Italian: apparently of Germanic origin, representing a feminine short form of names containing the element gild ‘sacrifice’ (compare e.g. Hermengildo). Its occasional use in the English-speaking world since the 19th century may have been prompted by the character in Verdi's Rigoletto, the innocent daughter of the hunchback jester Rigoletto, who becomes the object of the Duke of Mantua's affections and is murdered on her father's orders as the result of a series of misunderstandings.
Spanish (Hernández) and Jewish (Sephardic): patronymic from the personal name Hernando (see Fernando). This surname also became established in southern Italy, mainly in Naples and Palermo, since the period of Spanish dominance there, and as a result of the expulsion of the Jews from Spain and Portugal at the end of the 15th century, many of whom moved to Italy.