The Renaissance was a huge cultural movement that marked a shift in the way people saw themselves and the world. The most beloved art and architecture of the era are typically centered around what we now think of as Italy, however, at the time, there was no unified country. Instead, major city-states like Genoa, Milan, Florence, and Venice were the places where tastemakers and free-thinkers flourished. Each one of these unique cities developed their own naming styles and trends and gave us some of the most adored baby names that we still love today.
We decided to take a deep dive into Renaissance baby names to discover which names were popular from the 14-17th centuries. Not only were we after the most favored names of the age, but we focused on names that modern parents would want to use today. These names are storied, romantic, and bustling with the energy of a time when societies were rapidly changing and striving to shake off the past. However, as with all names, these monikers came from a tradition so these names balanced the old with the new. Here are 25 unique Renaissance names for girls inspired by the artisans, poets, thinkers, and sacred people of one of the most exciting times in Western history.
Agnese del Maino is a famous Agnese who was a Milanese noblewoman. She’s best known for helping her daughter, Bianca Maria Visconti succeeded to the title of Duchess of Milan in 1450 (despite her illegitimacy). She’s been the subject of a number of artworks and was even featured in an opera, Beatrice di Tenda by Vincenzo Bellini. Agnese is a beautiful Florentine name that’s a popular form of Agnes in both Italian and Spanish. The name means “pure.”
While we always think of Anastasia as a Russian name, it actually has Greek origins and was very popular among Italian Renaissance women and Europeans more broadly. Anastasia is the feminine form on Anastasius, a Greek name derived from the word anastasis, meaning “resurrection.” It was a common name among early Christians, who often gave it to daughters born around Christmas or Easter.
Caterina is another Florentine name with Greek origins. The name has the same roots as Katherine and means “pure.” Caterina or Catharina van Hemessen was a Flemish Renaissance painter and the earliest female Flemish painter for whom there is verifiable extant work. Female artists were extremely rare at the time. Yet, her name and art still live on today and are most cherished.
Cicilia is a beautiful name that the Italians put a spin on. The name comes from the Latin word caecus which means “blind.” It was used as an ancient Roman family name. After the death of St. Cecilia the moniker became a favorite given name for girls.
Ciuta was a popular name of the Italian Renaissance, but you won’t hear this one today in modern Italy. The name was popular in what is now modern-day Lombardy in the province of Sandrio. The name means “little sheep.” The same name was given to a now-extinct breed of sheep that were farmed in the region.
Dea is as simple as it gets, yet this name means “goddess.” The name has Latin roots and shares the same with the word deity. If you’re looking for a short and sweet Italian name, consider this mythological choice.
Dolce is a cute name that also is the Italian word for “sweet.” The name actually started as a family name and belonged to a group from Sicily (then Naples). The name comes from the Latin word dulcis which also means “sweet” or “pleasant.” If you’re after a very syrupy name, this would be the one.
Fiora is the name of a river in northern Lazio and southern Tuscany, Italy. It was a popular name during the Renaissance and is beloved to mean “flower.” The name was considered a unisex choice early on but tastes changed by the 17th century and the name had evolved to Fiorello for men and Fiorella for women.
Francesca is the preferred Italian form of Frances. The name means “free man.” The name is popular today in the US making the top 500 last year. Francesca made an appearance in Dante‘s Inferno which predates the Renaissance-era. All that to say, the name has been very popular in the region for centuries.
Coincidentally, Gemma was the name of Dante’s wife (no we’re not an authority on Dante). Gemma is a lovely Florentine name that means “precious stone” and the name was invented in the middle ages. The name has finally taken off in the US after long being a favorite of parents in other majority English-speaking countries like the UK.
Gianetta is the preferred female form of the Italian name, Giovanni. The name shares the same roots as John and means “God is gracious.” The name is a favorite in Italy but you don’t hear it often enough in the US. Let’s change that, parents.
Ginevra is an Italian name that comes from “juniper.” Ginevra de’ Benci was a member of the influential Benci family in Florence and is the subject of an early portrait by Leonardo da Vinci. We love this name that’s seldom heard in the US. It would make a welcome alternative to Jenny.
