This Italian surname of GIGLIA is from a diminutive of the female given name Elizabeth. The name owed is popularity in medieval Europe to the fact that it was borne by John the Baptist's mother. The original form of the name was Hebrew ELISHEVA 'My God is my oath'; it appears thus in Exodus.6:23 as the name of Aaron's wife. The form Isabella originated in Spain, and in this form was introduced into France in the 13th century, being borne by a sister of St. Louis who lived as a nun after declining marriage with the Holy Roman Emperor. Thence it was brought to England where it achieved considerable popularity as an independent name alongside the root form Elizabeth. It was also a nickname for someone with very fair hair or skin, rendered in medieval documents in the Latin form LILIUM. The Italian form GIGLIO was used as a given name in the Middle Ages. The name is also spelt GIGLI, LILLEY, LILLEYMAN, LILLIMAN, GIGLIO, ZIGLIO, ZEGGIO, ZEGGIATO to name but a few. It was not until the 10th century that modern hereditary surnames first developed, and the use of fixed names spread, first to France, and then England, then to Germany and all of Europe. In these parts of Europe, the individual man was becoming more important, commerce was increasing and the exact identification of each man was becoming a necessity. Even today however, the Church does not recognise surnames. Baptisms and marriages are performed through use of the Christian name alone. Thus hereditary names as we know them today developed gradually during the 11th to the 15th century in the various European countries. A notable member of the name was Beniamino GIGLI (1890-1957) the Italian tenor, born in Recanati. The son of a shoemaker, he won a scholarship to the Accedemia di Santa Cecilia. He made his operatic debut in Ponchielli's 'La Gioconda' in 1914 and by 1929 had won a world-wide reputation. Over the centuries, most people in Europe have accepted their surname as a fact of life, as irrevocable as an act of God. However much the individual may have liked or disliked the surname, they were stuck with it, and people rarely changed them by personal choice. A more common form of variation was in fact involuntary, when an official change was made, in other words, a clerical error.
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