Are there any sources where one could learn about the correct pronunciation of the Italian proper names (either family names or geographic names)? For example, the stress in Cesare is on the first and not on the second or third syllable. Such information could not be found in dictionaries.

  • Just to simplify the matters, every italian word (with more than one syllable) stressed on the last syllable is written with the accent mark. So for “Cesare” you would have the doubt only among two choices. – DaG Jan 5 '14 at 16:07

RAI has a pronunciation dictionary available where you can get both the written pronunciation and a spoken sample. Examples




  • 1
    And not any old pronunciation dictionary, but the DOP (Dizionario d'ortografia e di pronunzia) edited by Bruno Migliorini, who was a masterful linguist, et al. – DaG Jan 5 '14 at 16:05

Unfortunately there's no rule available, for proper names. Accents on toponyms, like in graeca verba, sine lege vagantur.

Just to name a few in my surroundings:

  • Albignàsego
  • Trebaséleghe
  • Sambrusón (it should be Sanbrusón, but that's another matter)
  • Grùmolo (delle Abbadesse)
  • Bagnòli
  • Bagnòlo

Some names have suffixes that help in guessing the right accent, but, as you see from the last three, it's not so easy.

I once saw a list of towns in Calabria: placing the accents was just a wild guess. Some toponyms that are frequently mispronounced are

  • San Lazzaro di Sàvena (not Savéna)
  • Friùli (not Frìuli)
  • Nùoro (not Nuòro)

Family names have the same problem; those derived from job names are usually guessable at, but the region of origin can influence the pronunciation. A family name coming from Veneto and ending in -on or -er should have the accent on the last syllable: Benettón and Venièr; but Mìlan can be rightfully pronounced with the accent on the first syllable, depending on its origin, while Bressàn (it means “from Brescia”) can never be Brèssan.

  • 1
    You forgot to mention "Coìn", which people not from Veneto keep mispronouncing "Còin". And, thinking of the car race world, another one is "Badoèr" instead of the frequently heard "Bàdoer", although this is almost a repetition of the already quoted "Venièr". – Paola Jan 6 '14 at 18:03
  • Yes, I knew about the Jewish origin of the name. I mentioned it only because of the chain store which, being spread around Italy, is frequently pronounced the wrong way. And, as for names which refer to people coming from a certain place, I'd like to add "Furlàn" (coming from Friuli) whereas I'd go for "Milàn" instead of "Mìlan" considering the way in which the name of the town is pronounced in Milanese dialect. – Paola Jan 6 '14 at 20:14
  • I would have never guessed "Albignàsego" – laureapresa Mar 14 '15 at 11:18

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