This surname of SAFONT was a Provencal and Catalan topographic name for someone living near a spring or well. The name was originally rendered in the Latin form FONTIS. The name has numerous variant spellings which include Font, Lafon, Lafont, Defont, Defond, Delafont and Safonte. Provencal is the traditional language of southern France, more specifically of south-eastern France, which developed from the medieval 'langue d'oc'. Provencal is linguistically close to Catalan and the two languages often have similar surname forms. Catalan is the language of north-east Spain and the Balearic islands. Its surnames share many of the characteristics of Spanish surnames, except that there is very little Arabic influence and the Germanic influence is Frankish. Catalan names are nowadays quite widely distributed throughout the Iberian peninsula. They may often be recognized by their endings such as 'e' and 'ero'. Most of the place-names that yield surnames are usually of small communities, villages, hamlets, some so insignificant that they are now lost to the map. A place-name, it is reasonable to suppose, was a useful surname only when a man moved from his place of origin to elsewhere, and his new neighbours bestowed it, or he himself adopted it. Most of the European surnames were formed in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. The process had started somewhat earlier and had continued in some places into the 19th century, but the norm is that in the tenth and eleventh centuries people did not have surnames, whereas by the fifteenth century most of the population had acquired a second name. It has long been a matter of doubt when the bearing of coats of arms first became hereditary and it was not until the Crusades that Heraldry came into general use. Men went into battle heavily armed and were difficult to recognise. It became the custom for them to adorn their helmets with distinctive crests, and to paint their shields with animals and the like. Coats of arms accompanied the development of surnames, becoming hereditary in the same way. At first the coat of arms were a practical matter which served a function on the battlefield and in tournaments. With his helmet covering his face and armour encasing the knight from head to foot, the only means of identification for his followers, was the insignia painted on his shield, and embroidered on his surcoat, the draped and flowing garment worn over his armour.
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