The Italian name “Sofonisba” comes from the classical name “Sophonisba”, a 3rd century B.C.E. Carthaginian princess whose name was popularized by numerous playwrights from the 15th century onwards.
Sophonisba (referred to as “Sophoniba” by Roman historians Livy and Appian) is most likely a classical rendering of her original Carthaginian name: “Saphanba’al.”
The “ba’al” part of the name is easy to interpret – many Punic names contained the name of their chief god “Ba’al”. As in Hannibal (“favored by Ba’al”) and Hasdrubal (“Ba’al has helped”).
Interpreting the “Saphan” part of the name isn’t as easy, although a clue can be found in *The Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible*, a four-volume reference work published by Abingdon Press in 1962. The entry for the Hebrew name “Zephaniah” (contributed by Theodor M. Mauch) contains a comparison to a similar Punic name, with both names bearing the similar meaning of “sheltered”.
A logical conclusion can therefore be drawn that the name “Saphanba’al” may mean “Ba’al has sheltered her”.