This Italian and French surname of NARDEAU was from an aphetic form of any of the various medieval Italian given names, originally of Germanic origin, ending in the syllable NARDO or NARDI. It was a baptismal name meaning 'the son of Bernard'. 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. The popularity of this given name among the Normans in the centuries immediately following the Conquest of 1066, was greatly increased by virtue of its having been borne by St. Bernard of Clairvaux (circa 1090-1153) founder and abbott of the Cistercian Monastery at Clairvaux, and in Holland and Germany it vied with Arnold as the most popular given name during the 13th and 14th centuries. Another sanctified bearer of the name was St. Bernard of Menthin (923-1008) founder of Alpine hospices and patron saint of mountaineers, whose cult accounts for the frequency of the name in Alpine regions. It was also a name adopted by Israeli Jews. When traditional Jews were forced to take family names by the local bureaucracy, it was an obligation imposed from outside traditional society, and people often took the names playfully and let their imaginations run wild by choosing names which corresponded to nothing real in their world. No one alive today can remember the times when Jews took or were given family names (for most Ashkenazim this was the end of the 18th century or the beginning of the 19th) although many remember names being changed after emigration to other countries, such as the United States and Israel in recent years. The earliest French hereditary surnames are found in the 12th century, at more or less the same time as they arose in England, but they are by no means common before the 13th century, and it was not until the 15th century that they stabilized to any great extent; before then a surname might be handed down for two or three generations, but then abandoned in favour of another. In the south, many French surnames have come in from Italy over the centuries, and in Northern France, Germanic influence can often be detected.
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