Giacomo: Baby Name of the Day

by appellationmountain on February 11, 2013

Editor’s note: This post was originally published on June 4, 2008.  It was substantially revised and re-published on February 11, 2013.

He’s the Italian form of the evergreen James and Jacob.

Our Baby Name of the Day is Giacomo.

Back in 1995, Sting and Trudie Styler welcomed their youngest son, Giacomo Luke.

In Italian, he’s jah KO mo.  Technically, the first syllable is pronounced like Gianna, with a two syllable gee ah, but if you listen to native speakers say the name, it sounds shorter.

In English, it sounds just a little bit different.  I hear JAH ko mo.

Then again, Giacomo has never cracked the US Top 1000.  Giacomos who came to the US probably became James or Jim or maybe Jack or Jake.

He remains common in Italy, however.  So let’s call him traditional south of the Alps, rarer elsewhere in Europe and downright daring in the good ol’ U.S. of A.

Famous Giacomos abound:

  • Sixteenth century mapmaker Gastaldi
  • Opera’s legendary Puccini
  • The adventurer – and writer – Casanova
  • Painters Ceruti and Balla

Plenty of other notable Italians have worn the name.  And then there’s a famous Giacomo from Kentucky.

He’s a racehorse.

Giacomo won the 2005 Kentucky Derby.

The horse is named after – wait for it – Sting’s son. Jerry Moss, Giacomo’s breeder, made his fortune co-founding A&M Records – Sting’s label.

Ends-with-0 names for boys are quite stylish these days, and the current Top 1000 gives us lots of reasons to think Giacomo could wear well these days:

  • The equally Italian Giovanni ranked #117 in 2011.
  • Leonardo, Mateo, Matteo, Mario, Marco, Lorenzo, Enzo, and Rocco are all in the top 500 names for boys in the US.
  • The Spanish form of James – Diego - has had a great run in recent years.
  • The popularity of Jake and Jack, James and Jacob should mean that parents like the sound of Giacomo, too.

Wondering about the connection between all of these names?  The simplest explanation is this: at one point, the Latin form of James was Iacomus, and Giacomo became the Italian vernacular form.

Another reason to consider Giacomo?  His built-in theme song.

“Iko, Iko” is a traditional New Orleans song about Mardi Gras.

One of the features of Mardi Gras are the tribes of Indians – revelers who dress in fantastic versions of Native American traditional wear.  Part of their tradition is confrontation between tribes. Today is symbolic – pure performance.  Once it was the cause of real violence and bloodshed.  The lyrics recall some of this “My flag boy said to your flag boy, I’m gonna set your flag on fire.”

The words  and lyrics are subject to debate, and they’ve changed over the years.  They may be Louisiana creole, or their roots may be older.  It sometimes sounds like they’re singing Jockomo, and that’s sometimes given as the title of the song.  There’s a fascinating story here – Yaquimo was a common name amongst Haitians, and could have come to Louisiana with slaves from the island nation.  I’d guess that Yaquimo is yet another version of James.

Overall, Giacomo has real potential.  He’s rarer than most of our ends-with-o favorites for boys, but he’d fit right in on the playground with Leo and Arlo.

{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

luca February 18, 2014 at 5:23 AM

San Giacomo (Saint James) has been the patron saint of Caltagirone in Sicily since the 12c, so Giacomo or Giacoma (f) has always been a very popular name in that region. My grandparents on my mother’s side came from Caltagirone so I decided to name my son Giacomo to remind him of his Sicilian heritage. Also because it’s a great Christian name. Like James and Jacob it means “supplanter”; someone who takes over or ousts another.

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appellationmountain February 18, 2014 at 1:49 PM

That’s a really great way to honor your heritage, Luca – thanks for sharing!

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Michelle January 2, 2014 at 9:33 PM

My husband and I named our son Giacomo after hearing it on a trip to Italy. Neither of us are Italian, we just really liked the name. Our Giacomo is a fair-skinned red-headed baby boy! Bet there aren’t too many Giacomos with red hair!

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chiara February 11, 2013 at 10:11 AM

“In Italian, he’s jah KO mo. Technically, the first syllable is pronounced like Gianna, with a two syllable gee ah, but if you listen to native speakers say the name, it sounds shorter.”

Actually in Italian it’s JAH ko mo. The accent is on the first syllable, as you can hear on http://forvo.com/word/giacomo
Gianna is the same: JAHN na

Anyway, I’m not crazy about Giacomo. I think I would like it more if I didn’t hear it all the time. It started getting popular around 30 years ago, and it’s currently one of the most popular names for little boys in northern Italy.

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SkyeRhyly February 11, 2013 at 10:18 AM

yes in italian the “gi” sound is the equivalent of our “j”. I don’t mind the name, but I do prefere Giovanni.

Not surprised you’re bored by the name in Italy. But here in the US, the popularity of James is even worse – it’s the most popular name EVER. Everyone from 1 to 80 has a family member named James, it’s that common (and for me boring).

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appellationmountain February 11, 2013 at 7:44 PM

Thanks, Chiara – I’ll fix it!

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appellationmountain June 8, 2008 at 1:04 AM

LOL! My apologies to Kevin. :)

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coolteamblt June 7, 2008 at 3:51 PM

My flag boy and your flag boy, sittin’ by the fire, my flag boy told your flag boy “I’m gonna set your flag fie-ah!

Gee, thanks Verity. I’m singing it now. Kevin is ready to smack me, judging by the look on his face. ;)

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appellationmountain June 7, 2008 at 12:15 PM

Ha! I *am* Italian, and my husband keeps dismissing Giacomo as *too* Italian. Matteo, on the other hand, has been marked “hands off” by my youngest sister, as it is one of the few family names she and her husband both like.

After I posted this, I kept thinking about the song ‘Iko Iko’ – it’s a Mardi Gras standard and was a hit for the Dixie Cups in the 1960s. They sing something like “Jock-A-Mo fee-na-nay.” Best as I can tell, there’s no link between the name Giacomo and lyrics, which come from that mysterious brew of Louisiana Creole French.

But I wonder, if much like Louis Jordan’s Caldonia influences the pronunciation of Caledonia, shortening it from five syllables to three, if we’ve somehow merged this Italian saint’s name with that memorable lyric. ‘Iko Iko’ is alternately titled ‘Jockamo’ – and now that I’ve mentioned it, I fear that I’ll have “your grandma and my grandma, sittin’ by the fire” going through my head the entire day. :)

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kate June 4, 2008 at 10:10 PM

Thank you for clarifying the pronouciation of Giacomo for me – I’ve seen it mentioned in relation to Sting but never known how to say it!

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coolteamblt June 4, 2008 at 1:52 PM

I love Giacomo. What a cool name! It makes me wish I was Italian, because if I was, this would be very very high on the list, along with Matteo, actually. I love Matteo, too.

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