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Italian Language/Italian Surnames/Words


Hi Maria,

  Greatly appreciate you taking the time to answer all sorts of questions for people.

   Our family surname is Mennie, and we are of Italian decent, my great grandfather born in Naples.

    Most people do not take our name to be Italian even though it ends in i.e., and is pronounced, Men-nee-ay, according to my Italian grandmother. It seems most Italians who know the language have no problem accepting it as an Italian name, but many non-Italians do, especially here in the United States.

   Over the years in my own research I've discovered names that can be accepted in several different languages without any changes in the spelling of their last names. Such names like Pope, Pace, Carne, Nave, Pane, Fine, Duse, Rose, Pei,Frate, Fame,Reale, and many more, can all be Italian, English, French,and sometimes even Scottish. I call these names "multi-lingual" as that's what a missionary who spoke 5 different languages told me, though I don't know if there is a more official term for such names.
   This is what I feel my surname fits into.

   My main question is :  Can Italian surnames or words end in i.e., like mine, and does it somehow make it "less Italian" to an Italian, if it does end in i.e.?  After all, it is still ends in two vowels, even though it may be  a rare type of ending. Would an Italian in Italy see my surname and say, 'This can not be Italian'?

   I've seen names ending in ue, oi, ei, etc. I've also come across places and words in Italy that end in ie, such as Grazie, Madonie, Lemie, Progenie, Nenie (dirges), Farmacie, Bugie, Gambarie, Bisceglie, Notizie, Valigie, Mazzie, Gardenie, Milie, Cellie, Moglie, and many others.

   I thank you very much for taking the time to look into this.Any additional information you think might be helpful would
be deeply appreciated.

   Take care, stay well, and looking forward to your response.

(From America)

Hello Anthony,

first of all no Italian in Italy would say that “Mennie” cannot be an Italian surname, as we have some surnames that end in –ia (see e.g. Menia ), -ie (see e.g. Bisceglie), in –io (see e.g. Faccio, Maggio), apart from many nouns that end in –i followed by another vowel such as “valigia”, “faccia”,“grazia” and its plural “grazie”, “notizia” and its plural “notizie”, “gardenia” and its plural “gardenie”, “luglio”, “foglio”, etc.

I think however that the surname of your great grandfather has been misspelt, when he arrived in the United States where the Immigration officers who did not know Italian made a misspelling in transcribing the Italian surname that was probably  MENNA or MENNI or maybe MENIA, not MENNIE that does not exist in Italy, whereas we have MENNA that we find in 391 towns, especially in Napoli (Naples)  where your great grandfather was born,   MENNI  we find in 82 towns and MENIA we find in 23 towns all over Italy.

In short, I really think that your true Italian surname could be  MENNA or MENNI, but I am inclined to believe that it is MENNA as this surname is very common in Napoli, as you can see at the following link:

Such a surname derives from the name of a Saint just named MENNA, i.e. St. Menna, a hermit who lived in the 4th.century AD in the Italian region called Campania, whose chief town is just Napoli.

As for the pronunciation of MENNA, MEN- is pronounced like MEN (the plural of MAN) and –NA is pronounced like the NA in “navigation”. The stress falls on the MEN-.

With regard to the pronunciation of MENNIE, it is as follows: Mèn-nee + the  -e  we find in  “pet”,  where the E is a short vowel.
As you can see, the accent stands on the first syllable MEN-.

Please note that, if you pronounce the final E of MENNIE like –ay, as you say, your surname would correspond to  MENNIEI in Italian, not MENNIE.

Hope I have somehow  helped you.
Anyway, should you have other queries or doubts about what I have said on the subject of your surname, do not hesitate to ask me again.

Best regards and Happy New Year from Italy,
P.S. Note that the link I’ve suggested allows you to type a surname (“cognome” in Italian) and see  where and how it is widespread.
For example the following link shows that the surname MENNIE cannot be found in Italy (cognome non trovato =unknown surname):

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Italian is my mother tongue and I'll be glad to answer any questions concerning Italian Language.


Over 25 years teaching experience.

I received my Classics (summa cum laude) from Genova University (Italy).

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