Probably everyone who’s ever taken a course equivalent to History of Civilization has read (or at least been assigned) a book by H.D.F. Kitto, probably The Greeks. I was looking at the latter entry in LibraryThing when it suddenly struck me: what the heck kind of name is Kitto? It looked vaguely Hungarian, but I suddenly needed to know. So I looked it up, and to my surprise it’s Gaelic, from ciotóg ‘left-handed person.’ Or at least so my reference books tell me; his Wikipedia entry says he was of Cornish ancestry, and I find online sites (like this) that imply it’s a Cornish name. Anybody know further details? (Fun fact: Mancini is from an Italian word meaning ‘left-handed.’)


  1. Probably it traces back to proto-Dravidian.

  2. That sounds pretty sinister.

  3., which does not cite its sources, claims that the surname Kitto is derived from the same as a given name, the Cornish equivalent of Gruffudd; another source says Kitto as a first name is a hypocoristic form of Christopher.
    I think it’s interesting that Kitto was named after Humphrey Davy, another and more famous Cornishman.

  4. How about Hatto? – there used to be a German professor of that name in London.

  5. misteraitch says

    I don’t know if it’s relevant, but it reminds me of the Welsh name Guto (pronounced ‘gitto,’ as in the legendary runner Guto Nyth Bran) which apparently is a diminutive form of Gruffudd (Griffith).

  6. In one of the fantasy series I read, there’s a character named Kitto who is a descendant of Cornish fairies.

  7. If it is Cornish, then it’s not Gaelic, of course. P-Celtic vs. Q-Celtic.
    I’ve never come across anyone Irish with the name, and the phone book doesn’t list anyone with that surname in Dublin, where a quarter of the population of the Republic lives.

  8. a href=””>Hatto, Swabian archbishop, ca 850 A.D.
    Joyce Hatto, pianist of recent times, known for being unknown

  9. ‘Mancini’ is an Italian word meaning literally ‘left-handed men’ (masculine plural), and it’s a very widespread surname in Italy. As a surname it may mean something like: son of a left-handed man. Italian surnames ending by ‘-i’ mean ‘son of’, like English ‘-son’ or Scottish ‘Mac’. Supposedly, ‘Pelosi’ means son/daughter of a hairy man.

  10. So that would be Nancy Ben Esau: My Brother Esau Is An Hairy Man, But I, I am a Smooth Man”.

  11. Also of possible relevance would be the 17th-century Highland warrior Alasdair Cholla Chiataich Mac Dhòmhnaill (i.e., Alasdair “son of left-handed Coll” MacDonald), whose Gaelic name was anglicized to “Colkitto”.

  12. I had the idea that Kitto is a Cornish name, although I don’t know where from… it doesn’t conform to the usual heuristic “by Tre, Pol and Pen shall ye know all Cornishmen”.
    As for Hatto, googling suggests it is not Cornish but German. That /h/ should have given it away I suppose.

  13. I would have bet 5 dollars on Finnish.

  14. The late Joyce Hatto became the subject of scandal this week:
    The world of classical music has been thrown into turmoil after audio experts denounced a series of critically acclaimed recordings by a revered English pianist as fakes.
    Joyce Hatto, who died last year aged 77, had not given a recital in decades because she was suffering from cancer and thought it “impolite to look ill” in public.
    iTunes allegedly identified her discs as being exactly the same as others produced by different pianists.
    see more at:

  15. There’s actually a website called Cornish Surnames. Kitto seems to be a fairly common Cornish name, and the idea that it’s a patronymic (son of Kit, or Christopher – with the ‘o’ being appended instead of preposed as in Irish Ó Brian, Ó Connor etc.) seems widespread.

  16. Interestingly, a meaningless piece of trivia (and some food for the dravidian connection):
    ‘Kitto’ is Basque for ’nuff said! (as in an old campaig promoting the use of this language: ‘Euskaraz eta kitto!’ – (In) Basque is enough).

  17. Thanks for the info. I had forgotten Bishop Hatto. And I read about the Joyce Hatto scandal before I came back here. A wonderful story!
    I suppose Bishop Hatto won’t have come from Cornwall…

  18. I lifted the following from a Kitto family site:
    The Kitto name is strictly Cornish, of Celtic Blue Blood origin, dating back to 0 A.D. They were the original pioneers of Southern England, Cornwall and Devonshire. The Saxons entered England from the East in 500 A.D. It may be noted here that following a Civil War in 1440 the Celts went off in five directions. A branch went to Scotland and became the Scottish people; a branch to Ireland, a branch to Wales, a branch to the Isle of Man, a branch to Devonshire, and those that stayed became Cornish, that’s us!

  19. The map at shows that in 1881 Kitto was an almost exclusively Cornish name, although by 1998 there were a number of pockets through England, with even a few in Scotland and Wales. No connection with Hatto, which seems to have originated as a surname around Oxford.

  20. The tragic Hatto clan: a millenium of fraud — and more. The false claim to have been eaten by rats, The fake CDs. Will Arthur’s reputation survive these revelations?

  21. The full saying is
    “By Ros, Car, Lan,
    Tre, Pol, and Pen
    you shall know
    most Cornish men”
    Interestingly, those are all eponyms, not patronyms, as most Celtic names are. Kitto is a patronym.
    Tre = Homestead/Village, Pol = Pool, Pen = Head, Ros = Heath, Car = Camp, Lan = Churchyard – and if you know Welsh you can see the similarities, tre = tref, pol = pwll, lan = llan, pen = pen, and ros = rhos, while car = gwer- I imagine.
    But few Welsh surnames are eponyms, while many (most?) Cornish ones are. Interesting difference.

  22. Interestingly, ‘manchot’ means “one-handed” in French. I bet they’re connected. (With Mancini I mean, not Kitto!)

  23. I suppose both derive from ‘mancare’.

  24. David Marjanović says

    If Le Pen is the Brain, who is Pinky?

  25. Hello. My name is Daniel Kitto and I have been trying to dig into my family history and origin. I am willing to talk with whomever would like to talk about it as I am searching for my family crest so I can get a signet ring and start a family heirloom.
    Thank you to all in advance.
    P.s I am from Cornwall. My bloodline as far back I can find so far are from Cornish towns of Padstow and Breage.
    Please if anyone has info please find me on facebook under Dan PD Kitto or email me on

  26. Hi to all. I’m a Kitto and growing up I’ve been given numerous legends stories and tales to do with my surname

    ColKitto which I came across living with in Glasgow

    King Kit and O being son off from Devon and Cornwall

    Recently completed 23&me and my ancestry is Saxon Celt and Viking so who the heck knows where the name comes from

    Although I am left handed

  27. sredni vashtar: ‘manchot’ means “one-handed” in French. I bet they’re connected. (With Mancini

    Manchot means “one-armed” rather than “one-handed”. For a person with only one arm, wearing a shirt or jacket means that one sleeve (une manche) is left empty and must be secured somewhat so it does not flap and gets in the way, or gets damaged. At least this is what is the usual explanation of the word.

    There is a kind of penguin called le manchot because of its short “arms”.

  28. So French has a word for “one-armed” (manchot) and “one-eyed” (borgne). How about “one-legged”?

  29. KI: unijambiste

    This word is obviously modern. There may be older ones which I can’t remember or never knew, for instance I would not be surprised to find at least one in Rabelais.

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