Recorded in many forms including Capitaine, Capitain, Cabiten (France), Capitan (Spain), Capitaneo, Capitano, Capitanio, Capitani (Italy), Cattaneo (Liguria), Kaptein and Kapteijn (Dutch), Kapitan (Germany and Hungary) and others, this is a surname of Roman (Latin) origins. It derives from the ancient word 'capitaneus' meaning headman or chief, from 'caput' meaning head. The Dictionary of Italian surnames suggests that the surname was originally connected with orders of chivalry in Ancient Rome. Certainly in Medieval times between the 11th and the 18th century, it is known that in Italy a podesta or mayor, would also take upon himself the title or rank of 'Capitano' if he was required to lead a military force in some way. Although the word is now associated with captaining a ship, and is only a junior rank in most armies, it would seem that in past times it had much greater importance, being the leading rank. Various coats of arms have been granted over the centuries. A good example being that to the Capitaneo's of Naples. This has the blazon of a gold shield, charged with a barre of six in blue. Early examples of the surname recording taken at random include in Spain Pedro Capitan who married Manuela de la Cruz at Santa Maria Tudela, Navarra, on April 2nd 1755, and in Italy where registers are very poor in content and often non existent, we have that of Giacomo Capitano who married Maria Teresa Ardemagni at Vignate, Milano, on September 6th 1815.
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