The origin of a name

Dad is on the left

          In the Middle Ages, people were known by their baptismal names, e.g. Giuseppe, Giovanni, etc. until the year 1000, when a second name was added to avoid confusion.

           To distinguish individuals, the name of the father (patronymics) might be added, e.g. Giovanni son of Bernardo became Giovanni di Bernardo or Giovanni Bernardo; or to identify someone from a certain area (toponymics), e.g. Leonardo di Ser Piero from Vinci was the great Leonardo da Vinci

My name plagued me throughout childhood…too long, too difficult to say, perplexing. I heard it all: Yank-a-nelli, Innch-a-nelli, the kid from around the corner and the biggest insult…“the Italian kid” when they had no idea how to pronounce it. Most of my friends had easier names like Dick, Falls, Potts, Sullivan and Terry. Even many Italian-Americans had simple names…Pascale, Delano and Rossi. I had nicknames like “Chilly” and “Nooch.”  A College professor once called me Ed Yank-a-Nelly, so throughout my college years, I was known as “Ed Yank.”

         My college art teacher thought my name originated from the Latin words janus, for gate, and coelis, for heaven, and simply meant, “gate of heaven.” God bless him! I liked it!

          However, an Italian scholar told me that the name Giovanni, Johnny, jani or ianni in Italian, was common, and that my name might be a derivative of John.  He also explained that vezzeggiativo meant using an ending to make a word pretty…e.g. uccio attached to the word cara…. caruccio, means dear or pretty one. So iannuccio could signify dear or pretty John. “Ini”, or “illo”, in Neapolitan dialect, means small. Iannuccilli could mean little, or dear, John… dear, little John. I liked that too. So kind, so mellow.

But people more than a definition or pronunciation lend honor to a name. There are many Iannuccilli’s … bankers, lawyers, doctors, teachers, realtors, craftsmen, skilled laborers, developers, etc. whose forefathers originated in a small town just south of Rome, Roccamonfina, where successful Iannuccilli’s still labor harvesting a large portion of the world’s chestnut crop.

I have sons, grandsons and nephews who carry this great name, rich in tradition, rooted in history; no apology necessary.

And today, as of 4:29 AM, I have carried the name for 70 years!

Explore posts in the same categories: Reflections

13 Comments on “The origin of a name”

  1. mayer levitt Says:

    Hi Ed – Happy Birthday and it is a big one I think. Hope to catch up to you in February. Very interesting blog post. See you for lunch on the 4th.

    Best – mayer

  2. Al West Says:

    Congratulations on your birthday and the very interesting blog.

  3. Fran Loszynski Says:

    I grew up with the only Italian family in the Berkshires at a time when Polish and Russian people lived there. I was considered “Francesca”. The Pisano family introduced me to Pastena, and rigatoni noodles! I don’t miss a week without my spaghetti. Even though my name is Frances; I love when Italian people call me Francesca!

  4. robert a. indeglia Says:

    For years I was told that my grandparents came from Roccamonfina. My son and I on two different occasions searsched the town’s records for my grandfather and grandmother’s records (Zannini) to no avail. About 10 years ago I stopped for information at a local smoke shop and met a delightful young woman who spoke English well. She proceede to tell me that I was looking for San Marzano about 2 miles down the mountain. Her family was Integlia. I spent the next two days as a local celebrity with the “Integlia eyes”. For years I had kidded my relatives here that they spelled their names wrong since my grandfather was thre first of the family to come to the US. After searching the local records there, I discovered that hte true spelling is with a “t”. When pronounced by the locals the two names are very much alike. Thhe change obviously occured during the immigration process. By the way, there are Indeglia’s in both towns but are not related to us. Anyway, I like the pronounciation of my name better.

  5. David Minicucci Says:

    Ed, I guess today is your birthday, so I would like to wish you a happy birthday and a very Merry Christmas and a healthy and properous New Year. I recently met a few guys from the old drug store on Broadway and of course we went down memory lane talking about cotton, frog eyes, JC, blackjack, etc. Dave Minicucci

  6. Tom DeNucci Says:

    Happy birthday Ed! As a “DeNucci” I have had my name mispronounced and mis spelled my entire life. DiNucci, DiNuccio, DiNunzio…and on and on. And all of us in the family have had the nickname “Da-nuuuuuch”….Its OK. I only wish I knew the correct spelling of my name, as I have seen documents from my grandfather where his name is spelled both De Nucci and Di Nucci. We settled on DeNucci generations ago.

    God Bless and Buon Natale a tutti.

  7. Deb Says:

    Very interesting blog entry on the history of your name. I always loved the sounds of it, although it did take me a while to learn to spell it!! I’ve already wished you a Happy Birthday but will repeat it now: HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!! And if it is a big one, worry not, you look great!!

  8. Anita Iannuccilli Says:

    The Iannuccilli name has been spelled wrong and pronounced incorrectly for all of us for many years. Even though it does have a musical ring, it is difficult to find first names that go well with it. Peter and Andrea are tossing around a multitude of names for their unborn baby; we’ll see what they decide…..Buon natale!!!!

  9. Al Apicelli Says:

    An Italian professor in college told me that my name was derived from the word for bees (apis) with the diminutive celli and most likely the family originally were keepers of the bees .Interesting, yes. Musical, certainly!
    Happy Birthday, Ed

    • Rachel Says:

      I enjoyed your post Ed!
      To Al, I happened across your comment and we share the same surname except somewhere down the line another p was added. I understand we all might be related even though the spelling varies slightly. My uncle Nebol told us that it means “little bee”. I can tell you that through the years, people have had a lot of fun poking fun at it while tweaking the name slightly.

  10. Susan Pasquarelli Says:

    Buon compleanno in ritardo, Eduardo!

  11. Arleen Iannuccilli Johnson Says:

    I was told that Iannuccilli meant … those that are in heaven.. thus many of the family used the name “Angell” in the days when Iannuccilli was too hard to spell and pronounce. In fact my uncle who spent most of his life in RI asTommy Angell… a professional singer. He was born in Cranston and the family was living there. He came to NYC and worked in clubs but went back to RI.

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