Etymology of Last Names

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The Etymology of Last Names


SurNames


The History of Last Names

Surnames A-Z
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Surname History

When communities consisted of just a few people, surnames -- last names/family names -- weren't important. As each town acquired more and more Johns and Marys, the need was established for a way to identify each from the other. The Romans had begun the practice of using "given-name + clan-name + family-name" about 300 B.C. In the English-speaking part of the world, the exact date that surnames began to be adopted can't be pinpointed. The Domesday Book compiled by William the Conquerer required surnames, but hereditary surnames are not considered to have been commonplace until the late 1200's.

William Camden wrote in Remaines of a Greater Worke Concerning Britaine: (1586)

About the yeare of our Lord 1000...surnames began to be taken up in France, and in England about the time of the Conquest, or else a very little before, under King Edward the Confessor, who was all Frenchified...but the French and wee termed them Surnames, not because they are the names of the sire, or the father, but because they are super added to Christian names as the Spanish called them Renombres, as Renames.

Some surnames refer to occupations (Carpenter, Taylor, Brewer, Mason), a practice that was commonplace by the end of the 14th century. Places of residence were also commonly used (Hill, Brook, Forrest, Dale) as a basis for the surname, for reasons that can be easily understood. Less apparent is the rationale behind the adoption of animal references (Wolfe, Fish, Byrd, Katt), although it may have been to identify a similar trait in the bearer of the name (John Fox might have been sly). Relations of those with royal rank often adopted the title as a surname (King, Abbott, Steward, Prince) and colors (Brown, Black, White, Gray) were adopted for less obvious reasoning.

Physical features that were prominent when surnames began to be adopted were also borrowed as an identifier (Long, Short, Beardsly, Stout) as were dispositions of the bearers (Gay, Moody, Sterne, Wise). Sometimes the name told its own story (Lackland, Freeholder, Goodpasture, Upthegrove) and sometimes they might have been selected to elicit envy or sympathy (Rich, Poor, Wise, Armstrong).

Patronymic

names are those that identify the father and various cultures did so by different means. The Scandinavians added "son" to identify John's son or Erik's son. The Norman-French used the prefix "Fitz" to mean child of, as in Fitzpatrick, for child of Patrick. Many other cultures had their own prefixes to indicate of the father('s name) , including the Scots ('Mac'Donald), Irish ('O'Brien), Dutch ('Van'Buren), the French ('de'Gaulle), Germans ('Von'berger) Spanish/Italian ('Di'Tello) and the Arab-speaking nations ('ibn'-Saud). Sometimes the prefixes were attached to places rather than the father's name, such as traditional family land holdings or estates.

When surnames were being adopted, many were the result of nicknames that were given by friends, relatives, or others. Some nicknames were extremely unflattering -- to the point of vulgarity -- but most of those have vanished, having been changed by descendants through spelling changes or simply by changing names after emigrating.

Some names were simply acquired when those without a surname acquired a need to have one. A lady-in-waiting for royalty might have had no traditional surname, but would require one if no longer in the service of royalty. In times of political turmoil, a deposed ruler might require a smaller staff, and long-time servants would find themselves among commoners -- and suddenly in need of a surname. Names were sometimes invented as combinations of other words.

The Chinese were the first to adopt surnames to honor their forebears, with the family name placed first, rather than last. Thus, the family name of Sun Yat-sen is Sun.



Surnames A-Z

 


A

 


Abbott: English Occupational name for the man who lived in the house of the Abbott, or sometimes as a nickname for the sanctimonious person. Requested by Darryl Rogers

Alexander: is a name common throughout the early British Isles taken from the English given name Alexander, which means "defender of men."

Alarcon: is a Spanish Place name derived from Alarcon in Cuenca and Cordoba.

Alarid: may be a version of the name Alard (Alar-i-d) which is a Patronymic name derived from the given name Adelard. From Old English adal=noble + hard=hardy. Another variation of the name is spelled Allard. Requested by Inez Alarid.

Allard/Alard/Allert: English Patronymic Name...from the old name Adelard. It's components are adal = hardy + hard. Allart and Allert are variations of the name.

Allender: English/Scottish patronymic name, from the Celtic name of antiquity – Alan, from Ailin = rock and sometimes derived from Allen as the name of a town or settlement. Requested by Rick Allender

Anderson: is the ninth most common surname in America, and owes that position to the popularity of the name Andrew in England, Scotland, and Scandinavian countries. Andrew (man) was the first of the disciples called by Jesus, and was a revered name due to its church influences through medieval times. St. Andrew is the patron saint of both Scotland and Russia and many given names were chosen to honor the saint. Patronymic surnames are names used to describe a man by using his father's name. In Norway the name takes the form Andresen, Anders, and Enders; the Swedes in American eliminated the extra -S- they normally include to become Anderson. It was Andersson and Anderssen before they emigrated. The French form is Andre, with an accent mark above the ending letter. Andrews is largly found in Scotland, along with McAndrew -- the prefix Mc being another patronymic designation -- which is also found in Ireland. In Italy, the name is D'Andrea, in Poland it is Andrzejewski, in the Ukraine it is Andrijenko, and in Czechoslovakia, Andrew takes the form of Ondrus. Requested by Karla Anderson.

Appel/Appelbaum: The German Place names Appel and Applebaum/Appelbaum described the man who lived by the apple tree, and Appelt is a likely variation.

Arnold/Arnatt/Arnett: English Patronymic Name...Arnett is a variation of Arnatt, which is derived from Arnold, a Norman given name. The Norman arn = eagle + weld = rule combined to form Arnold.

Ashmore: is an English Place name that was derived from the Old English oesc = ash + mor = marsh...for a literal translation of ash-marsh. The man who lived near there often acquired that as his surname. Requested by Andy Ashmore.

Atkins is a Patronymic name, derived from the early given name Adam (Hebrew adama = red earth or man), originating in England, France, Catalan, Italy, Germany, and Poland, as well as the Ashkenazic Jewish, Dutch and Flemish. Diminutive forms of Adam are Adkin, Atkin, Aitkin, Adnett, Adnitt, and Ade. Italian variants are Adami, Dami; Polish and Jewish versions include Adamski. The Hugarian cognate is Adam, in Provencal it is Azam, in Spain, Adan.

Atnip: English Place Name...The Medieval English said atten to mean "at the" creating names like ATWOOD meaning "at-the-woods." The Old English word heope (pronounced like hip) meant "rose-hip." Atten+heope or "at-the-roses" can easily be anglicized as Atnip. Requested by: Earl Atnip

Austin is an English Patronymic name, derived from the given name Aoustin introduced into England by the Normans. Requested by Laura Cohn.

Ayers is a patronymic version of the surname Ayer, an English Nickname for the man who was well known to be the heir to a title or fortune, from the Middle English word eir, eyr = heir. Variants include Ayr, Ayre, Eyer, Eyre, Hayer, Heyer, among others.


 

B

 




Bailey is an English occupational name for a steward or official, from the Middle English bailli = carrier, porter. In Scotland, the bailli is the magistrate and bailiff is a form that has evolved elsewhere. Occasionally, the name is derived as an English Place name from a Middle English word derived from Old French baille = enclosure. In this form it originally meant the person living by the outer wall of the castle, but Old Bailey, a place in Lancashire which formed part of the outer wall of some medieval castle, also became the origin for surname for people from that location. There are numerous variations in many countries, including Baillie (Scotland), Bayless, Bailess, Lebailly (French), Bally (Swiss), Baglione (Italian), and Bailloux (Provencal).

Baker: As you might suspect, this name originated in the occupation of a medieval townsman, where many of the most frequently found surnames were derived. Baker is the 7th most frequently found occupational surname in America.

Baldwin is an English Patronymic name from the given name comprised of the Germanic elements bald = bold, brave + wine = friend. Baldwin was an extremely popular given name among the Normans and in Flanders during the Middle Ages. The first Christian king of Jerusalem was Baldwin, as was the count of Flanders who lead the Fourth Crusade and became the first Latin Emperor of Constantinople in 1204. Occasionally, Baldwin is an Irish surname adopted by bearers of the Gaelic name O'Maolagain, as a result of an association with an English term meaning bald, as a nickname. Congnative forms of the English version are Baudouin (French); Baldovino, Balduini, Baldoin (Italian); Valdovinos (Spanish); and Baldewin, Ballwein, Bollwahn, and Bollwagen (German).

Ballard: Many times nicknames that had become attached to people, stuck as their surname. Some were cruel, some weren't too bad. Those that had particularly cruel names either changed the spelling or changed their names altogether. Ballard is the nickname that the English sometimes gave to those whose head were short in the hair department. Bald, Balch, and Ballard are typical English Nicknames for that description.

Barna/Barner: Hungarian Patronymic name from the given name Barnaby, who was St. Paul's companion and a fairly common early given name.

Barnes: English Place Name, from Barnes (in Surry or Aberdeenshire) so named because of the barns that were located there. There were also Barnes families who were known by the name of their father (English Patronymic Name) who was called Barn, a pet form of Barnabas -- a name not used much these days that means 'son of prophesy or consolation.' Some Barnes families are descended from Beorn, a given name that meant 'nobleman' and still others had a patronymic designation from Bairn, a name often given to a young child of a prominent family.

Barrington: English Place name, from several locations by that name, the one in Gloucester derived from Old English Beorningtun (settlement of Beorn), the Somerset location derived from Bara's Settlement. Occasionally Barrington is an Anglicized form of O'Bearain , descendant of Bearan (spear).

Barron: English Nickname that called attention to noble birth or exalted rank.

Bass/Basso: English/Italian Nickname...Surnames were often taken from nicknames given to the progenitor of a family -- in the case of Bass, the English used the word as a nickname for a small or thin person, along with Block, Grubb, Littell, Short, Smalley, etc. In Italy, the same nickname is Basso. Requested by: Pamela Childs

Bauer is a German status name for a peasant or a nickname for the "neighbor, fellow citizen," with variants Baumann, Gebuhr, Pauer, among others.

Beard was a fairly common English Nickname, for the man who wore a beard, and a number of surnames were derived from it. The suffix -den or -don is from an Old English element for dune, or hill. Bearden in that context would be "Beard's Hill" a fairly good description for a medieval location, from which many surnames drew their meaning.

Beattie/Beaty/Beatty/Beatie/Beatey: Scottish/Northern Irish Patronymic name...derived from the name Bartholomew. Bate was a pet form of that given name, and sons of Bate might be known as Beattie, Beatty, or Beatey.

Beck/Beckman/Bachman: German Place Name...There were many names for the 'one who dwells by the stream' and in Germany they included Beck/Beckman/Bachman. Requested by: David Verdoorn

Beebe: English Occupational name for the man who lived near the bee farm or apiary.

Bekker is a variation of the German Occupational name Becher, the occupation of the man who created wooden vessels such as cups, mugs, and pitchers. It is derived from Middle High German becher, from Greek bikos = pot, pitcher. Occasionally it referred to the German man who worked with pitch, a substance used in waterproofing such items; and also, Becher originates sometimes as a Jewish name of uncertain origin or an English Place name as a variant of Beech.

Bennett/Bennet: English Patronymic name from the name Bennet, which means 'blessed' – a popular name during the middle ages. It has variations in several languages, and spellings. American singer Tony Bennett uses two versions -- his artworks are signed Anthony Benedetto, his name before being American-ized. Requested by Bevan Bennett. He was `blessed' – Bennet – with a great voice!

Bentley: is an English Place name that is a combined form of the Old English word leah, which meant 'clearing in the woods.' The bent-leah was the 'clearing in the woods with the bent grass,' and Bentley was the man who lived there.

Benz/Benzer: In early times when advertising was in its infancy, (before television and the proliferation of literacy -- and the subsequent decline due to the aforementioned...) innkeepers had pictures placed on their hanging outdoor signs for identification. The bear was one of the popular depictions. Benz is a German place name derived from the place of the 'bear sign' with Benzer as a derivative.

Bettencourt: French Place name to describe someone from Bettencourt, France. There are several spelling variations of the place name. Bettencourt was originally or Germanic origin; Betto's court, with Betto a variant of the personal name Bert with the suffix court, which means farmyard. It is prevalent in Portugal where it was first recorded in the 1300's.

Biedenweg, an unusual German place name, means "by the way" as a location of where someone lived -- 'way' meaning course or path. An Old Middle German given name was Budde, which evolved into several surnames. Budde's Way, or the path to Budde's settlement or enclosure, might have been taken as a surname for someone who lived along that trail -- as Buddeweg or Budweg.

Billings: English Place name for the man who was one of "Billa's people" or who is from Billinge (which is derived from an Old English term for sword) in Lancashire.

Bixby is an English place name from "Bekki's homestead" in Lincolnshire.

Blackburn: Scottish Patronymic/Place name...Blackburn is somewhat of an oddity in that many Scottish families with the name originated from the town of Blackburn, which was named for an original settler. He likely got the name because of where he formerly lived -- black-burn being the reference to a 'dark stream.'

Blain: is a Scottish Patronymic name derived from Blane, or Blaan -- given names that honored St. Blane, a Scottish Saint.

