This surname of ARCE was a Spanish, Portugese and Italian occupational name for a cabinet-maker, from the Latin word ARCA meaning 'chest'. The name is also spelt ARCOS. Occupational surnames originally denoted the actual occupation followed by the individual. At what period they became hereditary is a difficult problem. Many of the occupation names were descriptive and could be varied. In the Middle Ages, at least among the Christian population, people did not usually pursue specialized occupations exclusively to the extent that we do today, and they would, in fact, turn their hand to any form of work that needed to be done, particularly in a large house or mansion, or on farms and smallholdings. In early documents, surnames often refer to the actual holder of an office, whether the church or state. In Spain identifying patronymics are to be found as early as the mid-9th century, but these changed with each generation, and hereditary surnames seem to have come in slightly later in Spain than in England and France. As well as the names of the traditional major saints of the Christian Church, many of the most common Spanish surnames are derived from personal names of Germanic origin. For the most part these names are characteristically Hispanic. They derive from the language of the Visigoths, who controlled Spain between the mid-5th and early 8th centuries. In the 8th century, Spain fell under the control of the Moors, and this influence, which lasted into the 12th century, has also left its mark on Hispanic surnames. A few names are based directly on Arabic personal names. The majority of Spanish occupational and nickname surnames, however, are based on ordinary Spanish derivatives. Portugese surnames share many of the features of Spanish surnames, in particular Arabic and Visigothic influence. A notable feature of Portugese surnames is the class of religious names referring to festivals of the church or attributes of the Virgin Mary. One respect in which Portugese names differ from those of the rest of the Iberian peninsular, is that some were adopted at a comparatively late date and honour saints who did not give rise to surnames in other languages. Portugese names typically have the ending 'eiro'.
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