Fourteenth Century Venetian Personal Names

by Arval Benicoeur (Josh Mittleman, and
Talan Gwynek (Brian M. Scott,
January 2003

© 1999, 2003 by Brian M. Scott and Joshua Mittleman; all rights reserved.
The main lists of names in this article were collected from Guido Ruggiero, Violence in Early Renaissance Venice, which takes its data primarily from 14th and early 15th Century Venetian records. A few names are from the 16th Century, but they are so marked. Some of the people named came to Venice from other city-states; indeed, in a number of cases surnames of the form da [placename] appear to be descriptive, not hereditary. One or two were German, but the names were part of the common Western stock and had been fully Latinized or Italianized for the records.

A few names used below as examples were translated from Latin documents in Sally McKee, Wills from Late Medieval Venetian Crete 1312-1420.

Name Construction

Nearly all the names included just one given name and one surname. Here are typical examples of Venetian names from this period, translated from McKee's Latin documents, but consistent with our findings in Ruggiero: A few names in Ruggiero had more complex structures, including what appear to be bynames or nicknames: Here Toderino is a derivative of Teodori [De Felice Cognomi, p.246]. Tonso is a nickname referring to a short haircut; it shares a root with the word tonsure [Fucilla, p.212]. Rizo seems to be a variant of Rizzo 'curly-haired' [De Felice, p.210]. Magnus is obviously Latin 'great'; the Italian form would have been Magno [De Felice, p.157]. Bini is probably an abbreviated form of some such hypocorism as Albino or Cambini; these did give rise to an actual name, Bino [De Felice, p.80]. Bezio appears to be a form of Beggio, a Venetian pet name for Basile [De Felice, pp.72].

There were four names in which the given name and the surname were closely related, or even identical: Alberto Alberto; Giustiniano Giustinian; Morosino Morosini; and Rambaldo Rambaldo.

Finally, there were a few 'long' names. Some appear to be examples of double forenames: Bucello Francesco del Richo; Gian Giacomo Caroldo (16th C.); and Pietro Paolo Querini. We can't tell whether the names Giovanni Andruzo da Lucca and Gian Galeazzo Visconti contain double forenames or double surnames [1]. In Francesco Dente da San Paternian, Dente 'tooth' looks like a surname or byname, and in Marin Sanuto Il Vecchio, Il Vecchio 'The Old Man' is clearly a nickname. We don't know whether Marin Sanuto Torsello is the same person with a different nickname or a completely different person. Torsello could be a 'nickname of a short, thick-set man' [Fucilla, p.210]. (Sanuto apparently began as a nickname referring to a person's big teeth; this form is typically Venetian [Fucilla, p.220].)

There remains only the Latin Andream filius Jacobi Vaginarii. Andream appears to be the accusative of Andrea, and Jacobi Vaginarii is clearly the genitive of Jacobus Vaginarius. In Italian the forenames would presumably have been Andrea and Jacopo (or Jacobo). Vaginarius looks like an occupational surname, perhaps for scabbard-maker [2].

Given Names

Italian masculine names generally end in -o, and feminine names in -a; but there are exceptions. For those names which do fit this pattern, masculine/feminine pairs were common: Donato/Donata, Francesco/Francesca. Among the exceptions, some names were used for both genders: Luca. In the Venetian dialect, it was not uncommon for the masculine -o to be dropped: Marin, Paladin [De Felice Nomi, in various entries].

Pet forms of names are very common. Some are formed simply by adding a diminutive suffix: Albertino, Pasqualina, Bertuccio, Caterucia. Others are formed from a short form of the name, usually the final syllables of the name -- Gerita from Margherita, Facio from Bonifacio, Luysio from Aluysio. Diminutive suffixes were added to these short forms: Bucello from Bucca, Lenuzo from Leonardo, Colleta from Nicola. The result often bears bore very little resemblance to the original name: Puzinello from Iacopo, by way of Iacopuzzo. Variation of the initial consonant is not uncommon: Pencina from Bencivenga. One variation typical of Venetian names is the substitution of initial Z for a soft G or Gi: Zusto for Giusto, Zanino from Gianino (itself a diminutive of Giovanni).

Another spelling variation that appears in this data is x for s or a soft c, e.g. Blaxio for Blasio, Galaxio for Galaccio. This variation appears in other Venetian documents [McKee].

From the 11th century, northern Italians created a wide array of compound given names by combining names, by combining a name with an attribute, or by co-opting a common phrase. Most of these names dropped out of fashion by the end of the 13th century, but some persisted and a few appear here: Benvenuto/Benevenuta 'good coming, welcome', Benintendi 'good intentions' [Menant].

Tables of Given Names


The surnames in this sample appear to be a mixture of bynames, which describe the individuals who used them, and inherited family names. Without more information about the individuals involved, it is not possible to assign each name to one of these categories; but we have noted those surnames that we know to be inherited. In general, grammatically plural forms are usually inherited family names: e.g. Alberti, Dardi, Turri. The plural form refers to the family as a whole. For example, a 13th century Checo, son of Dardo, was probably known as Checo di Dardo. His children might have been known as the Dardi, and that form of the name might have been inherited in the 14th century. Of course, the unmodified Dardo could also have been inherited as a surname.

Table of Surnames

Notes and Bibliography

Published by Arval Benicoeur

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