Arberesh Last Names Guide: Meaning, Origin, And Common Surnames

When it comes to exploring the rich tapestry of Arberesh culture, one aspect that stands out is the unique and fascinating world of Arberesh last names. Passed down through generations, these names offer insights into the history, traditions, and ancestral roots of the Arberesh people. In this comprehensive guide, we will delve into the meaning, origin, and common surnames of the Arberesh community.

The Arberesh, also known as the Arbëreshë or Arbereshe, are an ethnic group residing primarily in Southern Italy. They trace their lineage back to the 15th century when thousands of Albanians fled their homeland during the Ottoman invasions and settled in different regions of Italy. Since then, the Arberesh people have maintained their distinct cultural identity, including their unique last names that reflect their Albanian heritage.

Arberesh last names often carry profound meaning, symbolizing various aspects of their ancestry, history, and even occupation. For instance, some surnames may indicate an individual’s ancestral village in Albania or the region they migrated to in Italy. Others might be derived from Albanian words representing nature, animals, or objects that held significance to their predecessors. Each name has a story to tell, providing a glimpse into the past and the journey of the Arberesh people.

Arberesh Last Names Guide

The Arberesh people are an ethnic group of Albanian origin who migrated to southern Italy many centuries ago. They have their own distinct cultural heritage, including unique last names that have been passed down through generations. Understanding the meaning and origins of these Arberesh last names can provide insight into the history and traditions of this fascinating community.

Arberesh last names often reflect geographic features, occupations, or family relationships. Many surnames have roots in the Albanian language, with variations that have evolved over time. Some common Arberesh last names include:

  • Gjokaj: This last name originates from the Albanian word “gjok” which means “chest”. It is believed to have been given to families who lived in an area with a prominent hill or mountain.
  • Krasniqi: Derived from the Albanian word “krasniq” meaning “stone”. This surname may have been given to families living in an area known for its stone quarries or rocky terrain.
  • Shala: This last name is believed to come from the Albanian word “shale” which means “black”. It may have been given to families with dark hair or complexion.
  • Zogaj: Derived from the Albanian word “zog” which means “bird”. This surname may have been given to families who were known for their skill in hunting or falconry.
  • Maliqi: This last name originates from the Albanian word “mali” which means “mountain”. It may have been given to families who lived in or near a mountainous region.

These are just a few examples of the many Arberesh last names that exist. Each surname carries its own unique history and symbolism, reflecting the experiences and traditions of the Arberesh people. Exploring the meanings and origins of these names can be a fascinating journey into the rich cultural heritage of this unique community.

Meaning of Arberesh Last Names

Arberesh last names, or surnames, are an important part of Arberesh culture and heritage. Each last name carries a unique meaning and history, reflecting the rich traditions and origins of the Arberesh people.

Arberesh last names often have Albanian origins, as the Arberesh community is descended from Albanian refugees who fled to Italy in the 15th century. These last names can provide insights into family lineages, geographic origins, or even specific traits or professions.

Many Arberesh last names are derived from the names of places in Albania, such as towns, villages, or regions. For example, the last name “Shkodra” is derived from the city of Shkodra in northern Albania. This suggests that the family may have ancestral ties to that particular place.

Other Arberesh surnames are derived from common Albanian words or phrases. For instance, the last name “Bashkimi” means “unity” in Albanian, indicating the family’s commitment to solidarity and togetherness.

Some Arberesh last names are patronymic, meaning they are based on the name of the person’s father or ancestor. For example, the last name “Gjergji” indicates that the person is a descendant of someone named Gjergj.

Each Arberesh last name holds a story, passed down through generations, and represents the identity and heritage of the Arberesh people. It is a reminder of the journeys and struggles that their ancestors went through and the resilience and pride that they carry as a community.

Understanding the meaning of Arberesh last names is essential for appreciating the unique cultural heritage of the Arberesh people and their contributions to Italian society.

Origin of Arberesh Last Names

The Arberesh people, also known as Albanian Italians, are a unique community that traces its origins back to the 15th century. They are the descendants of Albanian refugees who fled from the Ottoman invasion of Albania and settled in various regions of Italy, particularly in the southern regions of Calabria, Basilicata, and Sicily.

As the Arberesh people integrated into Italian society, their surnames often adopted Italian phonetics and spellings while retaining their Albanian roots. Many Arberesh last names are derived from geographical locations, occupations, personal attributes, or family relationships.

Geographical last names are among the most common in the Arberesh community. These surnames often refer to towns, villages, or regions in Albania from where their ancestors originated. Examples include Dibra, Bajrami, Shkodra, and Durresi.

Occupational last names are another significant category of Arberesh surnames. These names reflect the occupations that their ancestors held in Albania or Italy. For instance, Kuzman is derived from the occupation of a blacksmith, while Marino could indicate a seafarer or sailor.