Blalock and Blaylock are English Nicknames for the man who had the black hair, or the Bla'ck locks.

Blauer: is a Bavarian nickname for one who is associated with the color blue...either by wearing blue clothes, or blue eyes -- or sometimes having a pale complexion.

Blount/Blunt: English descriptive name...derived from the Old French word blund -- which meant 'blond, or yellow-haired.'

Boeuf is a French Nickname for a powerfully built man, from the Old French boeuf = bull. Variants are Leboeuf, Boey, and Boez. Cognates are Boff, Leboff (England), La Bau, Boe, Boi, Lo Voi (Italian), and others.

Bohm: and its variants are German Nicknames derived from the terms used to identify a person from Bohemia. From Old German Baii + heim=home. Variations include Bahem, Boehme, and Boehm, among others.

Booth is an English Place name for the man who lived in a small hut or bothy from the Middle English word bothe, and usually designated a cowman or shepherd. It has Scandinavian origins and denoted the various kinds of temporary shelter, and is more common in Northern England and Scotland. Variations include Boothe, Boothman, Boden, Bodin.

Bowen: is a Welsh Patronymic name from the given name Owen. In early times, when they said "son of" they said it ap or ab. For example, William ap'John, was William the-son-of John. In the case of Owen, it was William ap'Owen -- which when said the least bit quickly, immediately becomes, William Bowen. Occasionally, Bowen is an Anglicized form of the Gaelic O'Buadhachain (descendant of Buadachain).

Bower: English Place name for the person who lived in a small cottage or occasionally, an occupational name for the house servant, derived from Old English bur = cottage, inner room. Variants include Bowers, Bour, Bowerer, Boorer, Bowering, and others. Dutch versions include Van Buren, Van Buuren, and Van den Bueren.

Bowman is a name that is quite literal; it's the English Occupational name for the archer, from Old English boga = bow + mann = man, although occasionally it is an Anglicized form of the German and Dutch surname Baumann -- consult your heritage for the correct version. Variants of Bowman are Boman, and Beauman. The cognate form in Dutch and Flemish is Boogman.

Bradford: English Place Name...Settlers near a crossing point on a watercourse often adopted 'ford' as their surname. A wide crossing was a 'broad-ford' and those living there - Bradford. Incidentally, Bradford was one of the 50 surnames of people arriving on the Mayflower in 1620. Requested by: Glenn Bradford

Brake: English place name -- which derived from the way they described bushes or a thicket in medieval times. The person who lived by the 'bracken' thicket or bushes sometimes acquired the surname Brake.

Bredon, Breden, Breedon of English origin. It is derived from places (in Leicestershire and Worcestershire) that are comprised of the Old English elements bre=hill + dun=low hill.

Brett is the ethnic name for a Breton, from the Old French word bret. The Bretons were Celtic-speaking folks who were driven from SW England to NW France in the 6th century by the Anglo-Saxon invaders. Some returned in the 11th century with William the Conqueror. As an English surname it is most commonly found in E. Anglia where many Bretons settled after the Conquest. Variations are Britt, Breton, Bretton, Brittain, Bret, Lebret, Breton, Bretonnier, Bretegnier, Bretagne, and Bretange. There are numerous cognative versions as well. Requested by Judy Brett.

Briggs: A North English and Scottish variant of Bridge, derived from the Old Norse bryggja. Bridge is an English Place name for the man who lived near a bridge, or an English Occupational name for the keeper of the bridge. Building and maintaining bridges was one of three main feudal occupations, the cost of which was occasionally offset by a toll charged to cross, and the keeper of the toll often acquired the surname. Variations are Bridges, Brigg, Briggs, Burge, Bridger, Bridgeman, Brigman. German cognitives include: Bruckmann, Bruckman, Bruck, Bruckner, Bruckner, Pruckner (Austria), Brugge, Brugger, Anderbrugge, Toderbrugge, Terbruggen (at the bridge). Van Bruggen is Flemish, and Van der Brug is Dutch. Other versions exist in additional countries.

Bronowitz/Bronisz: Polish Patronymic Name... owitz and owicz are typical patronymic endings applied to a given name in several languages of Slavic origin. Bronowitz would be the 'son of Bron.' Bron, by the way, meant 'defender.' The surname Bronisz is taken directly from that given name. Requested by: Paul Pruitt

Brown: is one of the more common surnames, as you might expect. Among the light-skinned English anyone with a darker complexion, brown hair, tendancy toward brown clothing, etc. were often described that way, and it stuck as a surname. There are a number of derivatives in many countries.

Bruno: Brown is one of the more common surnames - it is the most common of the surnames derived from nicknames. Bruno is the form the name takes in Italy and occasionally in Germany.

Buhl is a German nickname for a relative of an important man, who is not the head of the household, from Middle High German buole=kinsman. It is also occasionally known as a nickname for a lover, in the same context the word "paramour" is used.

Bulmer is an English Place name from a place in Essex that was recorded in the Domesday Book as Bulenemera. It is derived from the Old English elements bulena (the plural of bula = bull) + mere = lake, for a literal meaning of 'lake of the bulls.'

Burckhardt/Borrows/Burg/Burge/Burks/Burr/Burris: German Place Name...The principal surnames that refer to a fortified castle, an imposing structure, or the peasant who lived nearby were Borrows, Burg, Burge, Burks, Burr, and Burris -- which all came from the Old English word burg which meant fort. Borg is generally the designation used in Sweden, Norway, and Germany. Burckhardt was an especially well fortified castle in Germany at the time surnames were being adopted.

Burgess: English Descriptive Name...taken by men of free birth, but not noble birth, who held substantial land for which they paid very little rent, and had no obligation to render services to the lord or king. Franklin and Freeman were names originating under the same circumstances.

Burlingame/Burling/Burlingham: Burling and Burlingame are corruptions of Burlingham, which was the 'settlement of Baerla's people,' and an English Place name.

Burney: English Place name from Bernay , Normandy which had its name originations in the Gaulish given name Brenno, or from Berney in Norfolk (recorded in the Domesday Book as Ralph de Bernai , a Norman who received land grants there). Occasionally, Burney is an Anglicized form of the given name Biorna , a Gaelic version of the Old Norse Bjarni (bearcub, warrior). Variations are Berney, Burnie, McBurney, MCBirney, and Mac Biorna.

Burnham: an English Place name from various locations; Burnham Beeches in Buckinghamshire, various villages in Norfolk, and Burnham-on-Crouch in Essex. The name Burnham is derived from Old English burna = stream + ham = homestead. A man from one of the Burnham settlements might have that name as his identifying surname.

Burns: English Place name. The man who lived in the lone cottage by the small stream was called Burn, or Burns. The -S- was often added to names as an aid to pronunciation. Other names with the same origin are Brooke, Bourne, Beck, and Beckett. Requested by Ian Worthington.

Burnstein: German/Jewish Acquired name...Many German-Jewish names were simply the result of a desire for something pleasant-sounding when Jews in Europe were obliged to take surnames in the early 1800's. Those who picked such names usually were compelled to pay a hefty tariff to the government officials for the privilege -- Amber (burnstein) is a color with positive connotations and it also served as a descriptive name for some early day settlements, which may have been located in an area noted by that color. Elsdon C. Smith, in his work American Surnames, suggests that Bernstein was generally adopted because of its pleasing sound.

Burris: The medieval castle was an imposing structure and was often used as a reference point for those who lived nearby. The English word burg meant fort, and the principal names describing the English man who lived near one were: Burg, Burge, Borrows, Burks, Burr, Burris. It's an English Place name. Requested by Beverly Burris Daniels

Butler is an English and Irish Occupational name for the wine steward, who was the chief servant of a medieval household, from Anglo-Norman French butuiller = bottle. In the households of nobility, the title denoted an officer of rank and responsibility.


 

C

 



Cain: English nickname, derived from the Middle English word cane = reed or cane, and described the tall, thin man.

Callicott: is a variation of Caldicott, an English Place name from any number of settlements originally spelled Caldecote, from Old English ceald = cold + cot = cottage or dwelling. Some suggest the name was in reference to unattended shelters for travelers, although in the Domesday Book (1086) many of these places had achieved some status. Variants are Caldicot, Caldecott, Caldecourt, Callicot, Callcott, Calcut, Caulcutt, Caulkett, Cawcutt, Corcut, Corkett, Corkitt, Coldicott, Coliccot, Collacott, Collecott, Collicutt, Colcott, Colcutt, Colkett, Clocott, Chaldcot, and Chalcot.

Camden: English Place name derived from the Old English elements campas = enclosure + denu = valley. Cambden is a variation.

Camp: is an English Place name that along with Field, Prindle, and Viles were references to the man whose home was the house in the open field (as opposed to the forest or some other recognizable feature). Requested by Tammy Miller.

Carberry: Scottish Place name in the parish of Inveresk, Lothian which was first recorded as Crebarrin.

Carlisle is an English Place name for the town in Cumberland derived from the British ker =fort + Romano-British settlement named Luguvalium. How kerLuguvalium becomes Carlisle is yet another story. Variations of this name include Carlyle, Carlile, and Carlill.

Carpenter: At the time surnames were adopted, the average man built his own cottage and did not require the skill of the Carpenter, who usually was hired by those who were of some means, and required products only a craftsman could provide. It's an English Occupational name. Requested by Dan Carpenter.

Carr: was a term used in old Scotland to describe 'low, wet ground' and the person who lived by that area was often identified by it. Carson is a Scottish Place name that describes the man who lived by the carr -- the low, wet ground.

Carrera: French Place Name from the Latin carraria = cart. It was the name used to refer to the man who `lived on the vehicle road' or busy thoroughfare where many carts traveled. Requested by Larry Hatfield.

Carpinito: Spanish/Italian surnames are notorious for the number of spelling variants and pet forms. Carpineto is an Italian version of a French Place name for the dweller by a conspicuous 'witch elm' tree, or near a group of such trees, from Old French charme, derived from the Latin carpinus. Variants include Charmes, Charne, Carne, Decharme, Duecharme, Ducharne, and cognizant forms in addition to Carpinito/Carpineto (which are diminutive forms) are: Carpe, Ducarpe (Provencal), Carp, Carpin, Carpini, Carpino, Carpine, Carpene, and Carpano, among others (Italian).

Carter is an English Occupational name for the transporter of goods by cart or wagon from Anglo-Norman French caretier, a derivative of Old French caret which originally implied 'carrier.' Occasionally it is a form of McArthur. Variants include Charter and cognates include Carreter, Carretier, Cartier, Charretier, Chartier, Chareter, Charater, Carratier, Carratie and Carretero.

Cartwright: is an English Occupational name. One of the primary specialized crafts along with CARPENTER was that of the Cartwright, who fashioned the wheeled carts that traversed the early roads. Requested by Fred Hensley

Cash: is an English Place name that was given to the man who lived near the Cash -- or oak -- tree. Requested by William Hopkins.

Caswell: English Place name that identified the man who lived near a spring or stream. In his case the water was identified by the watercress nearby: Ole English cressa -- Cressawell, which evolved into Caswell.

Cates is an English Patronymic name from the Old Norse nickname Kati, which meant 'boy' and speculation that it was derived from the nickname Kate (from Catherine) should be tempered with the knowledge that the Kate nickname wasn't used for Catherine until after the Middle Ages, when Cates was already established as a surname.

Chamberlin: is a variation of Chamberlain, an English Occupational name that originally was the job held by the one who was in charge of the private chambers of the master of the house, and later was a title of high rank. Variations include Chamberlaine, Chamberlayne, Chamberlen, and Champerlen.

Chandler: The Chandler worked with wax, and in addition to making candles, he fashioned wax objects or icons that were used in church offerings. Chandler is an English Occupational name. Requested by Gloria Markus.

Clayton: is an English Place name that incorporates the most common ending found among English names -ton. In Old English, tun was the word for town, and it was used with other descriptions to pinpoint settlements. Clayton, or Clay-town, was the settlement on the soil of clay. Requested by Andrew Clayton

Clifton is an English Place name, as determined by the suffix -ton- which originated in the Old English term tun meaning "settlement" or "enclosure." The Old English word clif meant "slope" which makes Clifton a "settlement on the slope," and a man who lived there might be described that way. There are towns all through England by the name of Clifton.

Cobb: English Patronymic name that is derived from Jacob 'the supplanter' or 'may God protect' (depending on whom is asked...) Cobb is a pet form of the name Jacob. Requested by William Hopkins.

Coggins :Irish/Welsh place name derived from a spot near Cardiff, which is a Welsh word for bowl, and likely described the terrain at the time. Requested by Kathy Hooten Gorodetzer

Coghill is a Scottish version of the Danish name Kogel for the maker of hoods, or someone who wore one regularly.

Collard is derived in a round-about way from the given name Nicholas. In several European languages where the accent tends toward the second syllable in Ni-chol-as, the first syllable is eventually lost due to lazy pronunciation. It's called aphetic loss, for example, when the word esquire becomes squire over time. Collard was derived as a pejorative form of Coll. Other variations are Colle (French), Cola and Colao (Italian), Colle (Dutch), Col and Colla (Flemish).

