Surname of Sardinia (Sardinian)

If we have worked on projects of indexing Italian records, or if we have looked in historical documents, surely we have seen that a particularity of the surnames of Sardinia is the ending in u, es, as, iu…

The Region and its history

Sardinia (Italian: Sardegna; Sardinian: Sardigna or Sardìnnia) is one of the twenty Italian regions. It is located in insular Italy. The Kingdom of Piedmont and Sardinia was the name of the possessions of the House of Savoy in 1720, when the island of Sardinia was gifted to King Victor Amadeus II of Savoy to compensate for the loss of Sicily to the Austrian Empire under the Treaty of The Hague. 1. It was also known as the Kingdom of Sardinia and its inhabitants could be called Sardinians instead of Piedmontese, for example.

Classification of sardinian surnames

There are numerous studies of surnames of Sardinian origin, carried out by scholars such as Massimo Pittau, Lorenzo Manconi and others. These studies make different classifications of these surnames, some classifications are similar to the general casings of Italian surnames made by De Felice and Caffarelli; while others classify them according to the Sardinian language.

Bardanzellu, reviews these classifications and according to the Sardinian language groups the surnames in this way: 2

Surnames derived from first names

  • of animals: this goes back to the time when the relationship between man and animal was not one of subordination of the latter with respect to the human being, but of reciprocal complementarity: Angioi, Angioni (lamb), Boe, Boi, Boxwood, Boy (ox / ox); Goats (goat); Cadeddu, Careddu, Calledda (puppy); Cabrolu (fallow deer, deer); Crobu (crow); From Thori, Dettori (turbot-like fish); Giua (mane); Ladu (quarter of macerated ox); Muddy (fox), Lussu (pike -animal-); Mangone / Mangones (flamenco / s); Mudulu (hornless ram); Mules (donkey or mule); Multinu, Multineddu (horse or foal alazán); Muroni (mouflon -European animal-); Piga (magpie); Pinna (pen); Pintus (spotted bird); Porcu, Porceddu, Porcheddu (pig);  Puddu (rooster); Puliga (coot -wading bird-); Puxeddu (flea); Ricciu (hedgehog, porcupine); Sanna, Sannìa (tusk, probably of wild boar); Sàrigu (sea bream fish); Schirru (marten); Sirigu (silkworm); Ticca (hen); Cow (cow); Zedda (herd or saddle); Zuddas (pig hair). 3
  • of vegetables or derivatives: It refers to names of plants or derivatives of them and these also take us back to the time when man was one with nature: Ara, Asara, Atzara (thorny branch, alfalfa); Ardu (thistle); Cabitza (ear), Latinized in Spiga; Cannae (cane); Càriga (dried fig); Cau (marrow of some plants); Chessa (putty); Fenu (hay); Figus (fig.); Floris, Flowers (flower); Melis, Meloni (honey); Mura, Muru, De Muru (blackberry or raspberry); Murtas, De Murtas (myrtle); Nuxi, Nughes (walnut); Palms (palm); Pane / Pani (bread); Piras, Piredda (pear); Prunas (plum); Roses, Roses (pink); Rudas (route plant); Soru (tree whey or cheese); Suergiu, Suelzu (Mediterranean cork oak).4
  • of agricultural, livestock or artisanal tools. The introduction of the practice of agriculture or breeding (Neolithic era) is reflected in the surnames: Aru (fork); Casu (cheese); Coccu (round focaccia); Congiu (a certain type of terracotta jar); Corrias (leather strap); Corda (tendons of braided animals); Loriga (cowbell or metal ring of cattle); Madau (fold); Manunta (plow handle); Marras (hoe or shovel); Mossa (horse bite); Murgia (residue from oil presses); Picca (weapon composed of a rod with a sharp tip for cattle); Podda (gluten, sticky flour), Saba (cooked sweet must).
  • surnames that have mythical or fairytale references: Contu (legendary tale, fairy tale); De Jana, Deiana, Diana (fairy, Latinized form: Fadda); Maccione, Maccioni, Nieddu (night darkness); Uccheddu (evil eye); Virdis (iris, intended to be an instrument of the seer).5

These first four cases (surnames derived from names of animals, plants, agricultural or breeding tools or from mythical references or fairy tales) are a characteristic phenomenon in Sardinia and the most common Sardinian surnames fall into these categories.

Surnames derived from orographic or hydrographic common names

Some Sardinian surnames derive from orographic or hydrographic common names: Abba (spring water); Addis (valley); Bau (ford or swamp but also scarecrow); Caddeus (sacred place); Cuccuru, Cuccureddu (mountaintop); Ena (source); Pala (offshore coast); Pardu (meadow); Puzzu, Putzu, Putzolu (sacred well); Riu (river); Sassu (rock); Serra (mountain ridge); Silanus (wooded place).

