Italian Fantasy Names


ITALIAN SURNAMES: an untapped fantasy resource.

I am reading Michael R. Fletcher‘s Grimdark novel Beyond Redemption which converts German words into names because they sound dark and grim to English speakers.

Italian – usually thought rightly as a beautiful language – is my second language. If you know what they mean, many Italian surnames are really very grim and dark.

For example:
Mezzasalma – Half Corpse
Malacarne – Evil Meat
Boccadifuoco – Firemouth
Mangiacapre – Goateater
Pelagatti – Catskinner

After the end of the Western Roman Empire, Italy was occupied/trashed by various grim/metal gangs – Goths, Vandals, Longobards, Franks – and various surnames probably still show that.

PS: the statue below of a horse with skulls that I took in Italy a few weeks is fairly grim as well!

Many other Italian surnames have meanings that are perfect for fantasy characters of various types. Try these:

Quarto di Palo – Quarterstaff (fighting monk)
Gambarotta – Broken Leg (wounded soldier)
Pezzopane – Piece of Bread (jester)
Barbafiera – Proudbeard (king)
Spadavecchia – Old Sword (veteran warrior)
Cottafavi – Beancooker (you’ve got the idea by now!)
Malcotti – Badly Cooked
Fossacieca – Blind Trench
Tagliabue – Oxcutter
Saltaformaggio – Cheesejumper

I have pages of these that I have collected over the years!

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13 thoughts on “Italian Fantasy Names

  1. These are names I totally want to hear the stories behind. Surnames are kind of fascinating, when you get right down to them. My old philosophy teacher in high school once pointed out the similarities between the surnames of Shakespeare and Wagstaff, and mentioned theories that both involved affectionate (or perhaps not-so-affectionate) nickname origins relating to guys who, well, shook their junk at people. Makes me wonder why there are Italian families referencing someone who jumped over cheese. Was the original Tagliabue someone who castrated bulls for a living? Inquiring minds want to know!

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    1. I would love to know more of the stories myself! They go back to the Middle Ages, so as far as I know, we can only guess.

      I have some theories!
      Pezzopane (piece of bread) was probably a beggar.
      Mezzasalma (half corpse) probably looked half dead.
      Tagliabue may have been a butcher.
      Cheesejumper is really mysterious!

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  2. That was fun! (and I’m in the position to totally appreciate the list… 🙂 )
    I never thought about these surnames in relation to fantasy, but you’re right, they do belong in some grimdark story. And how about “Mangiacristiani”? It would be a perfect name for a terrible ogre… 😉

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