Colley/Coley/Collie: English Nickname from W. Midlands derived from the Old English word colig which meant `dark' and was sometimes used to describe a swarthy or darker skinned man. Requested by Larry Hatfield

Collins/Cole/Coles: English Patronymic Name...Nicholas was an extremely popular name in early times -- in the 4th century, Nicholas was the patron saint of children. Many names were derived from Nicholas, such as Nichols, Nickles, Nickleson, McNichols. Collins derived from the ending of Nicholas.

Conway: Welsh Place Name from Conwy, a town in N. Wales named for the Conwy River, which was named from an Old Brit term that meant `reedy.' It is also sometimes derived from the Scottish place Conway in Beauly Parish and was recorded in 1215 as Coneway. Conway when descended from Ireland usually an Anglicized version of Mac Commidhe, a name which meant `head smashing.'

Coomer/Coomber: English Place Name...Coomer is a variation of Coomber from the Old English cumb which was a short, straight, valley. Requested by Nancy Kincaid

Coop: There are several variations of Coop, the English Occupational name that describes the maker of wooden barrels. Cupp, Coope, and Cooper are the most common.

Cooper is the primary spelling of the English version of the Occupational surname for the barrelmaker or repairer of wooden vessals. The widespread adoption of this surname is testimony to the fact that the cooper was one of the valued specialist trades in the Middle Ages all through Europe. English variants include Copper, Coupar, Cupper, Kooper, Coope, Coupe, and Cooperman (among others --always) and cognates are Kiefer (German), Kupper (Low German), Kupker (Frisian), De Cuyper, Cuyp (Flemish), Kuijper, Kuiper, Kuijpers, Kuypers, Cuijpers, Cuypers (Dutch).

Colson/Coulson/Collson: English Patronymic Name...Coulson originates from a very popular Middle Ages given name - Nicholas. Cole was a pet form of Nicholas used in England (primarily) and Coulson is a Scottish/Irish variation on a pet form of Nicholas. Requested by Kylie Lacey

Copeland: originates in Cumberland county England and cope-land is "bought land," a way that the man living there was referenced in early times.

Corder: is an English Occupational name for the maker of string, and occasionally as a nickname for the maker of ties.

Cotter: English Occupational name from Middle English cotter a status term during the feudal times which described the tenant farmer or serf who planted only five to ten acres and lived in a cottage on the farm and payed for his place by service rather than rent. There are several variations for the name of this modest farmer, including Cottier, Cotman, Kotter, Kother, Kotter, Kother, Kather, Cotterel, Cotterell, Cottrell, Cotterill, Cothererill, Cotterel, Cottereau, and Cottarel.

Cottle: English Occupational name which described the tenant farmer or serf who planted only five to ten acres and lived in a cottage on the farm. There are several variations for the name of this modest farmer.

Cotton: Cotton originated from the village naysayer, who always said "I don't COTTON to that idea!" Just kidding. It also doesn't have anything to do with the fluffy white stuff. Cot was a shortened form of cottage, and was used as the ending of many English surnames such as Wolcott, etc. and in a diminutive form with the suffix -on the English Place name Cotton was derived. The man who came to be known by that name lived near the small cottage, or at the cottages. Requested by James Cotton.

Couldridge: Just as the name 'Colegate' designates a 'cool gap in the mountain range,' the name Couldridge is an English Place name that designates a 'ridge of mountains where it is cold.' Spellings of names were not standardized until the 1800's and -o- and -ou- were often mixed with the same intent. Requested by Mark Couldridge.

Coupar, when not a variant of Cooper, is a Scottish Place name from Cupar in Fife, likely of Pictish origin, with an unknown meaning. There are also locations Cuper Angus, and Cupar Maculty, but no known surnames are derived from these. The first known bearer of the place name in Scotland was Solomone de Cupir, who was a witness to a charter in 1245.

Cowell: English Place Name...In Merry Old England they stayed out 'til the cu's came home, and pastured the milque cu on the hyll. Cu-hyll -- or cowhill -- was a reference to the places in Lancashire and Gloucester where cattle grazed on hillsides. Some people from that area took it as a surname. Requested by: Norma Cowell

Craddock/Cradduck: Welsh nickname from the Old Welsh term caradog, which meant `amiable.'

Craft: is a variant of Croft, an English Place name for the man who lived by an arable enclosure, normally adjoining a house. It is derived from Old English croft , with variations Crofts, Craft(s), Cruft(s), and Crofter. Occasionally it is a place name from Crofts in Leicestershire, which got its name from the Old English croeft = craft or skill, and likely referenced a mill located there.

Crim: English Place Name...Those who took the name Crim kept their dwelling near a small pond or pool.

Crisp: English Nickname for the man with curly hair, from an Old English term. Variations include Crispe, Chrisp, Cripps, Crippes, and others.

Cross: English Place name for the man who lived near the stone cross set up by the roadside or marketplace, from Old Norse kross. Cognitives include De(la)Croix, Croix, (French); Croux, Lacroux, Lacrouts, De(la)croux (Provencal); Croce, DellaCroce, Croci (Italian); Cruz (Spanish); Kreutzer, Kreuziger (German); Vercruysse (Flemish), Krzyzaniak (Polish), and Van der Kruijs (Dutch).

Crowell: is an English Place name from Oxfordshire and denoted the man who lived by the "crow's stream."

Crowley: is an Irish Patronymic name, and it means 'grandson of Cruadhlaoch,' whose name means 'tough hero.' Requested by Laura Cohn.

Cunningham: Scottish/ Irish Place/ Patronymic Name...Cunningham is a Scottish place name near Kilmarnock and was referenced in 1153 with the spelling Cunegan. Cunningham is a polygenetic name (it has more than one source) -- the other is the Irish patronymic name derived from O'Cuinneagain, a descendant of Cuinneagan, who fashioned his name from conn or con which was used to designate the leader or chieftain.

Curry: English place name in Somerset named for the river Curry.


 

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Daniel/Daniell/Daniels: English, French, Portuguese, German, Polish and Jewish Patronymic name, from the Hebrew given name Daniel (meaning God is my judge). Variations are too numerous to list, but will be added as queries concern them.

Darby: English Place name taken from a Middle Ages term that described "where the wild animals are" and the man who lived nearby could easily be described by that surname.

Daugherty is another Anglicized version of the Scottish and Irish Patronymic name O' Dochartaigh "descendant of Dochartach" which was a nickname meaning 'unlucky' or 'hurtful.' The most common form of the name as Anglicized from the Gaelic is Doherty. Docharty is the common Scottish variation.

Davenport: English Place Name...Many of the surnames that originated in England came from places where the progenitor lived... The name Davenport was first used in England's county Cheshire, where the Dane river flowed. Davenport was the 'town on the Dane River' and became the name of some who made their homes there. Requested by: Susan Davenport-Wagner

David/Davis/Davies: was the patron saint of Wales, and the name was popular throughout early Britain...as a result, there a many surnames derived from the given name David, including Davis, and Davies as the Welsh equivalent. Requested by Michael Stroupe.

Davies: English Patronymic name derived as a diminutive form of the given name David. Requested by Doug Strohl

Dazey: is a variant spelling of Deasy, an Irish Patronymic name from the Gaelic Deiseach, a nickname for a member of 'Dei's community.'

Dent: English Place Name...it comes from 'Dent' hill in Yorkshire, England. The first to use it as a surname lived in that area.

Dibley: is an English Patronymic name, based on a corruption of the name Theobald (folk, bold), which when said often and quickly enough, became Dibald and formed the basis for the surnames Dibble and Dibley. Requested by Fred Hensley

Dinse is a German cognate of the English surname Dennis, which is patronymic from the medieval given name Dennis, from the Latin Dionysius and the Greek Dionysios, which meant 'follower of Dionysos.' The big-D was the eastern god introduced to the classic list late in the game. St. Denis was an early martyr (3rd Century) who became the patron saint of France and the namesake of many medieval Christians. Variations are Denniss, Denis, Denness, Dinis (English); Denis, Denys (French); Dionisio, Dionis, Dionisi, Doniso, Donisi, Denisi (Italian); Denys, Dinnies, Dinse (Low German); Denys (Polish); Divis, Divina (Czech); and Denes, Dienes, Gyenes (Hungarian), among many others.

Disney: is an English Place named derived from a French place -Isigny- which was Isinius' estate in France. Many who followed William the Conqueror into England became known by the French towns from which they emigrated. Micky Mouse is said to have been from there.

Dixon/Dickson/Dickinson/Dickey/Dix/Dickens: English Patronymic Name...The love of the English for Richard the Lion-Hearted in the late 1100's caused a rash of names in his honor, in addition to three often-used nicknames that derived from Richard: Rick, Hick, and Dick. The son of a man given the latter of the nicknames was "Dick's son" which evolved into Dixon, Dickson, Dickens, Dix, and Dickinson. In colonial America, Dick's River (in Kentucky, for example) was spelled Dix as often as Dick's until it was standardized, sometimes as late as the 19th century. Requested by: Karen Dixon

Doherty is an Irish and Scottish Patronymic name from the Gaelic O'Dochartaigh, meaning 'descendant of Dochartach', whose name meant Unlucky or Hurtful. Variants are O'Doherty, O'Dougherty, Dougharty, Doghartie, Dogerty, Daugherty, Doggart, Dockert, and Docharty, among others.

Donaldson is a Scottish and Irish Patronymic name form of the surname Donald that comes from the given name Domhnall and is comprised of the Gaelic elements dubno = world + val = might, rule. Variants are Donnell, Doull, Doole, and patronymic versions include Donaldson, McDonald, McConnell, O'Donnell, O'Donill, and O'Daniel (when derived from Gaelic O'Domhnaill).

Donathan has roots in the Irish given name Donndubhan (brown Dubhan)and was Anglicized as many of the longer Irish names commonly were. They're called Patronymic when the surname is derived from the father's name.

Donovan: is an Irish Patronymic name from the Gaelic O Donndubhain, which means descendant of Donndubhan, from the roots Donn = brown + dubh = black. Requested by Alan Engebretson.

Dowd/Dowda/Duddy: Irish Patronymic Name for O'Dubhda, a common name in Kerry County, where the term dubh = dark. Requested by Jane Cowart

Driscoll/O'Driscoll: Irish name Driscoll was the one given to the man who served as an interpreter -- the prefix -O- means 'of, son of, or grandson of' -- so, O'Driscoll is the descendant of the Irish interpreter. Requested by Chantell O'Driscoll.

Drummond is a Scottish place name to describe the man who lived near the ridge, from the Gaelic druim = ridge. Gilbert de Drummyn is the earliest known bearer of the name, and signed a document as the chaplain to Alwyn, Earl of Levenax circa 1199.

Duckworth: English Place name from Duckworth in Lancashire which was derived from the Old English given name Ducca + OE word = enclosure, translating literally to Ducca's word or Ducca's Enclosure.

Duguid is a Scottish nickname for a do-gooder or a well-intentioned person, from Northern Middle English du = do + guid = good. The earliest known bearer of the name is John Dugude, who was in Perth in 1379 and went to Prussia with the King's service in 1382. It is most commonly found in the Aberdeen area.

Duke is an English nickname for someone who gave himself airs and graces, from Middle English duke (from Latin dux = leader), or an Occupational name for a servant employed in a ducal household. Occasionally, it is a surname taken as a Patronymic version of a shortened form of the given name Marmaduke, which is of Irish origin, said to be derived from 'mael Maedoc' which meant 'devotee of Maedoc' a name borne by several Irish saints. Cognates are Duc, Leduc (French); Duca, Duchi, Lo Duca (Italian); Deuque (Portuguese); and Duch (Catalan).

Dull: It depends on whether you are of Scottish descent, or English descent concerning Dull. If you are a Dull Scot, you hail from Dull (a plain) which is a village and parish in Perthshire. If your ancestors originated in England, the name is a nickname that is not as unflattering as some that wound up as surnames. Requested by Christy Dull.

Dunaway: English Place Name...which refers to one who lived 'on the road to the hill.' Requested by: Brian Dunaway

Dungen is the general spelling with an umlaht (dots) over the U, and is a German Place name as a variant of Dung, the surname given to the man who lived on a pieces of raised dry land amidst marshy surroundings. Dunk, Donk, and Dunkmann are other versions.


 

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Edwards: is an English Patronymic name from the Middle English given name Edward from the Old English eadward, derived from ead=prosperity + weard=guard.

Elliott: and its spelling variations are all based on the popular Middle Ages given name Elijah (My God is Yahveh). Among the many surnames that were adopted as English Patronymic names from Elijah were Ellis, Ellison, Elias, and Elliott. Requested by Janet Elliott.

Embery: is a variant of the surname Amery which is an English Patronymic name. The name was brought to the British Isles with the Normans, many of whom were referenced by the towns they emigrated from, or by the Norman given names of their fathers. Amery is derived from Old French amal=bravery + ric=power, and derivatives include Amory, Emery, Emary, Emberry, Embrey, and Imbrey, among others.

