This very interesting medieval Mediterranean surname has a confused origin. Like the personal name and subsequent surname Jacob, it has its origins in the Hebrew given name "Yaakov". This was Latinized first as "Jacobus", and then in the period known as "The Dark Ages" upto the 11th century a.d., as "Jacomus". The actual meaning of the name is a matter for some dispute. Traditionally the name (as Jacob) is interpreted as coming from the word "akev", meaning a heel, but has also been interpreted as "he who supplanted".Both of these meanings are influenced by the biblical story of Esau and his twin brother Jacob. Jacob is said to have been born holding on to Esau's heel, and took advantage of Esau's hunger to persuade him to part with his birthright "for a mess of pottage". For a name with such improbable origins, it has proved to be a great success story, there being over seventy different spellings of the surname. These range from James, Jayume, and Jamie, to Giacomo, Cominetto, Mizzi, Motto, and Gimson! The personal name was widely used throughout Europe from the earliest times, whilst the hereditary surname is one of the first ever recorded anywhere in the world. The first recordings are to be found in England, because England was the first country to adopt both hereditary surnames and public registers and charters. Examples from these early charters include Walter James of Gloucestershire in the year 1187, and Christiana Jemes of Cambridge, in the charters known as "The Hundred Rolls" in 1279. The surname variant was also recorded in the (former) British protectorate of Malta in 1733, when Rosa Mizzi married Pasquale Formosa at Zurrieq, on October 10th of that year.
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