Common feature of these 5 types of surnames

But what is the common feature of the surnames of the first five types? Anthropology and ethnology help us: the oldest surnames in Sardinia have a totemic origin. 6

Totemism refers to a set of beliefs of a religious, social and even political nature, characteristic of primitive populations and tribes. The fundamental feature is the use of a symbolic figure, called a totem. The figures depicted on the totem pole can be edible plants or even animals intended for hunting that are given deep respect; totemism is closely related to legends about the origin of the world.

A distinctive feature of totemism is the belief that there is a bond of affinity, of a mystical nature, between objects of natural origin and an individual. It can be said that if a community is divided into clans and each clan has a relationship already determined with an animate or inanimate object, which in this case is the totem, then it is said that there is totemism; a primitive religion that in a very ancient historical period of the earth, worshipped plants and animals as the case may be. 7

Bardanzellu comments that we find all these totemic characteristics in Sardinian surnames. This is because around 1000 AD, when surnames began to be used in Sardinia (and in the rest of Europe), clans of the prehistoric era still existed and were distinguished from each other according to totemic criteria.

The clans and therefore the Sardinian surnames of this type date back to the time before Christianization and the Roman Conquest.Therefore, while some surnames reached the present day with a Latinized name, others (most of them) retain the pre-Latin form of the Sardinian language.Therefore, they are the same clans of the Nuragic, if not pre-Nuragic era. 8

Probably, in the Ancient Bronze Age, the beginning of the Nuragic Age, the names of family clans were already defined.It is believed that there has been a correspondence between a particular clan and the construction of the nuraghe, intended to be a meeting place for the family group, with a ritual and necessarily animistic-religious purpose.Many historians do not believe that the Nuraghe had a military function, something much touted in some settings. Today, as then, the Sardinians are a peaceful and religious people. 9

Surnames derived from place names

Some Sardinian surnames derive from place names or adjectives of ethnic type, gentilicios: Addis/Devaddes (from a valley or forest), Anela (this surname has several meanings but could refer to Anella or Anela is the name of an ancient city in the north center of Sardinia), Atzeni (from Assena, Oristano), Azuni, Barbarighinu (place of Oristano), Bosincu, Burghesu (coming from the town and /or castle of Burgos, small village of Sassari), Calaresu (from an ethnic dialect form for "cagliaritano"), Concas (locality of Nuoro), Congiatu (delimited plot of land), Corongiu (locality of Carbonia-Iglesias), Silanesu (native of Silanus), Sini (of Sini, Oristano), Talanas (from the village of Talana, Ogliastra).

Surnames derived from trades

Like the generality of Italian surnames, some Sardinian surnames derive from the name of arts, jobs or professions. For example: Bardanzellu (barrantzellos was a militia of the city, organized in groups of 30 volunteers plus a captain and a lieutenant, which was used to suppress the theft of cattle), 10 Crabargiu (variant of Cabrargiu = goat breeder), Ferreri, Frau (blacksmith in Sardinian) Agos / Agus (needles, referring to someone who used needles in his daily work), Pintòr (painter), Poddà, Póddine (of flour making).

Surnames of continental origin

These are surnames originated in the "contact" with European peoples, whether for political, commercial reasons, etc. For example: From Rome, Romanu, Regitanu, Pisanu, Lucchesu, Milanesa, Napulitana, Perusinu, Spagnolu, Cadalanu.

In this type of surnames the most relevant percentage is formed by the Corsicans or those that indicate a possible Corsican origin, from Corcega (for example: Còrsu, Còssu, Còrsa, Còssa and its derivatives Corséllu, Cosséddu, Cusséddu) 11 The current islands of Corsica and Sardinia were part of a Roman province, but Rome did not give it greater importance. The coastal regions of both islands were colonized by the Romans, adopting the Latin language and culture; however, the interior areas resisted the Romans, who preferred to avoid them. Mauro Maxia, author of the Dizionario dei cognomi sardi-corsi, affirms that, a migratory people par excellence, the Corsicans have left remarkable traces in Sardinia.Examination of the frequency, probable origin and etymology of many surnames shows that the history of relations between the two communities, the Sardinian and the Corsican, has experienced in the past phases of great intensity. Some examples of these surnames are: Petretto, Lo Frasso, Sardo, Riccio, Sussarello, Alivesi, Delitala, Deliperi. In addition Sisco, Mùrtula, Olmeta, Lupino, Opinu, Marignacio, Casabianca , Casanova , Coasina , Altana , Abozzi, De Campo, Alivesi, Aquenza, Paliacio, Cassano, Lorettu, Delo Frasso/Frassu, Niolu, Cotti, Cottoni, Loru, Vico, Sari , De Liperi o Deliperi , Carcopino, Arru , Apietu , Ògana , Bastèlica , Defraia, Ortu, Canali, Fattacciu, Furziolu, Cardu, Ornano, Apila, Mugano, Petretto, Cargiaga, Frasseto, Della Rocca, Fozzi, Figo, Olmeto, Calvesi, Arca, Carossino, Gugliani, Delitala, Cossiga, Cossu.  Clear linguistic boundaries have not always been established between Sardinian and Corsican. 12