Erwin: and its counterparts Ervin/Irvin/Irwin are German Patronymic names from the Old German given name Eorwine which means "sea, friend." On occasion the name can be traced to Scottish roots and the places called Irvine and Irving, which meant 'green river.' If you are of Scottish descent, then the second is a strong possibility.


Fairfull/Fair/Fairchild: English Nickname....Both 'fair' and 'full' have their origins in Middle English words; full - the meaning of which has passed to us unchanged, and fere, which meant comrade, friend, or 'friendly one.' The earliest meaning of fair was beautiful, so Fairfull would be "filled with beauty" or if derived from 'fere,' - "full of friendliness." Not all nicknames that survived as surnames were as flattering! Requested by: Timothy Fairfull

Falla/Fallas is an English (by way of the Normans) place name that describes the man who hailed from Falaise in Calvados, which happens to have been the birthplace of William the Conqueror. He brought many with him, and others followed shortly after, who became known by their place of emigration.

Farquharson: Scottish Nickname from Gaelic fearchar (Celtic elements mean man+dear) to signify a beloved person. Descended from Farquhar Macintosh, a grandson of laird of Macintosh who was at Braemar before 1382.

Feingold: German Jewish names originated in the early part of the nineteenth century when European Jews were compelled to take surnames. Many chose purely ornamental names, of which Feingold is an example that means 'fine gold.'

Finn isn't always Irish, of course, but when it is -- it's derived as an Anglicized version of the Gaelic nickname Fionn, meaning 'white,' which could have denoted prematurely white hair, or fair complexion, etc. When Finn is of English origin it is derived from the Old Norse given name Finnr with the same meaning. Occasionally, the name is of Ashkenazic Jewish origin, but its exact meaning in that context isn't clear. Variations are Finne, Fynn, Phinn, McGinn, Finsen (Danish), McKynnan, Kinnan, O'Finn, O'Fionn, and many others.

Fort: English/French Place/Descriptive name...Fort is found in several countries, all deriving from an English/French term meaning strong/brave that was derived from the Latin word fortis. Some with the name were descendants of a strong/brave person -- others were those who lived at or near the fort, which was the term eventually used to describe a strong or fortified location.

Foster/Forester: In the English Middle Ages, the forests and woods were almost always owned or controlled by the lord of the manor -- but people had no reservations about sneaking in and taking firewood, game, or whatever else they might require. To keep the poaching to a minimum, the lord retained a man to watch the forest -- often called a Forester, and sometimes called a Foster. The name stuck as an English Occupation surname when they became adopted.

Fox: Although in some cases Fox refers to the nature of its originator -- as in sly as a fox, most animal names were derived from the pictures that decorated the signs at the medieval roadside inns. Literacy was an issue, most could distinguish the pictures, and the family at the sign of the Fox often took that as a surname. Requested by William Hopkins.

Fritz/Fritsch/Fritzch: German Patronymic Name...The Germans were fond of using shortened or pet versions of names when acquiring surnames. Fritz is a patronymic surname taken from a pet form of Friedrich, which means "peace, rule." Fritsch and Fritzch are versions of the given name held by a long ago ancestor.

Froman: from the Old French fromant = corn, a French occupational name for the corn merchant.

Fulton: /English/Scottish Place name, In Scotland, Fulton was the 'fowl enclosure'

Fuller: English Occupational name for the dresser of cloth. The fuller scoured and thickened cloth by trampling it in water. Related Fuller information page here.

Fullerton: English Place name...for the 'village of the birdcatchers' in Hampshire. From Old English fuglere = bird-catcher (Fowler).


 

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Gaches/Gache/Gachlin/Gachenot/Gachon: French Place/Occupational/Nickname When the name originated in Provencal, it referred to the person living by the lookout spot . In more northern areas of France, the name was the occupational title for a wood sawyer. Less frequently, the name was a nickname given to a wasteful person, derived from Old French gaschier to spoil. Requested by: Paul Carr

Garcia: Spanish Patronymic Name from the given name Garcia which means "spear, firm."

Garrison: English Place/Occupational name, derived from Middle English garite = watchtower. The garrison were troops stationed at the fort or castle, and the name could also describe one who lived near the garrison's watchtower.

Garwood: English Place Name derived from the Old English gara (triangular land) and wudu (wood). The early Garwoods were those who lived by the triangular stand of trees. Requested by: Eva Garwood

Gaunt: English Place name derived from the town of Ghent in Flanders from which skilled workers migrated to England during the Middle Ages. It was also the nickname given the thin or gaunt man.

Gay: English and French nickname for the cheerful person.

Gee: If the man named Gee didn't come from the town Gee in Cheshire, then it was a nickname he was given by his less-than-tactful associates who pointed him out by his lameness or infirmity.

Gilmore: Irish Occupational Name...In old Ireland, the words gil, kil, maol, and mul designated a follower, devotee, or servant" of someone. Those with the name Gilmore are descended from the "servant of Mary." Requested by: Wouter Sas

Glabb/Glab/Glabski: Polish Place name/Nickname, variation of Glab/Glabski, a low-lying spot or valley or a Polish Nickname for a fool (the literal meaning of glab is cabbagestalk). Better go with that first definition!

Godfrey: is an English Patronymic name from the French given name Godefrei, comprised of the Germanic elements god + fred, frid = peace. Variations are Godfray, Godfree, and Godfer. French cognatives include Godefroi, Godefroy, Godefrey, and others. German: Govert, Goffer, Goffarth. Flemish = Govaard, Godevaard, Govard.

Gold/Gould/Guild(Scottish): English Patronymic Name derived from the Old English masculine personal name from the precious metal. Requested by: Sheri McGregor

Gollaher , and the more frequently seen Gallagher, are Anglicized versions of O'Gallchobhair, which means descendant of Gallchobhar, derived from gall = Foreign, stranger + chobhar = help, support. Other variants include Gallacher, Gallaher, Gallogher, Galliker, Gilliger, O'Gallagher, and O'Galleghure.

Goode: When not referring to the man of high morals, is an English Patronymic name, taken from a shortened form of the given names Godwine, Godric, or Godmund.

Gore is a French nickname for an idle individual (don't tell Vice-President Al though!) that has versions Lagore, Gouret, Gorron, Gorin, Goury, Gorel, Goureau, Gorichon and Gorillot, among others.

Goss: Polygenetic (several sources)... It originated near the same time in England, France, Hungary, and Germany. As an English place name, it described one who lived near a moor or wood...a descendant of Goss -- a pet form of Gocelin "the just" was called by the name, as was the descendant of the Goth...The dweller at the sign of the goose was sometimes called Goss, as was the dweller at the thorns. There was a former Austrian town called Goss, and some residents took that as a surname. And if that isn't enough, Goss is also a shortened form of the Germanic element god - which means good. You can pick your favorite! Requested by Jerry Goss

Gough: English Occupational Name...of Celtic origin for the man who worked as a smith, from the Gaelic gobha or goff. It was common in E. Anglia and was introduced by the followers of William the Conqueror. It is also sometimes derived from the Welsh nickname for a red-haired man... coch = red.

Griffin: A mythical beast, half-lion and half-eagle -- that decorated signs at some of the roadside inns during the Middle Ages. Most people did not read or write at the time, but all could recognize the pictures. The man who lived at the sign of the griffin was sometime called by that name.

Griggs is a variant of the English Patronymic surname Gregory, from the same given name that was popular throughout the Christian countries during the Middle Ages. It derives from the Greek Gregorios, a variant meaning 'to be awake or watchful' but was later associated with a term that meant 'good shepherd.' Sixteen of the popes were named Gregory, starting with Gregory the Great in 540 AD.

Guerin and Geurin: (spellings weren't standardized until the 1800's) are both versions of the surname Waring, being the Irish form of the French given name Geran. That was taken from the Norman name Warin which meant 'guard.' Kind of a long way 'round to achieve an Irish Patronymic name.


 

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Hackney is an English Place name, comprised of the elements Haki (Old Norse nickname for a man with a crooked nose or hunched figure, meaning similar to 'hook') + Eld English eg = island, literally, Haki's Island, or Hook's Island. The man from there might take the name Hackney.

Haffner/Hafner/Hefner/Heffner: German Occupational Name...Lathes and potter's wheels have been around since ancient antiquity; in Germany, one who fashioned pottery was the hafner . Requested by: John Haffner

Hagan: It's an Irish Patronymic name for the son of Hagan. Originally from the Gaelic form O'Hagain, it's one of the many that dropped the -O- identifier.

Hall: English/German/Danish/Norwegian/Swedish Place name, derived from various words for "large house" including OE heall, and OldHighGerman halla.

Halterman: The southern Germanic term for hillside or slope is halde and the German Place name for the man who lived on the halde was Halder, Halter, Haldermann, Halterman(n), Haldner, Hald, Halde, or Halt.

Hamilton: is an English Place name, derived from its elements hamil =treeless hill + tun =settlement, for a literal translation of 'treeless hill town.' Hamilton was earlier described as Hameldon, Hambledon, and Hambleton.

Hampton is an English Place name from hamrh=water meadow or homestead + tun=town or settlement/enclosure. The man who lived at the settlement near the water-meadow was called Hampton.

Handlen: is a variation of Hanlon/Hanlin which is one of the 'Fighting Irish' surnames. A number of Irish names reference warriors, and Hanlon and its variations means 'great hero.' Requested by Steve Handlen

Hanna/Hannah/Hannay: English Place name...All three names are derived from the English place in Lancashire called 'Hanna's Island' and as spellings of surnames were not standardized until the 20th century, several variations exist. People who came from Hanna's Island came to be known as Hanna/Hannah/Hannay.

Hardcastle: English place name near Hebden Bridge in Yorkshire. It is derived from Middle English hard + castel = castle.

Harding: English Patronymic name, from the name Heard (hard,brave)

The closest I can find to the Hungarian Harlacher is the German name Horlacher from the place Horlach in Bavaria or Horlachen in Wurttemberg, from Old High German hor = mud, marsh + lahha = lake. Germany constituted the strongest influence on early Hungary and Hungarian names are similar to German although the language is distinctly different.

Harris: is an English Patronymic name that comes from a pet form of the given name Henry. Some Henrys became known as Harry, and Harris was the descendant of Harry.

Harstad: In Norway, people lived on farms rather than villages as they did in other parts of Europe, and some can be traced all the way back to the Iron Age. There are several designations for the farms, and -stad is one of the later ones. Harstad is a Norwegion place name.

Hartley: The ending -ley on English surnames is derived from the Old English word leah, which described a 'clearing in the woods.' Hart is an old term for stag or deer, derived from OE heorot, and Hartley would be the man who lived near the clearing in the woods, where the deer were found. Requested by Maryellen O'Donnell

Hatfield: English Place Name for the field that was covered with heather.

Heard is an English Occupational name for the tender of animals, normally a shepherd or cow herder, derived from Middle English hearde and Old English hierde = herd, flock. Variants are Heardman, Herd (Scottish primarily), Herdman, Hardman, Hird, Hurd, Hurdman, Hearder; cognates are Hirth, Hirter, Herter, Herder, Horter (German) and diminutive forms include Hirtel and Hirtle.

Hebert: is an English Patronymic name from the given name Hebert, which means "combat, bright."

Heck/Hack/Hatch/Hatcher: English Place name...Surnames were often derived from the places where people lived at the time names were being adopted: Heck, Hack, Hatch, Hatcher were names that were used by those who lived at the gate or entrance to a park or forest, usually surrounded by a hedge.

Hedmark/Hedemark: Swedish Acquired Name...the Swedes were among the last to adopt formal surnames and had a tough set of criteria for making up family names. (They didn't want anything risque or socially offensive.) Many were combined from nature words that they linked to form a pleasant sounding family name. Hed means 'meadow' and mark means 'field' -- so Hedmark would be literally translated as meadow-field.

Helfield: The lord's manor or hall was one of the easily recognizable features in the early countryside. The man who had a home near the hall was called Heller and the man who lived near the field by the hall was called Helfield. It's an English Place Name.

Hell(e): is a variant of Hill, an English Place name. The man who lived by the Hill (and there were many) sometimes came to be known as Hill, and less frequently, as Hell or Helle. When the name is of German origin, it is a place name for the man from Heller, from the German heller = light.

Helmrich is one of the many variations of Helm, a medieval German given name which was a shortened form of the many compound names containing helm = helmet. Others are Helmel, Helmle, Helmecke, Helmchen, Helmker.

Henley/Hensley: English Place name...Originating in Suffolk and Warwickshire, from Old English heah meaning high + OE leah meaning wood/clearing. A Henley or Hensley would be one who lived near the high clearing in the woods.

Hewitt is an English Patronymic name from the given name Huet, which was a diminutive form of Hugh; occasionally it comes as a description of the man who lived in a newly-made clearing in the woods, from Middle English hewett, a derivative that meant 'to chop' or 'to cut.' Variants include Hewit, Hewett, Hewat, Howett, Howatt, Huett, and Huitt. Patronymic versions are Hewitson, Hewetson, Hewison, Howetson, Howatson, Huitson, and Huetson.

