Italian byname structures (was: RE: [ANSTHRLD] House Porto - Household name and badge)

Kathleen O'Brien kobrien at
Fri May 30 00:37:15 PDT 2003

>If Francesca's rank and prestige were greater than her husband's, he would
>take her name, and her influence.

Really?  I hadn't run into the use of married names in Italian yet.  I have
seen 16th C records where a wife is referred to by her surname, rather than
her husband's, though the children got his surname.  Where'd you run across
this info?  I'd be interested in seeing what other info that source has.

>Their children would want to do the same
>thing, an their grandchildren, etc. -- so, you could have, Alberto della
>Bella, which often went to a plural, if he had siblings, which would either
>be Belle, if he kept it feminine, which I would think unlikely, or Belli --
>which would also change the plural of the link between the names, either 'i
>Belli' or "dei Belli". That's how you get names like "Lorenzi" or "Medici".

My understanding is that surnames like <Lorenzi> and <Alberti> come from
the genitive case and so indicate possessive.  <Lorenzo> is a nominative
case name.  In a byname, it could be <di Lorenzo> '[child] of Lorenzo' or
<Lorenzi>.  The <Lorenzi> form is the genitive case of <Lorenzo> and
indicates possesive.  An example of this type of name would be a name like
<Marco Lorenzi>, which would literally translate as 'Lorenzo's Marco'.  In
the 16th C, the genitive surname forms such as <Lorenzi> are normally
inherited surnames rather than literal patronymics.

<Medici> is different.  It's a shortened form of <dei Medici>.  I don't
have my Italian books in front of me, so I don't know if the genitive form
<Medici> is due to a plural usage or some another grammar requirement.

>If Francesca had gone to Venice, the pattern might have become "Firenzi"
>for her kids.

Maybe, maybe not.  There's some research in this going on regarding Italian
bynames at the moment.  I've got <Fiorentino> 'the Florentine' in one of my
in-progress articles.  That form could easily have become an inherited
surname.  Regarding <Firenzi>, this is also a genitive form indicating


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