Italian names like

  • Paganini

  • Berlusconi

  • Antonioni

  • Pasolini

  • Fellini

share the same suffix “-ni”. What does that mean?

  • 2
    If you are satisfied with one of the answers to your question, please consider the option to "accept" an answer by clicking a checkmark next to that answer.
    – I.M.
    Oct 24, 2015 at 9:01
  • I heard that it "ini" meant "family of" in Italian.
    – user5663
    Aug 22, 2019 at 22:03

2 Answers 2


There is not a single meaning, and -ni cannot be considered to be a single suffix. The three examples you give show at least two different cases.

  • -ini is often the plural form of an original -ino, which is most of times the suffix for a diminutive form (coltello, knife; coltellino, little knife, cutter).

  • -oni is, analogously, often the plural of -one, the way augmentative words end (libro, book; librone, big book).

So, some of those surnames might have originally been nicknames for some little or big person (“Antonione” could be a big man whose name is Antonio); and then the plural denoted their relatives.

These are not the only possibilities, though. For instance, -ano (plural -ani) often denotes the place someone comes from (Romano, from Rome; Padovano, from Padua). Several Italian surnames were born like this (Romani, Padovani).

TL;DR: There is not a single -ni suffix; at the very least, one has to consider the last vowel before it (-ani, -ini, -oni).

  • I add two names. There is a difference? Sep 28, 2015 at 10:22
  • 1
    I am afraid I don't know, @questionhang. Pasolini and Fellini sound like diminutive forms, but chances are they are something else. The “-ino” suffix itself appears in different situations. For instance, cane means “dog”, canino is an adjective (“dog-like, related to dogs, canine”), while the diminutives are cagnetto or cagnolino. For surnames, as for other words, one has often to research the origin on an individual basis.
    – DaG
    Sep 28, 2015 at 10:44

They share the same suffix, but for different reasons.

Antonioni could be a "gentilizio" (en: gentilitial), that indicates the family's origin (Antonio family).

The others, as DaG said, could indicate nickname or provenance.

If you are curious you can find meaning and origin of Italian surnames here: Cognomix.

  • 2
    In a book about Vulgar Latin grammar (INTRODUZIONE ALLO STUDIO DEL LATINO VOLGARE, Grandgent, which unfortunately I have lost) I found some hints regarding a late Latin declension type like: scriba, scribanis (from which Italian scrivano is derived), Donato, Donatoni. This could explain the gentilitial ending as a late genitive ending. So one could say: Di Donato or Donatoni. Di Antonio or Antonioni, and so on.
    – Giorgio
    Oct 5, 2015 at 21:01

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