This Italian name was originally borne by a saint martyred under Diocletian, perhaps at Nicomedia, and regarded as a patron of physicians, having allegedly been one himself. He was honoured in the East as early as the 5th century, but his cult did not reach the West until the 11th century, when he was adopted as the patron of Venice. In the 14th century, the name was used for a character in the Harliquinade, a foolish old Venetian, and in some cases the surname may have arisen as a nickname referring to this character. It was from his typical costume that the term 'pantaloon' came to be used of a type of loose-fitting breeches. 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. 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. During the Middle Ages, when people were unable to read or write, signs were needed for all visual identification. For several centuries city streets were filled with signs of all kinds, public houses, tradesmen and even private householders found them necessary. This was an age when there were no numbered houses, and an address was a descriptive phrase that made use of a convenient landmark. At this time, coats of arms came into being, for the practical reason that 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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