Heydrich: and its many variations are German Patronymic names from the given name Heidenreich, which is derived from Old German headen=heathen + reich=rule, and was a popular name during the Crusades when it proudly declared "power over heathens!" The other forms of the name include Hedrick, Headrick, Heydrick, and Hydrich.

Hibbard/Hibbert/Hilbert/Ilbert: English patronymic name from the Norman given name Hilbert or Hildebert, which was derived from hild = battle + berht = famous.

Highland: English/Scottish Place name that quickly described where its owner lived -- on the high land. It was an easy way to distinguish between John in the valley from John on the hill. Requested by William Hopkins.

Hilliard: is one of the rare English Matronymic names -- that is, it comes from the name of the mother instead of the father. Hilliard is derived from the Norman female given name Hildiarde/Hildegard, comprised of Germanic elements hild = battle, strife + gard = fortress, strength. Variations include Hilleard, Hillyard, and Hildyard.

Hinshaw: English Place name that is a variation of Henshaw, which was a 'woods where wild birds are' found, such as moor hens and partridges.

Hopkins: English Patronymic name...At the time of the conquest, the Normans brought the name Robert to England, and it had several pet forms that became the basis for surnames. Rob (which we still use), Hob, and Dob, were all pet names for Robert. Hobbs and Hobson were drawn from Hob, and Hopkins was yet another variation.

Hodge/Hudge/Hodgin/Hodgen: English Patronymic name from the pet name Hodge, which was derived from the given name Roger. Roger came to England as Rogier courtesy of the conquering Normans.

Hodinott: is the original version of (H)Od(d)en(n)not(t), which is a Welsh Place name from Hodnet in Shropshire or any of the various places called Hoddnant in Wales. It is derived from whawdd = pleasant, peaceful + nant = valley, stream. Other variations include Hodinott, Hodinett, now chiefly in Ireland.</P>

Hoefling/Hoffling/Haefling: German Acquired/Occupational Name...Adopted when surnames became required, by a class of people that had formerly not used them -- ie. footman to royalty -- when the royalty were deposed. From German hof meaning "court."

Hoffman: German Nickname Name...hoef (hof with the two-dots over the o) means court or small farmer and Hoffman is a nickname for a farmer who owned his land rather than rented.

Hogarth/Hoggarth: English and Scottish Place name from an unidentified place with the second element garth = enclosure.

Hogeweide/Hochweide: German Place Name...From German hoge/hoch = tall + weide = willow, or "tall willow." One living near the tall willow would be Hogeweide or Hochweide. Requested by: Bev Waller

Holbrook: English place name that described the man living by the stream in the deep ravine.

Houston/Huston/Houstoun/Heuston: Scottish Place Name...From a place near Glascow, from the medieval given name Hugh + the Medieval English word tune,toun meaning village or settlement. Hugo de Paduinan held the location circa 1160. Hugh's town was anglicized to Houston, the most common form.

Hoxie/Hochzeit: German Acquired Name...Hoxie is that it is derived from the German Acquired name Hochzeit (many names were altered to make them easier to spell) whose elements are hoch+zit which meant "high time" in Middle High German. It was associated with weddings and could have been taken by a man who was being married and had not yet become known by a specific surname.

Huff: English Place Name...from the Old English hoh = heel, and referred to one who lived at the spur of a hill.

Hunter/Hunt: Scottish/English Occupational name, variation of Hunt, Old English (hunta=to hunt)

Hutin/Hooten/Hustin/: French Nickname for a quarrelsome person. Requested by Kathy Hooten Gorodetzer



 

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Ingersoll/Ingersall/Inkersall/Inkersole/Ingsole: English Place Name from Derbyshire which was written in the 13th Century as Hinkershill and was derived from Old Norse name Ingvair + the Old English term hyll = hill; literally Ingvair's Hill.


Jackson: is an English Patronymic name from the Old French given name Jacque, which was the French form of Jacob (Yaakov in Hebrew, meaning heel -- it's a long story...)

Jeanes/Jeanne/Jayne: Norman-French Place Name....Guido de Genez came to England with the Norman Conquest and was granted lands there. Genez is a placename in Normandy. Anglicized to Jeanes; also de Genes, Jenis, Janes, Jans, J'Anes, Jeanne, Jeynes, Jayne, Jane, Janns.

Jenks is an English Patronymic name derived the long way around from the given name Jenkin (normally suffixes are added rather than taken away), in this case, the Anglo-Norman suffix -in is removed. Jenkin was a Middle English given name that came as a diminutive form of John.

Juliard/Julliard/Julianus/Julius: French Patronymic Name....Juliard is a French version of Julian/Julianus/Julius which derived from the Latin Julius meaning youthful looking -- literally as "downy-bearded." Requested by: Paul Pruitt

Johnson: English Patronymic Name:One of the earliest first names was John (gift of God), which in the 17th century replaced William as the most popular name for a male. As a patronymic name, Johnson from England and Scandinavia became the most widely found name in America, and its Welsh version Jones the fifth-most prolific.

Jones: English Patronymic Name:One of the earliest first names was John (gift of God), which in the 17th century replaced William as the most popular name for a male. As a patronymic name, Johnson from England and Scandinavia became the most widely found name in America, and its Welsh version Jones the fifth-most prolific. Requested by: Bev Waller

Jovan: Slavic Patronymic name...Likely Anglicized version of Jovanovic, a Slavic version of the given name John, which came from the Hebrew Yochanan, which meant `Jehovah has favored me with a son.'

Justice: English Patronymic name that is derived from the given name Justus which means 'the just,' and in some cases was applied to the man who performed the duties of the judge. If nowhere else -- you can find Justice on these pages! Requested by Herb King


Kantor: German Occupational Name...Kantor is the one who sang liturgical music in the synagogue.

Keach: is an English nickname given the man who was a little chubby. From the Middle English keech = fat, with variants Keech, Keetch, Keatch, and Keitch.

Kelso: Scottish Place name that was used to describe the man who lived near the 'chalky height' -- a place they would have recognized during the Middle Ages when surnames were adoped there. Requested by Liz Kelso

Kern/Kerns/Curn: Many German names are taken from the short, or pet form of a given name. Kern (of which Curn may be a derivative) is taken from Gernwin (spear, friend) when it isn't the man who emigrated from Kern, the German town. It's a German Patronymic name when not from the town, and a German Place name in that case.

Kesterson: Some names are a combination of types: In Germany, the official in charge of the church sacristy was the Kuester (the English equivalent was Sexton) and Kester and Koester are variations of that occupational name. The -son at the end is a Patronymic designation that denotes the descendant of the Church Kuester. Requested by Gloria Markus

Key: as you might expect, was the man who made keys, or occasionally -- the man in the largely ceremonial office of 'key-bearer.' Kay is another version of that English Occupational name.

Kidd: English Occupational/Nickname...Most surnames relating to animals had their origin in signs that were displayed at inns throughout the countryside. In early times, when travel from one location to another could not be completed in a day -- people took travellers into their homes -- many doing so as a business. Animals pictures were popular additions to the signs. Kidd came from the picture of the "little goat" at an English inn...in France, the counterpart was Chevrolet.

Kille is a variation of the Irish Patronymic name Killeen, which is an Anglicized version of the Gaelic Cillin, a dimunitive form of Ceallach. Phew! -- a long way of saying descendant of Kelly. John Kyllyk is the first known bearer of the name. He was a vintner in London whose will was proven in court in 1439.</P>

Kincaid: Scottish Place Name...Kincaid was derived from a place near Lennoxtown in Campsie Glen, north of Glascow. It was referenced in 1238 as Kincaith which means 'top pass.'

Kingdon: It's an English (Devon) place name from High Kingdon in Alverdiscott, Devon. The name elements are from Old English cyning = king + dun = hill for a literal translation of 'king's hill.'

Kinney: Variant of the Scottish Patronymic name Kenney derived from the Gaelic given name Cionaodha, of unknown origin, but likely composed of the elements cion = respect + Aodh = pagan god of fire. Occasionally Kenney is derived as an Irish Patronymic name through the Anglicizing of O'Coinnigh -- 'descendant of Coinneach. Variations are McKinney, McKenney, McKenna, McKinna, and McKennan, among others.

Kirkland: Scottish Place name; the man who took it as a surname lived on land adjacent to the church property, often the parish cemetery. The Scottish church is referred to as the Kirk.

Klink: Dutch Place name for the man who lived near the rushing mountain stream.

Knapp: As an English place name, Knapp was the man who lived at the top of the hill.

Knight: English Status Name from the Old English cniht which referred to a boy or serving lad. During the Middle Ages, Knight was used as a given name before the Norman conquest, after which it became a term for a tenant farmer who defended his lord on horseback. As only those men of some stature owned horses, it became a term for a man of prominence, and later, was converted to an honorary title.

Knopf: is a German and Jewish occupational name for the maker of buttons, or the man who lived by a rounded hillock. In the second case, it's a Place name.

Kroeger: From the Middle Ages through colonial times - innkeepers and tavern owners were people of prominence in the community, and were the only place of refuge for travelers. More often than not, the host of the inn took that as a surname: Host and Hostler in England, in Germany it was Krueger, Krug, and Wurtz. The Dutch form was Kroeger.

Kruse/Krusekopf: German Nickname...Kruse is a Low(land)German version of the surname Kraus, which -- along with Kruskopf -- was given as a nickname for one with curly hair. Kraus means curly. Cruise, (as in Tom Cruise) on the other hand, is an English nickname from the Middle English crouse=bold, fierce.

Kyle: In early times, the man who lived by an important river was referred to by the name of the river. In England, the Kyle River was the "narrow" river. Kyle is an English Place name.


 

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LaCroux is a Provencal variation of the surname Cross: English Place name for the man who lived near the stone cross set up by the roadside or marketplace, from Old Norse kross. Cognitives include De(la)Croix, Croix, (French); Croux, Lacroux, Lacrouts, De(la)croux (Provencal); Croce, DellaCroce, Croci (Italian); Cruz (Spanish); Kreutzer, Kreuziger (German); Vercruysse (Flemish), Krzyzaniak (Polish), and Van der Kruijs (Dutch).

Laird: is a Scottish name taken from the term used to describe the caretaker of land under which the peasant farmers rented land and sought protection during the height of the feudal period. The laird offered protection to the serfs who fought for him when attacked by neighboring lairds. They tended to raid each other often, for livestock, and as a relief for boredom.

Lambert: English/French/German Place name from Old German land =land + berht = famous...literally, famous-land. Requested by Doug Strohl

Lambkin/Lumpkin/Lamkin: English Patronymic names derived from "Little Lamb" which was a pet form of the given name Lambert (land, bright).

Langdon: English Place Name...from settlements in Devon, Dorset, Essex, Kent, and Warwick in medieval times. It is derived from Old English lang+dun, which meant long hill.

Langworthy: is an English Place name that is derived from two elements, -lang which meant 'long' and -worth which designated an enclosure or settlement. Langworthy was the man who hailed from the long settlement or enclosure. Requested by Lora Langworthy.

Laporte: French version of the place name Port which described someone who lived near the gateway to the town, or by a harbour.

Lapsley: is an English Patronymic name from the Old English given name, Hlappa + leah=woods, for a literal meaning of 'Hlappa's woods' or more specifically, 'Hlappa's clearing in the woods."

Larson/Larkin/Lawson,/Lorenzo: The name Lawrence was derived from 'laurel' - symbol of victory, and was popularized by St. Lawrence, a papel deacon who was martyed in the Middle Ages. McLaren is the Scottish form of the name, Larson, Larkin, and Lawson are among the English variations and Lorenz is a German form. Spanish speaking languages are among those that would have Lorenz and Lorenzo as a variants of Lawrence, which is a Patronymic name -- from the name of the father with that given name.

Law: is an English and Scottish Patronymic name from a Middle English pet form of the given name Lawrence; occasionally it is an English Place name for the name who lived by the hill, derived from Northern Middle English hlaw = hill or burial mound. Lawes and Lawson are traditional Patronymic versions of Law. Richard Law emigrated to America in 1638 and was one of the founders of Stamford, Connecticut.

Lawton: English Place name from settlements common in Lancashire and Yorkshire, from Buglawton or Church Lawton in Cheshire, which derived their names from Old English hlaw = hill, burial mound + tun = enclosure, settlement. The literal meaning would be "hill settlement" and someone from that place might be identified as Lawton.

Lee/Lea: The surname Lea is derived from the Old English word leah, which meant 'clearing in the woods' and the ending -ley- is the second-most common among English surnames. Lee and Lea were also the names of many small towns that were in the valley or the 'clearing in the woods.'There are other versions as well, posted on request. Requested by Stuart Lea.

