This French, Italian, Spanish and English nickname was originally derived from the Norman title of rank COUNT and rendered in medieval documents in the Latin form COMITIS meaning a companion. Surnames having a derivation from nicknames form the broadest and most miscellaneous class of surnames, encompassing many different types of origin. The most typical classes refer adjectivally to the general physical aspect of the person concerned, or to his character. Many nicknames refer to a man's size or height, while others make reference to a favoured article of clothing or style of dress. Many surnames derived from the names of animals and birds. In the Middle Ages ideas were held about the characters of other living creatures, based on observation, and these associations were reflected and reinforced by large bodies of folk tales featuring animals behaving as humans. The name is spread widely throughout Europe and in many different forms which include COMTE, LECOMTE, CONDE, CONTINELLI, and CONTIELLO. Notable members of the name include ARMAND DE BOURBON CONTI (l629-l666) a French nobleman, founder of the House of Conti, a junior branch of the House of Conde. The brother of Louis II. Prince de Conde (The Great Conde) he took his title from a little town of Conti near Amiens. He married the niece of Cardinal Mazarin. Although feeble and deformed, he was an enthusiastic warrior, campaigning in Spain and Italy. 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. In Spain identifying patronymics are to be found as early as the mid-9th century, but these changed with each generation, and hereditary surnames seem to have come in slightly later in Spain than in England and France. As well as the names of the traditional major saints of the Christian Church, many of the most common Spanish surnames are derived from personal names of Germanic origin. For the most part these names are characteristically Hispanic. They derive from the language of the Visigoths, who controlled Spain between the mid-5th and early 8th centuries.
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