This ancient surname is recorded in some forty spelling forms. These range from Epine, Lepine, Delepine, (French) to Espinas and Espinoza (Spanish) and Spinelli (Italian). The surname is usually recorded in most dictionaries of surnames as being of early French origins, but is not so. It is more correctly Roman (Latin), and derives its origin from the pre Christian word 'spina', a description for a person who lived either by a prominent thorn bush, or more probably a defensive area protected by thorn bushes, or on the ridge or spine of a hill. As a late medieval surname, it was also applied as a nickname to a "difficult" person, one of "prickly" character! It has also been suggested that in some cases the surname was originally a nickname for "a spy". If this is so, the derivation would have been from the French word "espionier", but this is not proven. Early examples of the surname recording include Claude Espinoy, in Paris, in 1638, Michelle Lespine, who married Pierre Fiquet at Rumigny, Ardenne, in 1632; and Jean Epinet, of Bard, Loire, in 1689. Further recordings are those of Maria de Espinoza at San Miguel Arcangel, Mexico on February 5th 1696 and Rueda Espinosa at San Juan Bautistia, Coyoacan, Mexico, on August 20th 1775. The coat of arms has the blazon of a silver field, charged with a red fesse, and overall a black lion rampant. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Louis Delespine, which was dated August 1st 1545, at the Church of St. Florentine, at Amboise, France, during the reign of King Francis 1 of France, and of the House of Valois, 1515 - 1547. Surnames became necessary when governments introduced personal taxation. In England this was known as Poll Tax. Throughout the centuries, surnames in every country have continued to "develop" often leading to astonishing variants of the original spelling.
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