Alberto G. Areddu, in a book entitled Cognomi sardi di origine balcanica reveals how more than 300 Sardinian surnames and personal names attested since the early days of written documentation find correspondences in the Balkan area. Among them very common surnames such as Carta, Sanna, Satta, Tedde, Tola, Usai, others of a certain rarity such as Meledina, Onida, Pigliaru, or others already disappeared such as Arrivacha, Asadiso, Nerca, Nispella, Therkis 13

The presence of surnames of Iberian origin is also observed since the Aragonese Conquest of Sardinia took place between 1323 and 1326. The island of Sardinia was then subject to the influence of Pisa and Genoa.That is why it is possible to find surnames ending in -ez or -es, of clear Spanish origin: Alvarez, Diez, Fernandez, Gomez, Gutierrez, Ibañez, Iguanez, Lopez, Martinez, Perez, Rodriguez, Sanchez, Valdes, Ximenes. But in historical documents were also found surnames such as Alagon, Amat, Asquer, Aymerich, Bacallar, Bellit, Busquet, Cabrera, Canelles, Carbonell, Carnicer, Carcassona, Carrillo, Carroz, Castelvì, Català, Coloma, Cervellon, De Aragall, De Cardona, De Madrigal, Fabra, Fillol, Fortesa, Garcet, Navarro, Oliveras, Olives, Pacheco, Picasso, Pimentel, Portugues, Ravaneda, Roig, Salazar, Sanjust, Silvestre, Soler, Toda, Torrellas, Zapata, Zatrillas, Zúniga. 14

Plural surnames

Some Sardinian surnames end in s, this is the way to express the plural, to give a sense of family. For example:

  • Congiu –> Congias
  • Rue –> De Rudas
  • Pira –> Piras,
  • Porta –> Portas
  • Flore, Flori, Fiore, Fiori –> Floris
  • Marra –Marras >

Matri and patrilineal transmission

Until the first half of the eighteenth century Sardinian surnames were transmitted to children by both matrilineal and patrilineal lines. Only with the second half of 1700, in the time of Savoy, the concept of patronymic to which we are accustomed stabilizes. 15

Italianization of Sardinian surnames

By a treaty ratified at The Hague (1720), the Savoy exchanged Sicily for Sardinia with Spain.The Savoy sought greater linguistic uniformity in the territories occupied by them, so they decided to spread the Tuscan -Italian- imposed in 1760, beginning a process of erosion and linguistic substitution that could lead to the eventual disappearance of the Sardinian language.

Names of objects, food, places and also surnames were transformed to sound like more Italian. The same thing happened during the fascist period.

One of the changes was to change the x (part of the Sardinian language) to sc:

  • Lixi –> Lisci (smooth, hair-like, opposite curly)
  • Maxìa –> Mascìa o Màscia
  • Arixi –> Arisci
  • Foxi –> Fosci
  • Lixia –> Lyscia (Lyscia or gauze? Ferrarelle)
  • Luxi –> Lusci
  • Montixi –Montisci >
  • Perdixi –> Perdisci o Pèrdisci
  • Pulixi –> Pùlisci or Pulìsci
  • Puxeddu –> Pusceddu
  • Paxi –pasci >
  • Toxiri –> Tosciri

Other changes consisted of changing the tz to zz or z or changing the u to o

  • Atzori –> Azzori
  • Atzeni –> Azzeni
  • Putzu –> Puzzu
  • Muzzu –> Muzzo
  • Scanu –Scano >
  • Spanu –Spano >
  • Ziranu –> Zirano
It is also possible to find with Italian surnames that were "Sardinian":
  • Accardo –Accardu >
  • Bajotto –> Bajottu
  • Buso –Busu >
  • Faggio –faggiu >

Endings in Sardinian surnames

Many Sardinian surnames end with u, probably because the Sardinian language derives from Latin and muhas Latin words end in -us and that spread also in the Sardinian language.Sometimes the s of Latin nouns ending with -us remained in Sardinian surnames as in the case of Pintus or desogus , but often the final s disappeared, as in Pisanu or Canu. 16

The ending -eddu could indicate, in some cases, filiation; i.e . eddu = son of.

