Recorded in many forms including Sapir, Saphir, Saphire, Saphyr, Schapera, Shapera, Shapero, Shapiro, Spier, and Spire, this is a surname of English, German, and Askenasic origins, of which there are at least three. However it has to said that there is no wholly safisfactory explanation for the origins of all the spellings. The first possible origin is locational from the German town of Speyer in Bavaria, a name which is supposed to describe a river lock or weir. From this region the original coat of arms has the blazon of silver field, charged with a red fesse or sword belt, and in chief a crescent. This would suggest that the holder was a Knight Templar or crusader who achieved victory over the Muslim Turks. The second possible exlanation is that the name derives from the Hebrew word 'sapir' meaning a sapphire jewel, and hence is an ornamental name perhaps for a jeweller, whilst in England it could be from either of the above or even from the word 'spir' meaning a spike or tower. What is certain is that the name is a very early entry onto the surnames list with Heinrich Saphir being recorded in Koln (Cologne) in the year 1172. In England whilst Spire is a very early recording, that of Shapiro is Victorian with Francis Shapiro, the son of A. W. Shapiro being baptised in London in 1878. Surnames became necessary when governments introduced personal taxation. In England this was sometimes known as the 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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