Personal attributes and characteristics also influenced naming conventions in the Arberesh culture. Last names such as Djordjevic (derived from the Albanian personal name Gjergj) and Lekaj (meaning “the fierce one”) are examples of this category.

Family relationships were also a source of inspiration for Arberesh last names. Surnames such as Gjoni (son of John), Marku (son of Mark), and Lulaj (son of Lul) are examples of patronymic surnames.

Category Examples
Geographical Dibra, Bajrami, Shkodra, Durresi
Occupational Kuzman, Marino
Personal Attributes Djordjevic, Lekaj
Family Relationships Gjoni, Marku, Lulaj

The significance of Arberesh last names goes beyond mere identification. They serve as a testament to the history, culture, and resilience of the Arberesh people, preserving their Albanian heritage in a new land and ensuring the continuity of their unique identity.

Common Arberesh Surnames

Here are some common Arberesh surnames that you might come across:

  • Santori – This surname is derived from the name Santoro and is quite common among the Arberesh people.
  • Manfredi – The surname Manfredi has been passed down through generations and is commonly found among Arberesh families.
  • Marconi – Marconi is another popular Arberesh last name, known for its historical presence in the community.
  • Del Vecchio – Del Vecchio is a well-known Arberesh surname that translates to “of the old” in English.
  • Petrucci – Petrucci is a common Arberesh surname that can be traced back to the Italian region of Calabria.
  • Colucci – Colucci is a popular Arberesh last name that is believed to have originated from the city of Colle Sannita.
  • Valentini – The surname Valentini is quite prevalent among the Arberesh population, signifying its rich heritage.
  • Lombardi – Lombardi is a common Arberesh last name that can be found among families who migrated from Lombardy in Italy.
  • Gentile – The surname Gentile is commonly found among the Arberesh people and is derived from the Italian word for “gentle.”
  • Ruggeri – Ruggeri is another common Arberesh last name that can be traced back to the Ruggeri family lineage.

These are just a few examples of the many common Arberesh surnames that exist. Each of these surnames holds its own significance and contributes to the rich cultural and historical heritage of the Arberesh people.

Arberesh vs. Italian Surnames

When discussing Arberesh last names, it is important to note their unique distinction from Italian surnames. While both Arberesh and Italian surnames originate from the same region of Southern Italy, they have evolved differently over the course of history.

Arberesh surnames are deeply rooted in Albanian culture and language. They reflect the heritage and migration of the Arberesh people who settled in Italy during the 15th century. As a result, Arberesh last names often have Albanian origins and carry meaningful connections to traditional customs and historic events.

On the other hand, Italian surnames developed within the broader framework of Italian history and language. They showcase the influence of various cultural and linguistic influences, including Latin, Greek, French, and Spanish. Italian surnames often reflect regional identities, occupations, or personal characteristics.

While some Arberesh last names may bear similarities to Italian surnames due to shared linguistic roots, it is essential to note the distinct cultural and historical connections associated with each. Arberesh surnames serve as a testament to the enduring Albanian heritage of this unique community, while Italian surnames reflect the diverse melting pot of influences within Italian culture.

Understanding the differences between Arberesh and Italian surnames can help unravel the rich tapestry of Southern Italian heritage and provide insights into the distinct identities and histories of both communities.

Cultural Significance of Arberesh Last Names

The Arberesh people, also referred to as Arbëreshë or Albanians of Italy, have a rich cultural heritage that is reflected in their last names. These surnames hold deep meaning and significance, representing the history, traditions, and values of the Arberesh community.

Arberesh last names often have a connection to the ancestral villages in Albania from where their ancestors originated. They serve as a reminder of their strong ties to their Albanian roots and the struggles of their ancestors who migrated to Italy centuries ago.

Each Arberesh last name has a story behind it, relating to a specific event, occupation, or characteristic of an ancestor. For example, the surname “Gjergjaj” means “son of George,” indicating a family’s descent from someone named George. Similarly, the surname “Koca” is derived from the Turkish word for “judge” and may signify that an ancestor held a position of authority in the past.

Arberesh last names also reflect the importance of family and kinship in the Arberesh culture. Many surnames are passed down through generations, preserving the family lineage and strengthening familial connections. They serve as a source of pride and identity for Arberesh individuals, tying them to their ancestors and the larger Arberesh community.

Furthermore, the usage of Arberesh last names helps to maintain the linguistic and cultural heritage of the community. By preserving and passing down these unique surnames, the Arberesh people are able to keep their distinct identity alive, even as they assimilate into Italian society.

In conclusion, Arberesh last names carry immense cultural significance, representing the history, traditions, and values of the Arberesh people. They connect individuals to their Albanian roots, tell stories of their ancestors, and serve as a source of pride and identity within the Arberesh community. By understanding and appreciating these surnames, we can gain a deeper insight into the vibrant Arberesh culture.

Evolution of Arberesh Last Names

The evolution of Arberesh last names is a fascinating journey into the history and culture of the Arberesh people. These surnames have evolved over centuries, reflecting the influences of different civilizations and languages that have shaped the Arberesh community.

