Is “Mario Rossi” really the most common example of a first and last name in Italy?

How many of us, at least once in our lives, have mentioned a phantom during a speech? Mario Rossi referring to theaverage Italian or any Italian? How many Italians, however, they are actually called Mario Rossi? But above all, Mario Rossi is truly theexample of most common name and surname in Italy? Analyzing the issue and answering this question is actually more complex than it seems and the investigation we are going to do will allow us to discover something about Italian onomastics.

The investigation on Mario Rossi
  • 1The difficulty of counting Italian names and surnames
  • 2Studies on Italian surnames
  • 3The ranking of the most common Italian surnames
  • 4The most popular names in Italy
  • 5The most common combination of first and last names (male) in Italy
  • 6Why was Mario Rossi chosen as a typical name to indicate the average Italian?

The difficulty of counting Italian names and surnames

Let’s start with a statement that might surprise many readers: no one, with the exception ofNational Registry and of theIstatknows exactly how many people have a certain name and/or surname in our country. Furthermore, for legal and privacy reasons, the two bodies cannot communicate this data in a complete and transparent way because it is sensitive data. Istat, for example, provides a service with which to consult the names most commonly assigned to children born to parents resident in Italy, but the database goes back to 1999. In short, at present no scholar can say with absolute certainty which are the most common names and surnames in Italy. What can be done, therefore, is to propose some estimates.

Studies on Italian surnames

As Enzo Caffarelli explains in detail on the Treccani Encyclopedia website, the first studies aimed at cataloging Italian names and surnames were carried out in 70’s by the glottologist Emidio De Felice, who counted the SIP telephone subscribers (Italian Society for the Exercise of Telecommunications). The research, however, had obvious limitations, particularly underestimating those who did not have a telephone and women and under 30, who at the time were unlikely to have telephone contracts. Subsequent studies followed more or less the same line of action (i.e. the census of telephone users) and progressively refined the previous estimates.

The ranking of the most common Italian surnames

According to the reference research (often a bit dated), it has been estimated that the Italian surnames are between 300 and 400 thousand. It is a record in the European panorama due, among other things, to the great political fragmentation and foreign influences that our country has experienced throughout its history. This great variety, moreover, also affects the actual count of surnames. To do three examples: a possible double surname, Torchitti Lauria, should be counted as single or separated? Are Romano and Romanò to be considered different surnames? And Di Stefano and Distefano?

Putting aside these doubts (which however remain open) the most reliable estimates show that probably the 10 Most Common Surnames in Italy could be

  1. Red
  2. Ferrari
  3. Russian
  4. whites
  5. Columbus
  6. Esposito
  7. Curls
  8. Roman
  9. Accounts
  10. It costs

Some of these surnames are widespread throughout the Peninsula, others in smaller geographical areas, and still others in specific contexts, but with a high density. Having said this, returning to the initial question about Mario Rossi, we can say that, in fact, Rossi should be the most common surname in our country. Let’s move on to the names.

The most popular names in Italy

In the case of the census of the most used names in Italy, even greater difficulties are encountered than in counting surnames. However, always based on what is specified in the insights of the Treccani Encyclopedia, we can identify in Joseph the most popular male name in our country, followed by Andrew And Marco. As for female names, Mary excels on Annain second place. For years, on the other hand, if we look at the names given to newborns, we see that these power relations have changed: to give the most recent available example, in 2022 the top names given to boys are Leonardo, Francesco and Tommaso; in the ranking of those given to girls, instead, there are Sofia, Aurora and Giulia.

In any case, there is no trace of Mario and, in fact, Mario Rossi is not the most common name and surname combination in Italy for a male individual (we will see its position shortly). It will therefore be Joseph Rossi?

The most common combination of first and last names (male) in Italy

Once again the Treccani Encyclopedia comes to our aid and stops in its tracks what would seem to be an immediate logical step. In fact, it is not certain that the most common pairing of first and last names (male) in Italy is the result of the association between the most frequent surname (Rossi) and first name (Giuseppe) in the country, simply because perhaps some combination has had more luck. And, in fact, according to the most accurate estimates, thewinning combination of the most widespread name and surname in the Belpaese would be Joseph Russothus placing it alongside the most frequent name and the third most common surname in Italy.

Talking about Red And Russianhowever, a not obvious curiosity is that the two surnames have the same origin and the same meaning. In fact, they were born to indicate people with red hair, a rare, distinctive and easily used physical trait to label people, in a geographical and social context in which it is much more common for people to have brown or dark hair and beards. The geographical distribution of the two surnames – Rossi mainly in the Centre-North, Russo in the South and on the Islands, covering the whole country – further confirms that Russo is the southern equivalent of Rossi, indicated in the singular and with a change of vowel (from “o” to “u”) typical of various dialects of the South.

Why was Mario Rossi chosen as a typical name to indicate the average Italian?

In conclusion, there is one question left to answer: why then has Mario Rossi been identified as the typical name and surname combination of the average Italian? Most likely because period where this saying was born and spread, that is, starting from second after war. At the time, in fact, many men between the ages of 40 and 70 actually had the name Mario, which had been widely assigned to children born between the 1880s and the 1930s, especially in Northern and Central Italy. At that time, therefore, Mario Rossi was probably the most widespread combination in the country or at least it was much more common than today.

Currently the Mario Rossi pairing should be around the8th place of the Italian general classification, but would still resist in first position in some geographical contexts: in the Tuscany region as a whole and in some cities such as Florence, Perugia And Ancona.