The baby name Luca takes classic Luke in a romance language direction.
Thanks to Jenna for suggesting our Baby Name of the Day.
JOSHUA and NOAH and EZRA
Not so long ago, boy names ending in vowels were rare. Immigrants to the US adopted more American versions of their names. Giorgio became George: Roberto, Bob. In 1959, the only vowel-ending boy names you might encounter were y-enders. Think Timothy and Gary. If you count nicknames, like Joe, they’re a little more common – but only a little.
But mostly, boy names just plain didn’t end with a.
Then came Joshua.
It’s not like Joshua is novel. In the Old Testament, Joshua accompanied Moses to Mount Sinai to receive the Ten Commandments.
That’s the textbook definition of an old-school name.
But Joshua debuted in the US Top 100 in 1971, and cracked the Top Ten in 1979, paving the way for another generation of Biblical boy names – especially those ending with a.
Noah followed. So did Elijah, Isaiah, and Ezra. Over a generation, we became accustomed to boy names ending with the vowel sound.
As we embraced vowel-ending boy names, it seemed far more reasonable to use romance language names for our sons in their original forms.
Saintly, enduring Luke has never left the US Top 1000, and it’s been a Top 100 fixture since 1992. The slightly less common Lucas has still appeared in the Top 100 non-stop since 1993 and has featured in the Top Ten over the last few years.
The baby name Luca is simply the Italian form of Luke and Lucas. There’s the sculptor, Luca della Robia. Mario Puzo used it for a tough guy in his 1972 novel The Godfather. Plenty of contemporary athletes and other figures answer to the name, too.
It’s heard in Italy and much of Europe, as well as throughout Latin America.
Suzanne Vega sang about a boy named Luka in her 1987 song. “Luka” dealt with child abuse. Despite the dark topic, it became one of Vega’s biggest hits.
That means the average parent today grew up knowing the name.
As for the ‘k’ spelling, it’s the default in several Slavic languages. When George Clooney left ER, Croatian-born Goran Visnjic was hired to pick up the scalpel. He played Dr. Luka Kovac for a decade, from 1999 to 2009. There’s also a minor character from long-running supernatural series The Vampire Diaries named Luka Martin.
BY THE NUMBERS
Suzanne Vega says that she chose Luka for her fictional child because it’s universal.
That’s true – add up the ‘c’ and ‘k’ spellings, and the baby name Luca is heard across many languages and cultures. Mostly it’s masculine, but not exclusively. (In Hungarian, for example, it’s the equivalent of Lucia.)
Actor Colin Firth and his Italian wife, director Livia Giuggioli, gave the name to a son, a brother for Matteo. Celebrity chef and television host Tom Colicchio has sons Dante, Luka, and Mateo. Other celebs with sons by the name include Hilary Duff, Jacinda Barrett & Gabriel Macht, and designer Rebecca Minkoff. None other than Audrey Hepburn paved the way. The Hollywood icon welcomed her son Luca in 1970, with Italian husband Andrea Dotti.
In the US, the baby name Luca debuted in the Top 1000 in the year 2000. As of 2020, it reached #67. As for Luka, it trails the ‘c’ spelling, but not by much. After premiering in the Top 1000 in 2004, it climbed to #163 as of 2020.
The baby name Luca could get another big boost in the summer of 2021.
Disney/Pixar’s Luca will debut on Disney Plus in June 2021. It’s the story of two boys enjoying a gelato-filled summer in a coastal Italian town – except they have a secret to keep, too. The title comes from the main character’s name. His sidekick is the equally Italian Alberto, and the girl they befriend is Giulia.
Luca marks the twenty-fourth feature film for Pixar. Their earlier movies have helped launch Arlo, Dash, and Remy, so the baby name Luca could easily get a boost from this summer release.
If you’re looking for a pan-global name that spans multiple languages and feels cool and current in English, then the baby name Luca could belong on your list.
What do you think of the baby name Luca?
First published on May 4, 2011, this post was revised substantially on August 8, 2019 and again on June 12, 2021.
It is a really cool name, I like it a lot, regardless whether with C or K, just as I do Luke and Lucas.
We absolutely adored this name for a baby boy circa 2011. It wasn’t (or didn’t seem) popular then. Now, though, I still really love it and it would definitely be on our shortlist but it feels like it might be too “not original” … Hehee
Definitely overall a huge fan of this name though. We liked the spelling with a K: Luka. But now when I see it, I almost prefer a K spelling for a girl and the C spelling for a boy.
I really like Luca, prefer Luka slightly though.
I doubt it’ll ever be the next Joshua, but it can reach the same level of success as Dakota did in the 80s and 90s.
I love Luca the best out of all the Luke names. It’s in my category of “sexy” names.
Lady Gwyn says
I like Luca, but for a boy I would rather use Lucian/Lucien as my go-to Luc-name. I would love to meet a little Luca, though, and like that it is exotic but easy to spell and pronounce!
Luca has really grown on me lately, and I’m not a fan of Luke or Lucas. I think I remember hearing that its rise in popularity in the UK several years ago had something to do with a famous footballer named Luca, but I could be mixing it up with another name. It’s also quite popular in France, though on the decline I believe. I’m sure the very good-looking ER character has helped boost it, especially since the show is in syndication around the world.
I’m quite surprised and relieved that it hasn’t ‘gone over to the girls’ like so many other masculine names that are the tiniest bit feminine-sounding. I hope it stays that way!
I like the Goran Visnjic mention, it’s nice 🙂 but he’s Croatian, not Serbian 😉
I love love love this name! So excited to see it as NOTD! It’s one of the names that I’d consider if I ever had kids…for a boy, of course
My younger neighbor growing up is named Luca. I believe he’d be about 30 years old now. His dad (Nino) was from Italy and funnily enough it is Luca’s aunt Silvana that you used as NOTD on Monday! I love it as a boy’s name.
I love Luca a lot and know boys with both spellings. I can see it getting used for girls with moms who think it is a girls name and then being shocked to find out it is masculine. I have met a woman like this once.
Very stylish name – it’s interesting that all three celebrities chose Matteo/Mateo and Luca as brothers! Obviously a natural sibset combination.
The President of Ferrari is named Luca Cordera di Montezemolo, so it seems upmarket and might be possible to sell this to a male partner???
I’m more used to the Slavic Luka, thanks to Irish singer Luka Bloom, who took his stage name from Suzanne Vega’s song.