(1) Italian – occupational name; derived from Italian Vassallo – meaning “vassal, feudal tenant”, derived from French Vassal and Medieval Latin vassallus, both derived from Latin vassus meaning serf, manservant. Compares to the Maltese noun wassằl meaning courier, messenger
(2) Italian – personal name; truncated form of first name Bonovassallo, on the analogy Bonaventura becomes Ventura, meaning “good tenant, efficient vassal”.
Related Italian forms: Vassalli, Basalo, Vassallu (Sardinian)
Old local forms: Vassallu, Vassald, Vassalo/i/e, Vas(s)aldu – Bartholomeo Vassaldu, c. 1417 [Militia Roster].
Origins: Originally, the name of Vassallo comes from Milan, as a river was part of their fiefdom during the 11th century until the 15th century. The Maltese branch had moved to Sicily in the 13th century and a branch moved to Malta in the 14th century.
The Vassallo family is indeed of great antiquity. It is of Franco-Salic origin but the local offshoot descended from Sicily, where it is already attested in Messina in 1182.
The surname Vassallo has roots in Spain, and is classified as being of occupational origin. It can be said that the most ancient and most interesting of surnames are those derived from the occupation of the original bearer. “Vasallo” has its roots in the Celtic word “vassallos” that came into the Italian and Castilian languages by way of the Latin “vassallus,” meaning “vassal.”
The word Vasallo, and therefore the family surname Vassallo, is defined as “he who receives benefits or honour of a Lord, such as lands, money, or the condition of Knighthood, in exchange for important services that had been given to him.”
Italian and Greek (Vassalos): from the medieval term vassallo ‘vassal’, hence a status name for a nobleman who was in the service of a king or powerful lord.
Locally it dates back at least to Aragonese times – e.g. Graziano Vassallo established his family in Malta c. 1320. Jurat Frederick de Vassallo is recorded in Gozo in 1443
The surname Vassallo prevails mainly in Liguria, especially in Imperia, and South Italy, especially in Sicily
Some distinguished Vassallos in Malta
- Vassallo Alfredo – Ophthalmologist – 19th century
- Vassallo Andrea – Architect – 21.1.1856-28.1.1928
- Vassallo Arthur – Author – 3.2.1911-25.4.1956
- Vassallo Carmel – Author – 1949
- Vassallo Carmelo OCD – Provincial – 7.4.1853-2.4.1930
- Vassallo Cesare Federico – librarian, Musician, Author – 5.3.1801-1.3.1882
- Vassallo Enrico – Professor of constitutional law – 4.10.1874-20.9.1945
- Vassallo Filippo – Librarian, Artist – 1831-1897
- Vassallo Gan Anton – Poet, historian – 5.6.1817-28.3.1868
- Vassallo Ganni – Grammarian – 25.2.1862-26.5.1937
- Vassallo Giovanni – Statesman – 16th century
- Vassallo Joseph Paul – Director of Education – 17.1.1907-22.3.1995
- Vassallo Karmenu – Poet – 18.3.1913-6.4.1987
- Vassallo Luis Adrian – Professor of medicine – 29.7.1933-28.6.1994
- Vassallo Marie Therese – Mezzo-soprano – 4.3.1949-
- Vassallo Mario – Sociologist – 5.9.1942-
- Vassallo Paolino – Composer – 24.7.1856-30.1.1923
- Vassallo Victor – Psychologist – 27.4.1902-22.10.1971