Arberesh last names can be traced back to the Middle Ages when the Arberesh community settled in Italy after the Ottoman invasion of Albania. Initially, many Arberesh families adopted Italian surnames to assimilate into the Italian society. However, as the Arberesh maintained their unique cultural and linguistic identity, they began to develop their own last names.

The origins of Arberesh last names can often be linked to geographical locations or occupations. Many surnames derive from the names of villages or regions in Albania, such as Scigliano, Greci, or Santa Sofia d’Epiro. These names serve as a link to the Arberesh people’s Albanian roots and their ancestral ties to specific regions.

Similarly, professions and trades also influenced the development of Arberesh surnames. Names like Fabbri (blacksmith), Calzolaio (shoemaker), or Muratore (mason) indicate the occupations of the Arberesh ancestors. These occupational surnames are a testament to the skills and craftsmanship of the Arberesh community.

Over time, Arberesh last names have also been affected by intermarriage with the local Italian population. This has led to the adoption of Italian-sounding surnames while retaining the Arberesh identity. For example, Arberesh families with the last name Russo or De Luca can be found, which may have originated from intermarriage or cultural assimilation.

Despite the changing times, Arberesh last names are still an important part of the community’s identity. They serve as a reminder of the Arberesh people’s rich heritage and their resilience in preserving their unique cultural and linguistic traditions.

Today, Arberesh last names continue to be passed down through generations, keeping the legacy of the Arberesh identity alive. They are a testament to the Arberesh people’s strong sense of community and pride in their history.

Famous Arberesh Families

Throughout history, the Arberesh people have produced many notable families who have made significant contributions in various fields. These families have left a lasting legacy and are celebrated for their achievements and cultural impact. Here are some of the famous Arberesh families:

The Crispi Family: One of the most prominent Arberesh families, the Crispi family produced several influential figures, including Francesco Crispi, a renowned statesman and prime minister of Italy in the late 19th century. Known for his political reforms and advocacy for Italian unification, Crispi played a vital role in shaping the modern Italian state.

The Ruffo Family: Another well-known Arberesh family is the Ruffo family, who played a significant role in the history of Italy. Notably, Fabrizio Ruffo, a Catholic cardinal and diplomat, was a key figure in the religious and political movements of the late 18th century. His efforts contributed to the successful reconquest of the Kingdom of Naples from French occupiers.

The Scanderbeg Family: One of the most iconic Arberesh families, the Scanderbeg family traces its roots back to the legendary Albanian national hero, George Castriota Scanderbeg. Scanderbeg and his family fiercely resisted the Ottoman Empire’s conquest of Albania and defended the Arberesh people’s independence. Their bravery and leadership continue to inspire generations.

The Vraneshi Family: The Vraneshi family is known for its contributions to the arts and literature. Francesco Vraneshi, a renowned painter and sculptor, created numerous masterpieces that captured the beauty of the Arberesh culture and landscape. His artistic vision and talent significantly influenced the artistic scene in Italy and beyond.

The Duka Family: The Duka family has a rich heritage in the field of music. Known for their exceptional vocal and instrumental skills, members of the Duka family have excelled in traditional Arberesh music as well as classical compositions. They have preserved and promoted the unique musical traditions of the Arberesh community.

These are just a few examples of the famous Arberesh families who have made a significant impact on history, culture, politics, and the arts. Their achievements serve as a testament to the rich heritage and resilience of the Arberesh people.

Tips for Researching Arberesh Last Names

If you are interested in learning more about Arberesh last names and their meaning, origin, and common surnames, there are a few tips that can help you in your research. Here are some suggestions to get you started:

1. Start with known ancestors Begin your research by gathering information on your known Arberesh ancestors. This can include their full names, birth dates and locations, as well as any other relevant details. This will give you a starting point for your search.
2. Visit genealogy websites There are several online genealogy websites that can provide valuable resources for researching last names. Some popular options include,, and These websites often offer databases of historical records, as well as user-generated family trees.
3. Consult expert sources If you are looking for in-depth information on Arberesh last names, consider consulting expert sources. This can include academic journals, books, and articles written by historians or experts in Arberesh genealogy. These sources can provide historical context and insights into the origin and meaning of Arberesh surnames.
4. Join online communities Connecting with other individuals who are researching Arberesh last names can be incredibly helpful. Joining online forums and communities dedicated to Arberesh genealogy can provide you with a platform to ask questions, share information, and collaborate with others who share your research interests.
5. Hire a professional genealogist If you are struggling to make progress in your research, or if you want to delve deeper into your Arberesh family history, consider hiring a professional genealogist. These experts have access to specialized resources and can provide guidance and assistance in your search.

Remember, researching Arberesh last names requires patience, attention to detail, and a willingness to explore various sources. By following these tips, you can uncover the rich history and heritage behind your Arberesh surname.

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