Giuliana is the preferred Italian form of Juliana, which is the feminine form of Julius which means “youthful.” Today, you’ll find a mountainous village in Sicily with the name. Giuliana is a top 1000 pick for girls in the US. It’s easy to see why. You get the best of names like Julie and Anna.
Isabetta is an underused Italian name that US parents are just discovering. It’s a wonderful name that we expect to see trending in the next few years. Isabetta is a pet form of Elisabetta which shares the same root as Elizabeth. The name means “pledged to God.”
Letta is the Italian form of the Latin name Latitia which means “joy.” The name once belonged to the Roman goddess of celebration, happiness, and gaiety. If you visit Italy today, you’ll find a number of people with the surname Letta. We love this casual and playful name.
Lucia is the Italian, feminine form of the Latin name Lucius which means “light.” This name really sparkles! Santa Lucia was a fourth-century martyr who was revered in the Middle Ages and the name remained popular until today. Lucia Anguissola was a talented painter in the Late Renaissance. She’s best known for her exquisite portraits.
Mella is such a fun name to say! It shares the same Greek roots that give us Melanie. The name means “dark” or “black.” The name is an important habitational name as it also refers to a region of Italy where you’ll find a river with the same name.
Nezetta is a forgotten Renaissance name that was popular in Florence. The name is an Italian form of Nazarene that means someone “from Nazareth.” This name has little use around the world today, but we’d love to see this ancient name revives.
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Olympia is an Italian name from Greek which means “from Mount Olympus.” With Olivia dominating the baby name charts, Olympia would make for an excellent alternative. Your daughter would not be named for a lowly olive, instead, she’d be named for a mythological mountain of the gods. Tempting, right?
Piera is a wonderful Italian form of Petra, which is the Greek form of the name Peter. The name means “rock.” Piera de’ Medici was one of the most influential abbesses in Renaissance Florence. As a religious woman, Piera used her ties to the city’s ruling family to benefit her Vallombrosan community of S. Verdiana.
Rigarda is the forgotten Italian form of the Old German name Richard. The name means “dominant ruler.” Rigarda is not even used in Italy today! That’s how obscure this Florentine name is! We’re rather fond of this name and think it could definitely be brought back to life.
Serena is the Italian form of the Latin word serēnus which means “tranquil.” Serena is a beautiful name and it’s still obviously beloved all around the world today. During the Renaissance, a grey sandstone called pietra serena was used to construct just about every important building in Florence. You can still see it today!
Stella is an Italian name that comes from the Latin word for “star.” Many think the name was coined by Sir Philip Sidney in 1590 for the protagonist of his poem collection Astrophel and Stella. But, records of the name’s usage in Florence predate the poem by 200 years.
Tomasia is another all-but-forgotten Italian name that was popular during the Renaissance. Tomasia is a feminine form of the Greek name Thomas. The name means “twin.” Fans of the English name Thomasin, consider Tomasia.
Veronica was one of the hottest names in Venice during the High Renaissance. The name comes from the Latin form of the Greek name Berenice and means “she who brings victory.” For Christians, the name had special importance because it also contains the words vera icon which means “true image” and refers to St. Veronica who gave Jesus her veil. We found a Veronica from the 16th century who is especially interesting.
Veronica Franco was a poet and courtesan. In Venetian society, there existed the cortigiana onesta, which were intellectual courtesans. Franco became one of the most famous and celebrated courtesans in all of Venice. She published two successful volumes of poetry in the 16th century. Scholars consider her work far ahead of its time as she dealt with feminist themes and women’s agency.
There you go! 25 Renaissance baby names for girls that are truly inspired. Many of these names are still with us today but a couple on this list are practically unheard of. We hope you enjoyed this list and feel inspired by the people of the Renaissance and their exceptional names.
Andrew is a Chicago-based writer who enjoys finding the best of the internet, obsessively making lists, and cooking for friends. After studying Film and Art History, he developed a deep love for both topics. Celebrity news, pop culture, and stories that bring people together are his passions.
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