This Italian surname of DE LEO was a nickname for a brave and fierce warrior, and rendered in ancient documents in the Latin form LEONIS. Nicknames usually originated as a by-name for someone by describing their appearance, personal disposition or character but which became handed down through the ages and did not apply to their descendants. On the continent the given name was relatively popular because of the numerous saints who bore it, and also because the lion was the symbol of the evangelist St. Mark. In England, however, it was rare throughout the Middle Ages. Other spellings of the name include DI LEO, DE LEONE, DI LIONE, LEONIBUS and LEONSCHI, to name but a few. Despite evidence that hereditary surnames were in use in the Venetian Republic as early as the 10th Century, the origin of many Italian surnames is unclear. There is still a great potential for research into medieval Italian records while documented evidence indicates the adoption of the father's name as a surname is the most common form. The familiar endings of "i" and "o", meaning to be a member of a certain family, bears this out. Early records of the name include LEON de Romeslega who was documented in 1271 and Hugo LEO appears in London in 1180. A notable member of the name includes The Great St. LEO I. (390-461) Pope from 440, one of the most eminent of the Latin Fathers, he is thought to have been born in Tuscany. He was the champion of orthodoxy, and was instrumental in convening in 451 the significant Council of Chalcedon in which his legates successfully pressed what had been called 'the Catholic doctrine of Incarnation'. Social conditions in Southern Italy during the agricultural depression of the late 19th Century spurred the first wave of emigration as thousands of people escaped to the New World. Latin America was the original destination for these early settlers but as the economy strengthened in the United States, North America became more popular. During the 1920's, life in Australia was good, and from Italy there came a huge wave of immigrants, fleeing from poverty in their own country. They grew fruit and vegetables in Victoria, and cut sugar cane in Queensland. Commerce flourished in the cities.
The lion depicted in the arms is the noblest of all wild beasts which is made to be the emblem of strength and valour, and is on that account the most frequently borne in Coat-Armour.
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