Recorded as Gile, Gilles, Gilli, Gillio, and patronymics such as Gillani, Gillinis, Gillino, and possibly others, this is apparently a surname of Italian origins. According to a dictionary of Italian Surnames, this name is believed to be from one of a group of ornamental surnames, that derive their origin from the name of a flower. In this case we believe that it may be from 'gilia,' one of many words for a lily. As to why people were given such names is uncertain, although it may be occupational for a specialist gardener, one who grew herbs. Surprisingly given that Italy is often regarded as the font of modern civilisation, it was only in 1860, and nearly fifteen hundred years after the final fall of the Roman Empire in about 550 a.d. that the country again became a nation-state. During that long period which included the development of hereditary surnames, Italy itself was divided into at least twelve statelets, all of whom developed their own idiosyncratic language and adminstration, or often lack of it. Surnames as a result developed haphazardly, and particularly so in that they were not 'locked' in their spelling as applies in all other European countries. Successive generations often took to changing the spelling at will, to the point that a name could ultimately contain only one original letter! Not surprisingly this makes for difficult research compounded by a serious lack of written or surviving registers before 1900. We have found a few early recordings which include Petrus Gilly at Torino, on August 7th 1677, and Jacobus Gillino at Ormea, Cuneo, on May 2nd 1744.

Surnames reference. 2013.

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