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Sveva della Gherardesca

With Italy releasing some name popularity statistics recently, I couldn't help but notice a girl's name that looks very Scandinavian, but isn't. Unique to Italy's top 100 and unheard of in the U.S., Sveva (SVAY-vah) could be a German import, meaning "Swabian," from the archaic word Svebia and referring to a historical region in southwestern Germany, but the modern Italian word for Swabian is 'sveva,' at least according to Google translate. You can trace Swabia to Suebi, all the way back to Proto-Slavic or Indo-European swe, meaning "one's own [people]." It is a very ancient people (with the coolest coat of arms).

This name reminds me of other place/people names, such as Sabine, Roxelana and Sarazine, which I recently researched. Sveva ranked #61 in Italy in 2015 with the name given to 659 girls total, and that number dropped a bit to 546 girls in 2016. The only use it ever saw in the U.S. was 5 times in 2005.

It may be popular in Italy not only because of its exotic sound, but because of its namesakes. There's Italian writers Sveva Casati Modignani (a psuedonym), actress Sveva Alviti, Italian-Canadian artist Sveva Caetani (who had two popes in her family tree), TV star Sveva Sagramola, and many more. It took off around the year 2000, but in older times the name of Italian writer Italo Svevo may have given it a boost.

In the 15th century a woman named Sveva de Montefeltro Sforza took the equally beautiful name Seraphina as a nun, later becoming Blessed Seraphina Sforza. Sometimes this name is given in honor of her. Another woman named Sveva Sanseverino was born in Italy around 1275 and married a Count of Marsico. As a side note, I came across the surname Sanseverino in my Sarazine research as well, and I think this Sveva may have a connection there. In more modern times, Sveva della Gherardesca of Tuscan nobility married Prince Nicholas Romanov of Russia in 1950.

Sueva is an alternate form, seen on Sueva del Balzo, born around 1300. She is another example who was married to an Italian count. Another woman named Justine Sueva de Baux, was her granddaughter, and she married the Conte di Nola.

In the arts, Sveva is a character in Ascolta il mio cuore by Bianca Pitzorno, and a character in the film Baciami Ancora.


  1. Such a beautiful name! You're right, it does look Scandinavian - reminds me of the lovely Swedish name Svea.

  2. I love this name. One of my faves. It reminds me of the Swedish Svea and the Icelandic Svava

    1. Icelandic names are really something. I should post more of them. I'm particularly fond of Kolfinna, it's always been a top 10/20 of mine, but I also like Liba, Minna, Mikkalina, Birgir, Edda...etc etc


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