This Italian surname of GRECO was an ethnic name for a Greek. The name was originally rendered in medieval documents in the Latin form GRAECUS, from Graecia, Greece). In some cases it may have been merely a nickname for a crafty ot guileful person, for these were the qualities traditionally attributed to the Greeks. The name has many variant spellings which include GRECHI, GREGHI, GRIECO, LO GRECO, GREC and DE GRIEK. 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.
A notable member of the name was El GRECO, properly Domenico Theotocopoulos (1541-1614) the Spanish painter, born in Candia, Crete. He studied in Italy, and is known to have settled in Toledo about 1577, when he was commissioned to execute the decorations for the new church of Saint Domingo el Antiguo, the centrepiece being the 'Assumption of the Virgin' (now at Chicago). Many of his works are still to be seen in Toledo. 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.
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