Lease is a variation of Lees, an English name that is derived from several sources, one of which is the same as Lee and Lea. In medieval times, the Old English word leah meant "wood" or "clearing" and the name Lee (or Lea) described the man who lived near a meadow, pasture, or patch of arable land. Leas/lees is the plural form of 'lee' which was the Middle English form of 'leah.' The man named Lees/Leas (and its variations) lived on or near the fields or pastures. Also, several settlements arose with the name Lee or Lees, and people who lived there were often described that way, when no other description was more appropriate. There is a Lees in Ashton-under-Lyne and a Leece in Barrow-in-Furness. Occasionally -- although somewhat rarely -- Lees is derived as an English Matronymic name. Names taken from the mother are pretty scarce, but in the case of Lees and Lease, some derived their name from the female given name Lece, a short form of Lettice. Finally, some with the name Lease or Lees are descended from Scots with the surname Gillies, where the first part of the name has been lost through aphesis, when a short beginning syllable is dropped through lazy pronunciation, as in squire, derived aphetically from esquire. Gillies is a Scottish Patronymic name from the Gaelic given name Gilla Iosa (servant of Jesus). Variations include Leese, Leece, Leish, Leishman, Leeson, Leason, Lesson, and Lisson.

Leo is an Italian version of the English Nickname Lyon, given to the brave or fierce warrior, from the Old French lion, from Latin Leo/Leonis. Also it is taken from the given name Leo = lion, borne by numerous early martyrs and popes. English versions are Lion, and Leon, French are Lion, Leon; Italian versions are Leoni, Leone, Lione, Liuni, and Lio. The Spanish version is Leon, Portugese is Leao. Patronymic forms are Delion, De Leone, Di Lione, De Lionibus, De Leo, Di Leo, and Leoneschi.

Leonard: Almost all given names that were around during Medieval times have continued through the ages as surnames. Leonard is one such name, the meaning of which is "lion, bold." Requested by Thomas Leonard.

Lichtsinn: is a variant of the surname Licht, which is a German Occupational name for a chandler. It is derived from the German licht=light. Variations include Lichtner, Lichtmann, and Lichtzer, among others.

Lindsey is a spelling variation of Lindsay, an English and Scottish Place name from Lindsey in Lincolnshire, first found in the form Lindissi, a derivative of the British name Lincoln. The Old English element eg=island was added since the area was virtually cut off from the surrounding fenland. Lincey and Linsey are other variations.

Littlefield: English Place Name...Field comes from the Old English word feld which meant pasture or meadow that was flat and uncultivated. Littlefield is a place name given to one who lived near the small uncultivated meadow -- the 'little-field.' Requested by Alan Littlefield

Logan: Scottish Place name and colonial frontier family, including General Benjamin Logan who founded Logan's Station (Stanford, KY). The name originated in the Scottish Lowlands, and designated the man who lived near the 'little hollow.'

Long: English Descriptive name. During early times when surnames were being adopted, the man they called Long was especially tall and lanky.

Lovell is an English diminutive variant of the name Low, when it meant a crafty or dangerous person, a Nickname derived from the Anglo-Norman French lou = wolf + -el, a diminutive suffix. Lovel and Lowell are variations.

Lundquist: Swedish Acquired Name...Adopted when surnames became required; the Swedes acquiring surnames much later. Acquired names were chosen for a pleasing sound; Lundquist is literally "grove twig." Swedish immigrants to American often added Lund or qvist/quist to surnames because it gave the appearance of increased social status. Lundquist is simply a surname prefix with a suffix attached.

Lux: may be the shortened form of Luxton, a place in Devon, England. The ending -ton came from Old English tun = settlement and Luke's town was eventually known as Luxton.


 

M




Maier, Meyer, Meier, and Myer: were the principal officers in charge of large and important households in Germany, and often, an -s- was added as in Meyers and Myers. Later the term came to designate a sustantial farmer. Requested by Marilyn Meyer Roberts.

Malone: is an Irish Patronymic name from the given name Malone (servant of St. John).

Manke: Nicknames or descriptions of people often stuck as surnames, and many were none-too-politically-correct. Manke was what they called the man who was lame or crippled, and some wound up with it as a surname.

Maitland: was a lot like England: Mait and Eng being terms for a grassy field. Eng-land became the name of the realm, and Mait-land became the name of the family that made their home in Eng-land. It's an English Place name.

The name Markowski and many other versions are derived from the Latin Marcus, the given name of Mark the Evangelist, who authored the second Gospel. The etymology of Marcus is unknown, but it may come from the word Mars. It is an old and popular given name which constituted the origin of many surnames. Markowski is a Jewish version of the name, along with Markewitz, Markovski, Markovitz, and numerous others.

Marshall: originally cared for the lord's horses, and acted as an early vet and farrier. Later on, the term evolved to describe an official in a noble's household in charge of the military affairs. It's an English Occupational name, either way.

Martin is found in many sources: English, Scot, Irish, French, German, Czech, Flemish/Dutch, and Danish/Norwegian, and is from the personal name Martin derived from the Latin Martinus = Mars, the Roman god of fertility and war. A 4th century St. Martin of Tours was extremely popular, and made the name widespread throughout Europe, as one of the few Old English saints' names found in England before the Conquest.

Martinez: Spanish Patronymic Name...St. Martin of Tours was the patron saint of France and made Martin the most common name in that country. As a saint (with a good festival, to boot) Martin was also popular around the world. In Spanish speaking countries, descendants of Martin were called Martinez.

Matthews/Mathis: English Patronymic Name...Matthew means 'gift of Yahweh' as does Matthias -- both were popular first names in early times, and it is almost impossible to determine which derivatives came from which name...at any rate, Matthews and Mathews are English Patronymic names (from the father) and Mathis is the German counterpart. Matthews with the double-t was more popular in Wales.

Mattingly: is an English Place name from an Old English personal name Matting + leah (clearing in the woods) which is literally, Matting's clearing in the woods. Requested by Karen Mattingly.

Mayor, see also: Meyer/Meier: English Occupational Name...The head of a village or town was the mayor, often a position held for life. Henry Fitz Ailwin was the first mayor of London in 1193. Requested by: Bob Meyer

McArdle/McArdell/McCardle: Scottish/English Patronymic Name...McArdle is an Anglicized version of gaelic Mac Ardghail which came from the given name Ardghal. That name is composed of ard = height + gal = valor, for high valor. Variations are McArdell and McCardle. Requested by Tim McArdle

McCann: Scottish Patronymic name for the 'son of Annadh' whose name means 'storm.'

McCleaft: Possibly derived from MacCleish, which is Anglicized from Mac Gill'losa which meant `son of the servant of Jesus," and is documented in Dumfrieshire as early as 1376. Requested by Kenneth McCleaft

McClourghity: is an old Irish name, of which most have been Anglicized to one degree or another -- with McClourghity not quite as much as McCafferty, which is another version of Mac Eachmhareaigh, a patronymic surname from the given name Eachmharcach. If it wasn't Anglicized that way then his namesake son would have to sign his check: Eachmharcach Mac Eachmhareaigh, taking up so much space he could only write them for small amounts! Just kidding...

McCracken: Irish Patronymic Name...An Irish sept or clan was a group of people living in the same area with the same surname, and most Irish names used the Mac or O' prefix, as well as the Norman inspired Fitz'. Most of the names were taken from the father's name (patronymic) although many dropped the prefix and most were Anglicized in America. Many Fitz prefixes were replaced with Mac. McCracken was the son of Neachtan, which meant 'pure one.'

McDonald and McDonell are variations of the same surname, both Scottish Patronymic names derived from the Gaelic -- Mac Dhamhnuill, which means 'son of Domhnall,' a given name from the Gaelic elements dubno=world + val=rule. Other variations are McDonnell, McDonaill, McDonall, and McDaniel.

My guess on MacEachern is a slightly Anglicized version of Mac Eachain, a Scottish Patronymic name from the Gaelic given name Eachan, which means 'each horse.'

McGinnis/McEnnesse/McEnnis/McInnes/Maguinness/Magennis/Guinness: Irish Patronymic Name...the Mc designates 'son of' and a literal meaning of "Son of Guinness" which is anglicized. The Irish version was from the Gaelic Mag Aonghuis and the given name Aonghuis is anglicized to Angus. Requested by: Kathryn McGuinness

McGowan is a Scottish and Irish Patronymic name from the Anglicized form of Gaelic Mac Gobhann (Scottish) and Mac Gabhann (Irish) both from occupational nicknames for the village smith. It is also occasionally derived in Scotland from Mac Owein, a patronymic form of the given name Owen or Ewen. Variations include McGowing, McGowen, McGoune, Magowan, McAgown, McEgown, McIroine, and Gowans.

McIntosh : is derived from MacIntosh, a Scottish occupational and patronymic name that means 'son of the chief or leader.'

McKeever: is a variation of McIver which is a Scottish version of an Old Norse given name Ivarr derived from iw = bow + herr = army. The name was adopted at an early date by the Scots, Welsh, and Irish, and most cases indicate Celtic ancestry. Other variations include MacIvor, McIver, McEevor, McEever, McHeever, and McCure. Iverson is the Danish and Norwegian version, while the Swedes opted for Ivarsson and Iwarsson.

McKinley: derived from the given name Finlay a Gaelic tribal leader, whose name came from the given name, Fionnla 'fair hero.'

McLean: Scottish Patronymic from MacLean, 'son of the servant of St. John.'

McMurtry: possibly Irish Patronymic names, from Anglicized versions of the Gaelic given name Muircheartach, derived from muir = sea + ceardach = skilled, to mean 'skilled navigator of the sea.' The Patronymic forms are McMoriertagh, McMurihertie, McMiritee, McMreaty, and McMearty.

McNeilly: Scottish Patronymic name from the 'son of Neil' whose name means 'champion.'

McQuaig, McQuade, MacQuaid, McQuoide: Scottish/Irish Patronymic Name... The Gaelic given name Wat (pronounced wait, and the same as Walter). The name Walter was brought by the Normans and derived from Wald , meaning rule, and theri , meaning army. Mac Uaid was the son of Wat (Walter). The Anglicized version took many forms, some of which dropped the Mac, and many of which arranged the vowels in combination. Many Gaelic consonants were used interchangeably.

McVie is another variation of the Scottish Patronymic name McBeth, from the Gaelic personal name Mac Beatha which meant 'son of life,' that is - man of religion. Other versions are McBeath, McBeith, McBay, McVay, McVey, McVeagh, McVie, McAbee.

Meacham: English occupational name from Machin, derived from Anglo-Norman French machun, which designated the stone mason.

Mercer: English Occupational Name...Mercer was the one who dealt in silks, velvet, and expensive materials, although the term was sometimes applied to merchants in general.

Merlo: derived from the Old French word merle = blackbird -- Merle was used as a French Nickname for simplicity, or for the catcher of blackbirds.

Miles: English Patronymic name by way of Old French and the given name Milo, or occasionally from the given name Michael. Miles is also infrequently derived as an occupational name from the servant or retainer called a miles in medieval times.

Mill: In Medieval times, an center in every village or settlement was the mill, where people took their corn to be ground into flour. The man who worked at the mill, and sometimes the miller himself, might come to be known as Mill, or a variant of the name. In fact, the most common form of Mill is Mills. It has cognative forms in almost every language.

Miller: English Occupational Name for the man who operated the mill from the Middle English term mille. Requested by Darryl Rogers

Mitchell is an English, Scot, and Irish Patronymic name from the given name Michel, the regular vernacular form of Michael. Variants are Mitchel and Michell, while the English patronymic version takes the form of Mitchelson or Michelson.

Mitter: German place name for the farmer whose land was in the middle of two other, particularly when the farmers had the same given name. It's from Middle High German, mitte = middle, and could be used as in Hans mitte, or the Hans in the middle.

Mixon/Mix/Mixson: English Patronymic Name...The archangel Michael was the patron of the 12th century Crusades, and the name Michael was a favorite as a result. 'Of Michael' or 'of Mich/Mick' denoted the son. Mix and Mixon/Mixson also denote son of Mick or Michael. Requested by: Debra Mixon

Mogk: English Patronymic Name from the Old English personal name Mawa, which was used to describe an important local personality in the settlement or village.

Moore is an English Place name for the man who lived on a moor, in a fen, or any of the various settlements with this name -- derived from their location near the moor or fen. It comes from the Old English mor. Occasionally, Moore is a nickname for the person with swarthy complexion, from Old French more = Moor/Negro, and sometimes Moore is derived from the Gaelic O'Mordha (descendant of Mordha, a name that meant 'great' or 'proud' in Gaelic) and Anglicized to Moore. Lastly, Moore can be a Scottish or Welsh Nickname for the big man, from Welsh mawr = big, great.

Moran is a variant of the English and French surname Morant, which is an old given name of unknown etymology, but believed to mean 'steadfast' or 'enduring.' When of Irish descent, Moran is derived by Anglicizing O' Morain, (descendant of Moran), which usually has its accent on the first syllable, as opposed to the English and French version's second syllable accent.

Morgan is a Patronymic name of Welsh, Scot, and Irish origin -- from an old Celtic given name (Morien in Wales) composed of elements meaning sea + bright. Morgan is one of the most common, and oldest of the Welsh names. There is a Scottish Clan Morgan established in medieval times with connections to the McKays, and was likely developed independently of the Welsh surname. The Irish version is from O'Murchan or O'Morghane, from the Gaelic O'Murchain.

