym.

Prepositions in Italian toponymics according to the region

According to Caffarelli 1, there is a kind of “territorial specialization” according to the morphological characteristics of the surnames:

  • the formula Da + toponym is the least common and appears mainly in Northern Italy. Examples: Da Como, Da Milano, Da Parma, Da Venezia the contraction Dal is typical of the Trentino area and the Northern Veneto, while Del is typical of the Veneto-Friuli area.
  • the formula De + toponym is mainly southern but not very common. Examples: De Bari, De Capua, De Ceglie, De Corato, De Napoli, De Naro, De Ruvo, De Sarno, De Taranto, De Troia and, among those referring to toponyms from the Central North of the peninsula: De Padova, De Padua, De Roma, De Sena, De Siena, De Venezia.
  • the formula Di + toponym is the most common and typical of Southern Italy. One-third of these surnames refer to toponyms in Puglia, for example: Di Bari, Di Bisceglie, Di Bitetto, Di Bitonto, Di Brindisi, Di Canosa, Di Ceglie, Di Corato, Di Foggia, Di Gravina, Di Lecce, Di Maglie, Di Modugna, Di Mola, Di Molfetta, Di Monopoli, Di Rutigliano, Di Ruvo, Di Seci, Di Taranto, Di Terlizzi, Di Trani, Di Troia, Di Vieste.
    The rest refer to Sicilian toponyms, for example: Di Gaccamo, Di Leonforte, Di Modica, Di Naro, Di Naso, Di Noto, Di Palermo, Di Patti, Di Rosolini, Di Sclafani, Di Trapani, etc., from Campania, for example: Di Capua, Di Flummeri, Di Napoli, Di Nocera, Di Nola, Di Palma, Di Sessa, Di Somma, Di Vietri, etc.
    Others refer to Basilicata toponyms: Di Marsico, Di Tolve, Di Venosa, Diviggiano, etc., from Abruzzo: Di Campli, Di Pentima, Di Scanno, Di Schiavi, Di Vasto, etc.; and to a lesser extent, from Calabria and Southern Lazio: Di Carpegna, Di Nepi, Di Norcia, Di Padova, Di Pisa, Di Roma, etc.
  • In the compound forms Del / Della + toponym, generic toponymic indicators prevail, for example: Della Valle, Della Torre, Della Rocca, Della Porta, Del Monte.
  • The form Del + toponym is special, as the toponym takes on an ethnic connotation, in surnames like Del Pistoia, Del Pisa, Dellucca, Del Perugia, Del Siena (and also Del Puglia, Del Francia), referring not to a city or region but to the ancestor of the bearer of the surname, whom they called “the Pistoia”, “the Pisa”, “the Lucca”, etc. A feminine example is Della Venezia.
  • In some cases, the preposition has been fully or partially joined with the name of the place, giving rise to surnames like Daidone, Deidone (from the toponym Aidone), Daquino (Aquino), Dascoli (Ascoli), Daggiano (Aggiano), Dalcantara (Alcantara), D‘Avigo (Vigo), Danzi (Anzi), Datena (Athens).
  • As for the formula D’+ toponym, its distribution is more varied, and there are cases where the toponym belongs to Central or Northern Italy but the surname is found in the South. From Puglia come D’Acquarica, D’Ostuni; from Sicily: D’Alcamo, D’Alcantara, D’Alessandria (from Alessandria della Rocca in the province of Agrigento), D’Aragona, D’Avola; from Calabria: D’Acri, from Campania: D’Aversa; from Abruzzo: D’Orsogna, D’Ortona; or from Lazio: D’Alatri, D’Aquino; and in other regions of Central Italy: D’Ancona, D’Arezzo, D’Assisi and from the North: D‘Azeglio, D‘Azzano, Dazzan, Dudine (from Udine).
  1. Enzo Caffarelli, director of the Onomastics journal at the University of Rome Tor Vergata. He is the author of several publications on Italian surnames, including “I cognomi d’Italia. Dizionario storico ed etimologico” (2008) with Carla Marcato.