DanteThis post was originally published on June 5, 2008. It was substantially revised and re-posted on March 9, 2015.

Take an Italian heritage choice with impeccable literary roots, add variant spellings galore, and you’ll arrive at our Baby Name of the Day: Dante.

Dante: Italiano

This name has a great meaning. Dante comes from the Latin durare – to last. It’s the same root as our words endurance and durable. Of course, it can also mean to harden or to be stubborn.

But if you’re choosing meanings, a word like endurance is preferable to, say, bull-headed.

Dante is the contracted form of Durante. Other forms of the name include Duran, Durans, Durant, Durand, and Durante.  There’s a nineteenth century Italian priest known as Blessed Marco Antonio Durando.

Dante: Literary Giant

The most famous bearer of the name was born Durante Aligheri in thirteenth century Florence.

He wrote the Divine Comedy at mid-life. The epic poem isn’t just a literary masterwork. It’s the foundation of the Italian language as we know it today.

Aligheri takes us from the Inferno of Hell through purgatory to paradise in 13,000-odd lines. We meet ancient poet Virgil, as well as the author’s beloved Beatrice.

Chaucer and Milton referenced the Divine Comedy. Longfellow translated the work into English. It’s inspired movies, music, and the visual arts for years.

There’s even a female Dante in literature – the devout governess in James Joyce’s A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. In this case, it’s a spin on the character’s heavily accented pronunciation of “Auntie,” not a given name.

Dante: Respelled

Dante peaked at #200 in 1997.

Respellings of Dante were also in favor:

  • Donte ranked #397.
  • Other spellings in use included Dantae, Daunte, Dontae, and Dontaye.
  • More creative spins, like Deontae, were also heard.

Most of those names were probably given to African American boys, at least most of the time. The De- construction has long been popular, and the 1990s were was the age of Dandre and Dangelo – or make that D’andre and D’angelo.

Notable bearers of the name reinforce the image: football’s Daunte Culpepper (born in 1977) and Donté Stallworth (born in 1980), early members of the respelled-Dante club. The NBA gives us a Dontae and a Dahntay.

And so Dante’s image has shifted slightly: from Italian poet to African American athlete.

Dante: Shape-Shifter

Dante has been falling since the late 1990s. Too bad, because how many names can you list that are perfect for a painter or a point guard?

Celebrity chef Tom Colicchio is dad to three boys: Dante, Luka, and Mateo.

It’s also worth noting that Dante fits lots of current trends while still feeling distinctive.

  • Italian names for boys are on the rise. Think of the oh-so-stylish Luca and Matteo.
  • We’re open to vowel-ending names for boys in a way that hasn’t always been true. See the above, as well as 2013’s new #1 name, Noah.
  • Dante feels masculine and rooted, without feeling too traditional or stodgy.

Of course, that could be good news. As of 2013, Dante ranked #289 and falling – making him much less common than many comparable possibilities.

Overall, it’s a historic choice that feels fresh and modern, but not nouveau. It’s the kind of possibility that could appeal to parents seeking a culture-spanning name that is easy to wear.

What do you think of Dante? Will this name continue to fall, or is it due for a rebound?

About Abby Sandel

Whether you're naming a baby, or just all about names, you've come to the right place! Appellation Mountain is a haven for lovers of obscure gems and enduring classics alike.

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What do you think?


  1. My name is Donntay I spell it completly different from other forms of my name. At first I hated my name but now I thinks its really cool.

  2. My Name Is Dante And I Am A Girl :O Im Black And Portugese . Im Not Sure How My Parents Decided On Dante But I Love It !
    Sometimes I Feel Weird Having A Boy Name But Now Its Just Cool To Be The First Girl Named Dante To So Many Of My Friends (:

    1. Our son was born a few days ago and my wife and I decided on Dante. In our opinion, Dante is a solid name with history as well as current popularity. We wanted a nice Italian name that would also fit in here in America. My wife and I are both American; however, my parents are from Italy.

  3. You’re so right – I saw the movie right after I posted this. The delicious Dante who tempts Samantha … perhaps not the most PG inspiration for a baby’s name.

    I wonder if the Ms. Dante you met was named after the character? Does she have a brother called Leopold Bloom? 😉

  4. I’ve been thinking a lot about Dante too, ever since I met a woman named Dante!

    He’s also the object of Samantha’s unrequited desire in the new Sex and the City movie, so screenwriters are onto him too. The character looks Latino, and I think you’re right about Dante’s cross-cultural appeal.