Culture
Intellectuals & footballers: A spotlight on Zammit, one of Malta’s most popular surnames
With various origins of the name, we’re loving the one that means ‘holding hands’!

Vanessa Conneely

In the second of our series of well-known surnames here in Malta, we look at Zammit. And we certainly should! According to the 2011 national census, Zammit is the fifth most common surname in Malta and the tenth in Gozo.

Pronunciation: Zammit (like damn it) Zammit (like Zam-eat) depending on where you come from!

zammit

Sir Themistocles "Temi" Zammit / culturemalta.org

History: Some believe the name was brought to Malta from Sicily or Naples, while others believe it was carried by people with Arabic or Hebrew origins. There’s also a debate over what the word Zammit actually means, but the most popular belief is that it translates to ‘hands held’ (although we’re not exactly sure why a person would be given a name like this to begin with!!) One early document in Malta shows Zammit was one of the most common names in the village of Hal Safi.

Here and abroad

But as well as being popular here in Malta, Zammits sure like to travel! According to the online American company Ancestry.com – which can break down people’s genetic roots from a single DNA sample – there are 642 immigration records for Zammits who entered America through ports. Geneologists also believe that most Zammit families settled in the US in the 1920’s, with 25 per cent of these choosing Michigan as the best place to live.

Another website called Forebear ranks Zammit as the 28,995th most common surname in the world and says that more than 18,000 people carry it. According to its 2014 research, the most common countries outside of Malta, which have people listed with the name Zammit, include Australia (2,833), France (1,785), US (1,101) and England (1,019).

Zammit: the famous  

But Malta still holds the greatest number of people with the surname and a lot of people have done it proud. Among those who’ve carried the name include Sir Themistocles "Temi" Zammit who lived between 1864 and 1935. Sir Zammit was a Maltese archaeologist and historian, professor of chemistry, medical doctor as well as a researcher and writer. He also served as Rector of the Royal University of Malta (1920 – 26) and was First Director of the National Museum of Archaeology in Valletta. Overachiever much?

ivan

Ivan Zammit / photo credit Valletta FC

Another man honouring the Zammit name is the former professional footballer Ivan Zammit who played for Malta. Although he has since retired from playing internationally, Ivan – who was born in 1972 – now is head coach for the Maltese First Division team Gzira United.

domus

Domus Zamittello Hotel / Alan Carville 

And finally, another Zammit worth a mention is the stunningly beautiful Domus Zamittello Hotel in Valletta. At one point or another, the elegant 17th century house belonged to both the Order of St John as well as the British. But in 1805 it was gifted to Sir Giuseppe Nicola Zamitt, for services to the Crown and still holds a version of his name. 

Zammits are quite the eclectic bunch!

16th June 2019


Vanessa Conneely
Written by
Vanessa Conneely
Vanessa is an Irish writer whose travel lust has led her to Malta. She loves running, reading and finding new restaurants, as well as trawling Malta for vintage furniture and home décor.

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