This personal name WITEK was derived from a medieval given name VITUS, meaning life. The name was popular in the Middle Ages as a result of the cult of an early Christian martyr in South Italy, about whom very little of historical value is known. He was regarded as a patron against epilepsy and the nervous tremor named after him 'St. Vitus dance'. He is said to have been the son of a Sicilian pagan, and was converted by his nurse Crescentia and her husband Modestus. His feast day is June 15th. His cult spread into Germany and thence through East Europe, where the name was reinforced by native Slavnic names such as Vitoslav and Vitomir. The earliest Polish surnames were patronymic. The personal names from which they were derived were mainly Slavonic, but as the Middle Ages progressed, traditional Slavic given names, began to give way to saint's names, mainly of Latin origin. Surnames derived from Slavonic personal names are of early origin, and tend to be borne by aristocratic families. Following the crusades in Europe in the 11th, 12th and 13th centuries, a need was felt for a family name to replace the one given at birth, or in addition to it. This was recognized by those of noble birth, and particularly by those who went on the Crusades, as it added prestige and practical advantage to their status. The name has numerous spellings which include De VITI, De VITA, De VITO, VITI and VIDO. 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 Repuplic 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. It has long been a matter of doubt when the bearing of coats of arms first became hereditary and it was not until the Crusades that Heraldry came into general use. Men went into battle heavily armed and were difficult to recognise. It became the custom for them to adorn their helmets with distinctive crests, and to paint their shields with animals and the like. Coats of arms accompanied the development of surnames, becoming hereditary in the same way.
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