The surname of LEONETTI is one of the oldest and most distinguished of all Italian surnames. The name was originally of patronymic origin; that is, it was derived from the first name of the father of an original bearer. The name was derived from the Latin LEO LEONIS, and signifies one who was 'lion-like', one who was brave and majestic. The earliest of the name on record appears to be one Nicola LEONI, the founder of the noble family in Bologna. The LEONIS of Venice in the same century began a long history of holding high military office. The origins of Italian surnames are not clear, and much work remains to be done on medieval Italian records. It seems that fixed bynames, in some cases hereditary, were in use in the Venetian Republic by the end of the 10th century. The typical Italian surname endings are 'i' and 'o', the former being characteristic of northern Italy. The singular form 'o' is more typical of southern Italy. LEONNE LIONI (1505-1590) was the Italian sculptor and medallist, whose statues and reliefs for the Imperial family may be seen in the Prad museum. His work was continued by his son Charles, who also executed many fine tomb effigies. Hereditary surnames were originally imported from France into England during the Norman Conquest of 1066. In the two centuries or so after the Conquest surnames were acquired by most families of major landholders, and many landed families of lesser importance. There appears to have been a constant trickle of migration into Britain between about the years 1200 and 150O, mostly from France and the Low Countries, with a small number of migrants from Scandinavia, Germany, Italy and the Iberian peninsular, and occasional individuals from further afield. During this period groups of aliens settled in this country as for example, the Germans who from the late 15th century onwards settled in Cumbria to work the metal mines. Immigration during this time had only a small effect on the body of surnames used in Britain. In many cases, the surnames of immigrants were thoroughly Anglicised. The late sixteenth century saw the arrival, mostly in London and the south-coast ports of large numbers of people fleeing from the war regions of France.
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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