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Type Surname (from given name)
Usage Italian
Other Forms FormsBrancaleoni, Brancalion, Brancalione, Brancalioni

Meaning & History

Derived from the medieval Italian masculine given name Brancaleone, which means either "a lion's paw" or "he who captures the lion". In the case of the former meaning, the name is derived from Italian branca meaning "paw, claw" combined with Italian leone meaning "lion". In the case of the latter meaning, the first element of the name is derived from brancare, a dialectal form of the Italian verb abbrancare meaning "to grasp, to seize". The second element of the name is the same as with the first meaning. With that said: the first meaning given is probably the most likely one, since a lion's paw was often used as a charge in heraldry - to such a degree that brancaleone had even become part of heraldry jargon. In other words: the use of Brancaleone as a given name must have been inspired by heraldry.

However, it should be noted that there are two sources that claim that the name is a combination of two given names, namely Branca (a short form of Brancazio, which is a variant form of the given name Pancrazio) and Leone (which is the Italian form of the given name Leon). This is not that implausible in itself, since Italians have liked to combine given names since medieval times, as names like Giambattista and Giancarlo will prove. But it is hard to find further proof to support this claim.

Lastly, it is worth mentioning that there is also a place called Brancaleone in Italy, which is located in the province of Reggio Calabria. But it is quite unlikely that the Brancaleone surname was derived from the name of that place, as the village was first called Sperlinga or Sperlonga and kept this name until the 16th century AD. It was then given the name Mottaleone or Mottaleonis, which is a name that the village had already on and off been attested by since the beginning of the 15th century AD. And then sometime after the village had officially been given this name, the name was changed to Brancaleone, its current name. When that happened, the majority of Italians already had a (hereditary) surname, so the chances are rather small that there were people at the time who took the village's name for their surname.

A known bearer of this surname was the Italian composer Antonino Gandolfo Brancaleone (1820-1888).
Added 2/17/2016 by Lucille
Edited 2/17/2016 by Lucille