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Type Surname (from nickname)
Usage Italian
Other Forms FormsSpadafora

Meaning & History

This surname originates from the Italian island of Sicily, where it was first borne by a noble family of Byzantine origin, which had settled on the island in the 11th century AD. Their surname was derived from the Greek noun σπάθη (spathe) "blade, sword" (akin to Latin spatha "broad sword with a double edge") combined with Greek φορεω (phoreo) "to carry, to bear", which gives the surname the meaning of "he who carries the sword" or "sword-bearer". Apparently, this refers to the fact that the first bearer of the surname had been granted the honour of being allowed to carry a (drawn) sword before the (Byzantine) Emperor. Whether that is indeed the case or not, it is clear from the meaning that the surname had first started out as a nickname.

In 1459 - roughly 400 years after the family had first set foot on Sicily - a member of the family (one Federico Spadafora) conquered some territory on the island. Nearly three centuries later, in 1737, his relative Gualtiero (or Gualtieri) Spadafora founded a village in that territory and named it after himself. It still exists to this day and is located in the Sicilian province of Messina. The village is known as Spadafora in Italian, but it is still known as Spatafora in Sicilian. As a result, Spatafora can also be a locational surname, in that it is possible that some people who had been born in Spatafora or who had simply ended up living there for most of their lives, ultimately decided to adopt the name of their place of birth or residence as their surname. It can't have been a lot of people who did that, though, as the majority of Sicilians already had a hereditary surname by then (i.e. the 18th century). But still, as such, some modern bearers of the surname are not necessarily related to the noble family that first carried the surname: instead, they might actually be descended from people that were inhabitants of the village.

A known bearer of this surname is the Italian diplomat Marcello Spatafora (b. 1941).
Added 2/17/2016 by Lucille