Paparazzi, plural of Paparazzo, comes from the name of a character in Fellini’s 1960 film La Dolce Vita. In the movie, Paparazzo was a photographer who would go to great lengths to take pictures of American movie stars. From Time magazine, 14 April 1961:
Kroscenko...is a paparazzo, one of a ravenous wolf pack of freelance photographers who stalk big names for a living and fire with flash guns at point-blank range.
And the plural from the same issue:
When Katharine Hepburn passed through town recently, the paparazzi mounted Vespa scooters...to waylay her at Fiumicino Airport.
Paparazzo is an actual Italian surname. Fellini said he came across the name in an opera libretto and it “suggests...a buzzing insect, hovering, darting, stinging.” It has also been suggested that Ennio Flaiano, who co-wrote the film with Fellini, may have contributed the name. In the Abruzzi dialect, native to Flaiano, paparazzo is a clam, which is metaphor for the opening and closing of a camera lens. The -azzo suffix also has pejorative connotations in Italian. Or the name may have been taken from George Gissing’s 1909 By the Ionian Sea, which was translated into Italian in 1957. Gissing used the name in his novel and took it from a real person he had met in his Italian travels.
(Source: Oxford English Dictionary, 3rd Edition)
Copyright 1997-2015, by David Wilton