Moriarty/Moirerdagh/Muirihertie: Irish Occupational Name...from very old Celtic terms muir =sea and cheardach =good navigator. Settled in County Kerry, on both sides of Castlemaine Harbor. The name is an anglicized version of Muircheardach or O'Muircheardach, with a literal meaning of skilled navigator of the sea. Variations include McMoirerdagh, and McMuirihertie. Requested by: Erina Moriarty

Morin: French surname for a dark complexion or dark-haired person; Moring may be a variation. The French Nickname Morin became Moreno in Italy and Spain. Requested by Mark Moring.

Morris: Welsh/English/Scottish/Irish Patronymic name from the French given name Maurice which was introduced at the time of the Norman conquest. Requested by Jennifer Morris

Muldowney: Irish Patronymic name from the descendant of Dunadhach, the fortress holder, Gaelic maol = chief + dun = low hill. Requested by Brian Muldowney

Murdock: English Patronymic name derived from the old Irish name Murdoch (seaman) which was introduced into England before the Conquest.


 

N-O



Nagel/Naher/Nager/Neher/Nader: German occupational name for the tailor. Nahen = to sew. Many of these names are also spelled with two dots over the first vowel. (umlaut)

Nelson is an English Patronymic name derived either from the given name Nell or Neil, both of which originated from the Irish given name Niall. It means literally -- Niall's son. It is believed to have meant 'champion' and was brought to England from Ireland by Scandinavian settlers where the 'son of Niall' became known as Niall's son, or Nelson.

Niblett: English Nickname...Niblett comes from a Middle English word nibbe which meant 'beak,' and was a nickname for someone with a prominent nose. Some of the nicknames that stuck as surnames were none too kind, but by comparison, this is fairly mild. Requested by John Saulsbury Niblett

Nigro: is a cognizant of Noir, a French nickname for someone with notably dark hair or complexion, from the Old French noir = black. LeNoir is a variant of the name as well.

Niziolek: Polish Nickname...The small or thin man often was referred to by a descriptive word that wound up as a surname -- Niziolek is the Polish version; Littell, Lytle, Short, and Cline are among the English counterparts.

Northrop/Northrup: English Place Name...An old Danish word termination was -thorpe which designated 'outlying farmstead or hamlet' was corrupted into -throp and -thrup in early England. North-thorpe -- the north farm -- became Northrop and Northrup as an English place name.

Nuccio: The surname John is universally found, from the Hebrew name Yochanan which meant 'God has favored me with a son.' Each language had its own versions of John and the Italians used a good many, including Giovannelli, Gianelli, Gianiello, Gianilli, and Giannucci, among dozens of others. Giannucci often became Nussi, Nuzzi, and Nucci, to which the final -O- completed Nuccio.

Nugent: Derived from the French nogent which designated the 'fair, wet meadow' and was the name of several towns. It's a French Place name.


O'Connell: Irish Patronymic Name...it originated with the grandson of Conall, whose name meant 'world mighty.'

O'Dungan is Anglicized from O'Donnagain, which mean 'descendant of Donnagan' a diminutive form of a personal name that meant 'dark' or 'brown.' Donegan is the most common spelling, with variants Dunnigan, Doonican, Dunegain, O'Donegan, and O'Donegaine.

Olejnicazk/Olejniczak: Polish Patronymic/Occupational Name...There a few names that are patronymic (from the father's name) that originate from the father's occupation. The Polish name Olejnicazk/Olejniczak came from the 'son of the maker of oil from seeds for food purposes.' Kind of an Olestra forebear, I guess. (just kidding!)

Oliver: is both an English and a French surname, although the French version is often seen as Olivier. It's a Patronymic name from the given name Oliver, which means 'elf, host.' Requested by Suzy Oliver.

Olney: is an English Place name derived from Old English ollaneg, which meant island of Olla.

Otter/Otterman: While many animal names derived from the pictures on the roadside inns during the Middle Ages, the surnames Otter and Otterman aren't among those. Otter is a corruption of the Old English names Otthar or Othere, which meant "terrible army." I don't know if that means 'terribly mean army' or just 'terribly bad army." Just kidding...I'm sure Otthar could throw a spear with the best of them!

 

P-Q




Paris/Parris: French Place Name...Paris is the name taken by many who originated in that French city, named for the Gaultic tribe Parisii .

Parker: English Occupational name for the man who was the gamekeeper at the medieval park.

Parks: English Occupational name, along with Park, for the dweller in the enclosed woods which was stocked with game for royal use.

Payne: is a derivative of Pain, which is an English Patronymic name from the Middle English given name Pain. It comes from the Old French Paien, which came from Latin Paganus -- where pagus meant outlying village. To make the long story short (or to wrap up an already long explanation of its origin), Pain was a civilian instead of a soldier and lived in an outlying area. Derivatives include Paine, Payne, Payen and Payan.

Pawlik/Pawlicki/Pawlak/Pavlik: Polish Patronymic Name...derive from the given name Paul, which was a popular item around the surname-acquiring period. When the spelling used a V as in Pavlik -- the name has the same derivation, but its origin would be Ukrainian.

Payton is an English Place name from Peyton in Sussex, which got its name from the Old English given name Poega + tun = settlement, enclosure, meaning literally" Poega's settlement."

Pearce: and its variations: Pearce, Pearse, Piers, Peers, Perce, Persse, Perris, (and others) are derived from the English given name Piers, which is a form of the name Peter.

Pearsall /Piersol: (and its variations) refer to a medieval English place called Per's Valley and one who lived there or nearby often became known as Pearsall. Requested by Nicki Piersol-Freedman

Pennebaker/Pennebakker/Pannebakker: Dutch Occupational Name...Pennebaker evolved from the Dutch penne = tile + bakker = baker; literally tile-baker. The Pannebakker family shield motto is: Mein Siegel ist ein Ziegel - "My Seal is a Tile." September 15, 1463 an edict in Holland forbade thatch and straw roofing and required tiles, making the tile-making a busy trade. Submitted by Paul Pannebakker

Perkins: is a Welsh Patronymic name derived from the given name Peter, which was introduced into the area with William the Conqueror. There were many other varieties in England, but Perkins was most popular in Wales.

Perry: Henry was a popular name during the Middle Ages when surnames were adopted, and one of its pet forms was Harry. To point out a lad who was the 'son of Harry' a person might say "Yon is ap Harry." As a result, ap Harry eventually evolved into Perry for some who adopted the surname. It's an English Patronymic name. Requested by Sean Perry.

Petrie: Scottish Patronymic name that is derived from the given name Peter. As a given name, Peter became popular after the Norman conquest of England, and Peter was often used as a surname by itself. Petrie is a dimunitive form of Peter, that was more popular in Scotland.

Phelps: In the 11th, 12th, and 13th centuries were French kings named Philip, which helped to popularize the name. Among the English variations of Philip, which means 'lover of horses' is Phelps.

Phillips/Philips: Philip was an extremely popular name in medieval times -- Philip was one of the apostles, and four French kings were named Philip from the 11th to the 13th century. The name -- which means 'lover of horses' -- came into England from France at the time of the conquest. Philips is patronymic (named after the father Philip, whose sons would be referred to as Philip's sons). The common Welsh and English version of the surname is spelled with two l's, giving the descendants the surname Phillips. Phillips is a variation of the English, French, Dutch/Flemish, and Danish/Norwegian Patronymic name Phillip/Philip from the Greek name Philippos and elements philein = to love + hippos = horse. Its popularity seems to have been due to medieval stories about Alexander the Great, whose father was Philip of Macedon. Variations are Philipp, Phillip, Philp, Phelp, Phalp (English); Philippe, Phelip, Felip, Phelit, Philip, Phalip (French); Filip (Flemish/Dutch). There are numerous other diminutive, patronymic, and cognative forms.

Pillsbury: English place name and refers to Pil's fort, a place of safety during medieval times. Requested by Peter Hebert

Pinson: It's an English nickname based on an Old French word -- pinson -- which meant finch, and was used to describe a cheerful person.

Pitt: English Place name...OE pytt ; a pit, hollow, or low valley

Poe: is a variant of the English nickname Peacock, which described the man who seemed to strut about, or was brightly fashioned. The Flemish version is DePauw/Depaeuw, and the Dutch version is DePaauw. Requested by Cynthia Lux.

Poisson is a French diminutive version of an Italian Occupational name (Pesce) which was given to the fisherman, or fish seller. Peschi is a variation of Pesce, and other French versions include Poisson, Poissonnet, Poissenot, Poyssenot.

Poll: is an ancient Gaelic word that means 'pool, pit' and the name Poll would describe the man who lived near the deep pool of water. It's a Place name of Gaelic origin.

Pollard: derived from two sources: the Englishman with a closely-cropped or shorn head was described as 'pollard' and for some the name stuck as an English Descriptive name. Other Pollard families were those who lived near the head or the end of the lake, and wound up with an English Place name.

Pomeroy is a French Place name given to the person from any of the several locations in France by that name, generally spelled similar to pomeroie, which was Old French for 'apple orchard.' The Pomeroy family of Devon can trace their heritage to a close associate of William the Conqueror, Ralph de la Pomerai, whose descendants lived for over 500 years in a castle near Totnes, Devon.

Powers: English Descriptive name for the man who had little money. There were many more Powers and Poors in early times, than Richs.

Pratt: English Place name derived from the word used to describe a grassy field during early times. The man who lived there was sometimes referred to as Pratt. Requested by William Hopkins.

Preston is a Northern English Place name from the numerous locations, including Lancashire) derived from Old English preost = Priest + tun = enclosure, used to described a village held by the church or village with a priest.

Prochazka: is a Czech Occupational name for the travelling tradesman, especially the travelling butcher. It is derived from Czech prochazet=to walk, stroll, or saunter. It is among the most common Czech surnames.

Provost: English Occupational name...During the Middle Ages serfs elected one of their own to oversee the work on their lord's manor. One title for the position was Provost. It's considered an Occupational name. Requested by Nick Stamos.

Pruitt: English Descriptive Name...Pruitt is a diminutive derivative of an old English term meaning bold, impetuous, brave, soldier. Requested by: Paul Pruitt

Punnett: One version is that it comes from Pugnator or a person who is a fist fighter or boxer. We have tracked back to the 1600's in Punnetts Town in Sussex England, but believe the family originally came from Belgium or Normandy. Submitted by Chris Punnett.

Putnam: English Place Name...Many English villages were described by attributes, and some surnames were adaptations of those locales. Putta's Homestead was one such settlement and some residents described themselves as being Putnam. Requested by: Glenn Bradford


Quaite, Quate, Quade, McQuade, MacQuaid, McQuoide: Scottish/Irish Patronymic Name...The Gaelic given name Wat (pronounced wait, and the same as Walter). The name Walter was brought by the Normans and derived from Wald , meaning rule, and theri , meaning army. Mac Uaid was the son of Wat (Walter). The Anglicized version took many forms, some of which dropped the Mac, and many of which arranged the vowels in combination.

Quigg/Quigley/Quigley/Quick/Quickley: English Nickname for an agile person, from Middle English quik or Old English cwic = lively. The surname is also sometimes derived from the place where cinch grass grew – it was a quick-growing grass. Quick and its variations were also derived occasionally from Old English cu = cow + wic = outlying settlement, for the man at the dairy farm.

Quinton: English Place Name...Quinton was the name given to several locations in Gloucester, Northants, and Birmingham that derived from Old English cwen = queen + tun = enclosure, settlement. The name is patronymic when derived from the Old French given name Quentin (Quintin) from Latin Quninus and Quintus meaning fifth(born). The name was introduced by the Normans but never really caught on. Finally, Quinton sometimes derived from a Norman location named for St. Quentin of Amiens, a third Century Roman missionary. Requested by Victoria Quinton.


 

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Rabinovich and Ravinovitch are versions of the Jewish Status name Rabin from the Polish rabin = rabbi. Variations include Rabinerson, Rabinsohn, Robinsohn, Robinzon, Rabinow, Robinov, Rabinowicz and others.

Ragsdale: is an English Place name comprised of the elements rag = rough + dale = valley, for a literal translation of 'rough valley.' The letter -S- is added to many names and elements to make them easier to pronounce.

Ralph: Ralf de Tankerville was the chamberlain for William the Conqueror, and from his name a number of given names were derived. From Ralf came: Raff, Ralph, Rand, Randall, Randolph, Rankin, Ransom, Ranson, Rawlings, Rawson, and Rawle. Requested by Dave Rawle.

Ramirez: is a Spanish cognizant of Reinmar, a German Patronymic name from ragin = counsel + meri = fame. The Spanish version was Ramiro, from which the patronymic derivative Ramirez evolved.

Ramsey: is a Scottish place name in Essex and Huntingdonshire from Old English hramsa=wild garlic + eg=island or low land, for a literal meaning of 'wild garlic island.' Someone who lived near the spot where the wild garlic grew became known as Ramsey.

