With Luca and Matteo all the rage, can this romantic appellation be far behind?
Thanks to Michelle for suggesting her son’s name, Antonio, as our Baby Name of the Day.
Anthony has ranked in the US Top 100 nearly every year since 1880, and has recently occupied the Top Ten, falling slightly to #11 in 2011. He’s among the most enduring names for boys.
In fact, he’s really quite ancient. Mark Antony lived in the last century BC. A Roman general who held power in the waning days of the Republic, he came from a leading family and his descendants would go on to hold positions of power for centuries more. Though Mark Antony ended his life in defeat – he and Cleopatra took their own lives after the future emperor Augustus rose to power. Known as Marcus Antonius in his time, some say that the family was descended from Anton, a child of the strong man of the gods, Heracles. That’s questionable. It seems more likely that Antonius was Etruscan in origin, and possibly related to the name of their sky god, Ani.
There’s no secret to the reason he has remained in use: saints, and plenty of ’em.
Saint Antony the Great is sometimes called the father of monasticism. Tales of his struggles against the temptation in the desert are a rich source of inspiration for art.
Then came Fernando Martins de Bulhões. Born to a wealthy family in Lisbon, he became an early member of the Franciscans and took the name Antony after the ancient saint. His teachings made him a doctor of the church. We know him as Saint Anthony of Padua – that’s him in the painting.
Little wonder, then, that the name is well known throughout the Christian world, as Anton, Antal, Antonino, Antoine, Antonin, and, of course, Anthony and Antonio. (A quick word on the addition of the letter h – in English, we associated Antonio with the Greek anthos – flower – and thus the change to the spelling.)
If Anthony is a classic, Antonio is a wearable exotic. He’s ranked in the US Top 1000 every year since 1880, though like Anthony, he’s fallen slightly in recent years. A former Top 100 choice, he stood at #118 in 2011.
Famous Antonios are plentiful. Beyond the modern athletes and politicians, there’s composer Antonio Vivaldi and many a character from Shakespeare, including The Merchant of Venice’s (mostly) admirable main character.
Short form Tony makes him an every-guy kind of name, but Antonio on his own is dashing. In our days of longer names for boys, Antonio fits right in with Leonardo and Jeremiah and even Joshua. If you’re looking for a classic with a twist, Antonio could be a great choice.