Singular, Plural in Italian Names?

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KarenChristino
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Singular, Plural in Italian Names?

Postby KarenChristino » 04 Nov 2010, 18:26

Is there any kind of tradition with singular vs. plural surnames in Italy? My GM's baptism record gives Ciminelli, which is the name the family always used. But her NYC birth record has "Ciminiello" which seems like it may be some kind of singular form. Or an error? I noticed that the Informant was some strange person from around the corner -- no wonder there are so many mistakes! I checked online and it appears that Ciminelli is a much more common name.

I just got my Dad's baptism record which says "Cimonella," but I think that's just a typo.

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Re: Singular, Plural in Italian Names?

Postby ForzaItaliaPgh » 04 Nov 2010, 20:04

The plural form tends to predominate in the North of the boot, the singular in the south and Sicily, of course there are exceptions, but that is a good general rule. I believe names ending in "a" tend to come from Calabria.
Researching BARONTINI family from Tuscany

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Re: Singular, Plural in Italian Names?

Postby KarenChristino » 04 Nov 2010, 20:14

Thanks! Fascinating. I had never heard this before, and of course never thought about it until it affected me! They are from the south though (Potenza) and usually used what would be the plural, so I guess the exception to the general rule.

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Re: Singular, Plural in Italian Names?

Postby sceaminmonkey » 04 Nov 2010, 23:24

http://italian.about.com/od/italiancult ... 11704a.htm


check that out. apparently the "i" and the "o" have different meanings.

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Re: Singular, Plural in Italian Names?

Postby JohnArmellino » 05 Nov 2010, 00:56

Is there any kind of tradition with singular vs. plural surnames in Italy?


The endings -o and -i are not singular and plural forms of Italian surnames. Rather, they are derived from the Latin, although in different ways.

When Italian surnames were first written in parish records, they were "translated" from Latin into Italian using different rules: in southern Italy they took the "ablative" form of the Latin name (usually ending with a -o), whereas in northern Italy they used the "genitive" form (ending with a -i). Of course, these were not hard and fast rules ...that would be too easy.

The Latin ablative case expresses separation, indirection, or the means by which an action is performed. In English, the prepositions by, with, and from most commonly denote this case.

The Latin genitive case expresses possession, measurement, or source. In English, the preposition of is used to denote this case.

In my research (southern Italy - Molise), I have found that the parish records use the ending -o, but the civil records often use the ending -i. Go figure!
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KarenChristino
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Re: Singular, Plural in Italian Names?

Postby KarenChristino » 05 Nov 2010, 13:07

That's really interesting, John. It almost seems to imply different ways of thinking about being a member of a family.

In my case it's the reverse of what you found, since the NYC church record ended in i and the civil in o -- so the more I think about it the more I think it must have just been an error.

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Re: Singular, Plural in Italian Names?

Postby ForzaItaliaPgh » 05 Nov 2010, 14:34

JohnArmellino wrote:
Is there any kind of tradition with singular vs. plural surnames in Italy?


The endings -o and -i are not singular and plural forms of Italian surnames. Rather, they are derived from the Latin, although in different ways.

When Italian surnames were first written in parish records, they were "translated" from Latin into Italian using different rules: in southern Italy they took the "ablative" form of the Latin name (usually ending with a -o), whereas in northern Italy they used the "genitive" form (ending with a -i). Of course, these were not hard and fast rules ...that would be too easy.

The Latin ablative case expresses separation, indirection, or the means by which an action is performed. In English, the prepositions by, with, and from most commonly denote this case.

The Latin genitive case expresses possession, measurement, or source. In English, the preposition of is used to denote this case.

In my research (southern Italy - Molise), I have found that the parish records use the ending -o, but the civil records often use the ending -i. Go figure!


Very interesting. I knew "i" endings tend to predominate in the North and "o" in the south, but had always equated them with plural and singular forms. I'm glad I use a pseudonym, my old college Latin 1 teacher would be displeased ;)

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Re: Singular, Plural in Italian Names?

Postby JohnArmellino » 05 Nov 2010, 15:24

I'm glad I use a pseudonym, my old college Latin 1 teacher would be displeased


I suspect that all of our old Latin teachers would be displeased, both then and now. LOL
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