This surname of GAMBA is a French name of two origins. It was applied as a nickname for a person with some peculiarity of the legs or gait, from the Norman-Picard and French form of the Old French word JAMBE, and rendered in medieval documents in the Latin form GAMBA. It was also an occupational name for an armourer specializing in the production of leg pieces. The name has numerous variant spellings which include GAMBI, GAMBET, GAMBIN, GAMBON, CHAMBIN, GAMBETTA, GAMBONE and GAMBACCINI, to name but a few. The earliest known bearer of this name was Guillaume GANBIER, a 12th century Norman baron. The name was brought to England by Huguenots in the 16th century, and in recent years it has been spelled GAMBIA, by association with the West African state. During the 17th century surnames were brought to Britain, North America and southern Africa by French Huguenot exiles. The Huguenots were French Protestants, and in 1572 large numbers of them were massacred in Paris on the orders of Queen Catherine de'Medici. Many of the survivors sought refuge in England and elsewhere. Although the Edict of Nantes (1598) officially guaranteed religious toleration, persecution continued, and the Edict was revoked by Louis XIV in 1685. It was then the trickle of emigration became a flood. Many migrated to England, while others joined groups of Dutch Protestants settling around the Cape of Good Hope. Others sailed across the Atlantic to establish themselves in North America. French, or rather Norman French, was the language of the aristocracy and the upper classes in England at the time fixed surnames were being developed, it is therefore not surprising that many of our well-known family names are derived from French words. Originally only Christian or personal names were used, and although a few came into being during the 10th century, surnames were not widely used until much later, when people began to realize the prestige of having a second name. America was colonized by peoples from all over the world in a very short period of time, and mostly, in the case of French immigrants they have stayed together in Louisiana. Of the early immigrants to America the French have fared the worst in respect of their names, chiefly because of the difficulties experienced by the Americans in pronouncing them correctly. Many have been translated into English names.
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