This surname of VOLPINO is an Italian name for a crafty person, from the Italian VOLPE (meaning fox). The name was originally rendered in the Latin form VULPES. Throughout all of Europe the wolf was one of the animals most revered in medieval times. Lycanthropy, the transformation of men into wolves, was widely believed in during the middle ages. The name has numerous variant spellings which include Volpi, Vulpi, La Volpe, Volper, and Wolper. 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. It was also a Jewish Ashkenazic habitation name from a town in Belorussia, south east of Grodno, the Yiddish name of which is VOLPE, Russian VOLPA and Polish WOLPA. When traditional Jews were forced to take family names by the local bureaucracy, it was an obligation imposed from outside traditional society, and people often took the names playfully and let their imaginations run wild by choosing names which corresponded to nothing real in their world. No one alive today can remember the times when Jews took or were given family names (for most Ashkenazim this was the end of the 18th century or the beginning of the 19th) although many remember names being changed after emigration to other countries, such as the United States and Israel in recent years. The associated coat of arms is recorded in Rietstaps Armorial General. 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.
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