from Latin Italia, from Greek Italia; of unknown origin. Perhaps an alteration of Oscan Viteliu "Italy," but meaning originally only the southwestern point of the peninsula. Traditionally said to be from Vitali, name of a tribe that settled in Calabria, whose name is perhaps somehow connected with Latin vitulus "calf." Or perhaps the country name is directly from vitulus as "land of cattle," or it might be from an Illyrian word, or an ancient or legendary ruler Italus. The modern nation dates from events of 1859-60 and was completed by the addition of Venetia in 1866 and Rome in 1870.
updated on October 10, 2017