Luca takes Biblical boy Luke in a romance language direction.
Thanks to Jenna for suggesting our Baby Name of the Day.
Joshua & Noah & 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 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. The name 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.
Noah followed. So did Elijah, Isaiah, and Ezra. Over a generation, we became accustomed to boy names ending with vowels, including a.
As we embraced vowel-ending boy names, it seemed far more reasonable to use romance language names for our sons in their original forms.
The saintly, enduring Luke has never left the US Top 1000, and it’s been a Top 100 fixture since 1992. The slightly rarer Lucas has still appeared in the Top 1000 non-stop since 1993.
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; and plenty of contemporary athletes and other figures answer to the name, too.
It’s heard in Italy and throughout much of Europe, but also 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 it’s 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, Luca debuted in the Top 1000 in the year 2000. As of 2018, it stands just outside the current Top 100 – and could easily tip into the most popular names in another year. As for Luka, it trails the ‘c’ spelling, but not by much. After premiering in the Top 1000 in 2004, it climbed to #320 as of 2018.
It’s the kind of name that feels nicely pan-global. It works in English, Spanish, and a dozen other languages. And while it continues to gain popularity in the US, it still serves as something slightly different than all of those boys named Luke.
Would you consider this name for a son? Do you like it better with a ‘c’ or a ‘k’?
First published on May 4, 2011, this post was revised substantially on August 8, 2019.