Common Sardinian surnames

The most common surnames on the island of Sardinia are: Sanna, Piras, Pinna, Serra, Melis, Carta, Manca, Meloni, Mura, Lai, Murgia, Porcu, Cossu, Usai, Loi, Marras, Floris, Deiana, Cocco, Fadda.

While the most common surnames by Sardinian provinces:

Province Surnames
Cagliari Melis, Piras, Sanna, Serra, Meloni, Lai, Murgia, Pinna, Orrù, Loi.
Middle Campidano Sanna, Piras, Melis, Murgia, Pinna, Serra, Madeddu, Atzeni, Garau, Urru, Concas, Floris, Ibba, Miscali, Flore, Frau, Fais.
Carbonia-Iglesias Pinna, Melis, Piras, Sanna, Serra, Manca, Pintus, Diana, Floris, Lai.
Ogliastra Lai, Piras, Loi, Melis, Deiana, Usai, Murru, Demurtas, Serra, Mereu.
Nuoro Sanna, Piras, Manca, Carta, Porcu, Lai, Mura, Pinna, Floris, Serra.
Oristano Sanna, Piras, Pinna, Manca, Mura, Carta, Serra, Meloni, Melis, Porcu.
Sassari Sanna, Pinna, Piras, Manca, Mura, Sechi, Cossu, Solinas, Canu, Chessa.
Olbia-Tempio Sanna, Deiana, Spano, Carta, Cossu, Addis, Pinna, Careddu, Meloni, Azara.

Progress in the national top

We already explained in another post that some Sardinian surnames such as Sanna, Piras and Pinna have advanced significantly in the ranking of the most frequent Italian surnames; contributing to the hypothesis of the southernization of surnames due to two demographic trends: migrations of inhabitants from the South to the North and a higher birth rate in the South.

Links with information about Sardinian surnames

Show 16 footnotes

  1. Reino de Cerdeña en Wikipedia- https://es.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reino_de_Cerde%C3%B1a
  2. Federico Bardanzellu (2016) Cognomi sardi: un relitto linguistico dei clan antichi – http://www.inliberta.it/piu-antichi-cognomi-sardi/
  3. Federico Bardanzellu (2016) Cognomi sardi: un relitto linguistico dei clan antichi – Op. Cit
  4. Federico Bardanzellu (2016) Cognomi sardi: un relitto linguistico dei clan antichi – Op. Cit
  5. Federico Bardanzellu (2016) Cognomi sardi: un relitto linguistico dei clan antichi – Op. Cit
  6. Federico Bardanzellu (2016) Cognomi sardi: un relitto linguistico dei clan antichi – Op. Cit
  7. Definición de Totemismo. Recuperado de: //conceptodefinicion.de/totemismo/.
  8. Un nuraga o nuraghe es el principal tipo de edificio megalítico que se puede encontrar en Cerdeña, remontándose a años anteriores al 1000 a. C. Actualmente se ha convertido en el símbolo de Cerdeña y su cultura distintiva. – Fuente: https://es.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nuraga
  9. Federico Bardanzellu (2016) Cognomi sardi: un relitto linguistico dei clan antichi – Op. Cit
  10. http://www.bardanzellu.it/Saga.htm
  11. Cognomi sardi en Wikipedia – https://it.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cognomi_sardi#cite_note-6
  12. Ma quei cognomi sono còrsi – Il vocabolario onomastico scritto da un perfughese – https://ricerca.gelocal.it/lanuovasardegna/archivio/lanuovasardegna/2002/10/08/SE106.html
  13. Cognomi sardi, in 300 hanno origine balcanica, il libro! – https://www.sardegnainblog.it/30826/cognomi-sardi-origine-balcanica/
  14.  Le origini dei cognomi sardi, dai colori agli animali – https://www.lanuovasardegna.it/regione/2017/08/26/news/le-origini-dei-cognomi-sardi-dai-colori-agli-animali-1.15775631
  15. Qual è la genesi dei cognomi sardi? Una conferenza cerca di far luce – https://www.unionesarda.it/articolo/cultura/2019/03/12/qual-e-la-genesi-dei-cognomi-sardi-una-conferenza-cerca-di-far-lu-8-847073.html
  16. https://viaggioincoppia.com/perche-i-cognomi-in-sardegna-finiscono-con-la-u/