Randall/Randolph: English Patronymic name from the early given name Raedwulf, which means 'shield wolf.' It was popular in England before the Norman Conquest. The name eventually became Radulf and Randolph and Randall are among the derivatives. Requested by Jennifer Turnbull

Ray/Rey/Wray: English Nickname/Place Name...Ray is polygenetic in that it has several sources. One version is an English nickname from Old French rey or roy meaning king, to designate someone who had regal airs (not necessarily regal heirs!). It was also from the Middle English word ray which meant female deer (Ray -- a deer, a female deer...) and was given as a nickname to one who was timid. It also derived from the places Rye and Wray -- for people who were from there.

Rayner/Raynor: French Patronymic name, from the Norman given name Rainer, which was derived from ragin = counsel + hari = army. Requested by Kathy Alsobrooks

Ready/Reed: Scottish Patronymic Name...of the Scotsman Reedie in Angus. Also, in some cases, a Descriptive English name, as in -- always ready. Sometimes, meaning the descendent of Little Read (red), the nickname for a redhead, or the pet form of Redmond "counsel, protection." Requested by: Kathleen Cocuzzo

Redman is polygenetic, derived independantly from surnames Read and Roth. When arriving from the former it originates from the Old English read = red and designated the man with the red hair or ruddy complexion. The softening of the -E- sound in OE read to modern English red is not well-explained. Variations of Read are Reade, Reed, Redd, Reid, Redman, Readman, Ride, Ryde, and Ryder. Roth is the German Nickname and Jewish Assumed Ornamental Name for the person with red hair, derived from German rot = red. Variants are Rothe, Rother, and the Jewish variations are Roter, Roiter, Royter, among others.

Reece: There was a family in the south of Wales that favored the given name Rhys: one was Rhys ap Tudor (Rhys the son of Tudor) who led men in stopping the advance of the Normans into South Wales. His grandson was Rhys ap Gruffydd (Rhys of Gruffydd) who became so powerful that he was appointed King's Judiciar for Wales by King Henry II of England. As heroes, they were responsible for a lot of given names, of which some translated into surnames. Reece, Reese, and Rice were all derived as Welsh Patronymic names from the given name Rhys.

Reichenberg is a Ashkenazic Jewish ornamental surname derived of the elements reich(en) = rich + berg = hill -- literally 'rich hill.' Ornamental surnames were taken for their pleasing sound rather than any significant meaning, and occured when nationalities such as the European Jews and the Swedes adopted surnames in the 1800's.

Reid/Reed: Scottish Patronymic Name...English nickname from OE read (red) for red hair or complexion.

Reyes: is from the Old French rey=king, and is a nickname for the man who carried himself in a regal fashion, or sometimes - a timid person.

Richmond: English Place Name. William the Conqueror brought many French names with him, including Richemont "lofty mountain" which was Anglicized to Richmond.

Rigg/Riggs/Ridge/Ruge English Place Name...The person who lived at the ridge or at a range of hills was known in England by various names, including: Rigg, Riggs, Ruge, and Ridge. These names also derive from small settlements by these names within the British Isles. Requested by Bill Rigg

Robinson: The Normans brought the French given name Robert to England at the time of the Conquest. It means 'fame, bright' and was derived from the Old German Hrodebert. Rob, Hob, and Dob were pet forms of the name, and from Rob a number of surnames were derived -- including the English Patronymic name Robinson. Requested by Harley Robinson

Rodriguez is a Spanish version of the given name Hrodrick, comprised of the Germanic elements hrod = reknown + ric = power. The Spanish form of the given name is Rodrigo, and the Patronymic form is Rodriguez, meaning 'son of Rodrigo.'

Rogers: English/French Patronymic name from the given name Roger which was brought to England by the Normans as Rogier. Its elements are hrod = renown + geri = spear, or `reknowned spearman.' Requested by Darryl Rogers

Round/Rounds: When surnames were adopted, sometimes nicknames stuck as in the case of Round and Rounds, which were English Descriptive surnames for the person who was about as wide as he was tall. Requested by Marcus Round.

Rundle: In the Middle Ages, when surnames were being adopted, some were Nicknames that neighbors or relatives pinned on a man to help identify him from others with the same first name. Sometimes they were cruel, sometimes not too bad. Rundle is a diminutive form of the Middle English rund which meant 'round' and was used to describe the man who was slightly round at the middle. Occasionally, Rundle identified the man who was from Rundale, in Shoreham parish, Kent, which derived its name from Old English rumig = roomy. Variants are Rundell, and Rundall.

Rycenga: Dutch surname derived from German town of Rysum combined with Dutch ga = from to designate the man from Rysum, Germany. Variations include Rycenga, Rycinga, Ryzenga, Rijzinga, Rijzenga, Rijsinga, Rijsenga. Submitted by Doug Strohl


 

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Sablun/Sabluns: Italian Place name, for the man from the place settled by the ancient Italic people of Central Italy. Requested by Doug Strohl

Sadler: aptly described the Englishman who was the maker of saddles and is derived from the Old English sadol. Varieties include Saddler and Sadlier, among others.

Salisbury/Saluisbury/Saulsbury: English Place Name...Saulsbury is a variation of Salisbury (pronounced the same way as Saulsbury) which was an English city in Wiltshire that was derived from searu = armour and burh which meant town -- for a literal meaning of armour-town. People from their would sometimes use it as a surname. Requested by John Saulsbury Niblett

Sanders is derived the long way around from the popular given name Alexander. An aphetic version is one where the initial syllable is lost through poor or lazy pronunciation, as in squire evolving from esquire. Alexander became Sander in parts of England, Scotland, and Germany, and the addition of the -S at the end denotes a Patronymic name, as in "son of."

Sandis/Sandison/Sandys/Sand: English/Scottish, German, Danish, Norwegian or Swedish place name for the man who lived near the sandy soil...and occasionally, the son of Alexander. Requested by Doug Strohl

Sanguino/Sanguinetti: Spanish/Italian Nickname...Both Sanguino and Sanguinetti have as their root -- sanguinis -- the Latin word for blood. The word was also appropriated by Medieval English and Medieval French as a root for words with blood as a reference. The Italians often placed diminutive suffixes on names, which would create "little blood" Sanguinetti. Descriptive names are somewhat rare among the Spanish-speaking languages, and those taken from colors are even more rare; Blanco (white), Castano, Moreno (brown), and Pardo (gray) are the only ones among the top one-thousand Latin American names. Requested by Cris Sanguino

Santi: English and French nickname derived from the word saint, which described a pious person. Requested by Doug Strohl

Satterfield is an English Place name for the man who lived in a hut in the open field.

Sauer: German Nickname...In England there were several names for the grave or austere man, including Sterne and Stark. One of the German counterparts is Sauer. Mental and moral qualities were often ascribed to people during Medieval times, with the differences in spelling and pronunciation due to the varying dialects and languages. Sauer and Wunderlich both designated the morose or moody man in Germany. Requested by J. Sauer

Saunders: Scottish Patronymic name derived from the popular name Alexander. Three Scottish kings bore the name during Medieval times and there are a large number of variations taken from its pet forms. Sanders and Saunders are among those well represented in Scotland.

Savage is an English nickname for a 'wild or uncouth person,' derived from a Middle English version of Old French salvage, sauvage = untamed. Variants include Sauvage, Salvage, Savidge, Savege. French congitives are Lesauvage and Sauvage; Italian = Salvaggi, Selvaggio, Salvatici, and French diminutive versions are Sauvageon, Sauvageau, and Sauvageot.

Schachet: a variation of Shoikhet, a Jewish (Southern Ashkenazic) name for the ritual slaughterer, from Yiddish shoykhet, with variants: Shoichet, Schochet, Shohet, Szoachet, and Schauchet.

Schechter: The Jewish (Ashkenazic) Occupational name for a ritual slaughterer is Schechter, of which there are a number of variations, derived from German Schachter (agent deriv. of schachten, from the Yid. verb shekhtn, whose stem is from Hebrew shachat - to slaughter. Variations include Schachter, Schaechter, Schacter, Schechter, Schecter, Szechter, Scherchner, and Schechterman.

Scheidtz/Sheets: German place name used to describe the man who lived by a boundary or a watershed. Requested by Robert Sheets

Schoff: German Occupational Name...German occupational name for a shepard and derived from the element schaf = sheep.

Schroeder: In Germany, the Schroeder drove a dray, which was a low, wheeled cart with detachable sides -- the drayman, or schroeder, was the driver.

Schwalb is usually a German nickname for the man who resembled (presumably in grace or swiftness, -- those crazy medieval namers!) the swallow. Back/Bach is the German reference to the man who lived by the stream so Schwalbach would be literally, "swallow stream" and could be a reference to a small river or stream named Schwalb (such a stream is located in England, known by the English term Swallow).

Schwertz is from schwert, a German Occupational name from the word for sword, which described the man who worked as an armourer for soldiers.

Seal/Seale/Seales: English place name from Sale in Manchester, or as an occupational name for the maker of seals or saddles. It was also occasionally used as a nickname for a plump person.

Sells: English Place Name given to the man who lived in the rough hut that was designed for animals – that person was usually the herdsman who was in there watching over the animals. Requested by Jane Cowart

Sewell is polygenetic, in that it was derived from separate sources at the time names were being acquired. Some Sewells are wearing an English Patronymic name, and are descended from Sewel (victory, strength) and others have an English Place name, from an ancestor who lived near Bedfordshire or Oxfordshire -- both had places called Sewell, which designated 'seven wells.' Requested by Johnny Sewell.

Shand is a Scottish name, Shands is the Patronymic version of the name, that is, the equivalent of "son of Shand." The origin of Shand itself is uncertain, but may be a shortened form of Alexander. It may also be a Place name from Chandai, located in Orne, and recorded in the 12th century. Shand: A rare but old surname in Scotland. The surname of Shand seems originally to have been confined to the north-eastern counties, particularly Aberdeenshire, and in that county more especially to the districts comprising the parishes of Turriff, Forgue, Drumblade, Auchterless, Culsalmond, Fyvie, King-Edward, and Gamrie. In old times it was variously spelled Schawand, Schaand (1696), Schande, Schand (1528), and Shand...We have also Shandscross given to certain lands on the estate of Delgarty. Magister Robert Schawnd was prebendary of Arnaldston, 1522. Probably French, Philibert de Shaunde was created earl of Bath in 1485; but nothing is known of him, except that he was a native of Brittany. The Surnames of Scotland by George F. Black, 1946

Sharma: in sanskrit means brahmin or uppercaste men. The caste system in ancient India consisted of Brahmin, Kshatryas, Vaishyas and Shudras. Brahmin = priestly or educated class, Kshatryas = kingly/warrior, vaishyas = business class, and Shudras = untouchables.

Sharp is an English Nickname given to the man who was keen, active, and quick; derived from the Middle English term scharp. Variations include Sharpe, and Shairp (the second of which is primarily Scottish). Scharff and Scharfe had the same meaning in Germany, while Scherpe is the Flemish and Dutch version.

Shaw: English place name for a copse or thicket, and would have been given to someone living near the thicket.

Sheffield and Shaffield are English Place names from Sheffield in South Yorkshire, so called from the river Sheaf, meaning 'boundary.'

Sherrer: Variation of Scheuer, a German Place name for the man who lived near the tithe-barn, or an Occupational name for the official who was responsible for collecting the tithes of the farmers, derived from Middle High German schiur (barn, granary). Versions include Scheurer, Scheurermann, Scheuerman, Scheier, and Schaier. Sherrer is likely an Americanized version, which was a common practice among immigrants.

Shields is a Patronymnic version of Shield, an English Occupational name for an armourer, the man who provided arms and implements to the soldiers. It is occasionally derived as a place name from a locale in Northumberland called Shields, and more infrequently is from the Old English term scieldu, which designated the shallow part of the river, and denoted the man who lived near there. Also, somewhat less frequently than all of the above, Shields can be an Anglicized version of O'Siaghail, which means "descendant of Siadhal" a Gaelic personal name of unknown meaning.

Shirer, Sherer, and others are variants of Shearer, the man who used scissors to trim finished cloth, or the sheep-shearer.

Simson: is an English Patronymic name derived from the Medieval given name Sim. It has a number of variations that include: Simson, Simms, Symms, and Symes.

Simpson: English Patronymic from the popular given name Simon (gracious hearing) from which evolved many surnames, including the two most popular versions: Simmons and Simpson.

Sicilia: (which also appears as Sciliani and Sciliano) is an Italian/Spanish Place name for the man who was from Sicily, which was part of Aragon from 1282 to 1713.

Sigmund/Siegmund: and other variants are German patronymic names from sigi = victory + mund = protection. Siemund and Seemund are among the other versions.

Silver and Silber are cognates of the same name, the first an English nickname for the rich man, or the man with silvery-gray hair. Occasionally, it comes from the occupation of silversmith. Silber is the German version of the name, with variations Silbert and Silbermann, among others.

Skipper was derived chiefly in the Norfolk area of England as an Occupational name for the master of a ship, although occasionally it originated from the Middle English term skip(en) which meant to 'jump' or 'spring' and described an acrobat or professional tumbler. Skepper and Skipp are variations.

Slaughter: English occupational name for the man who slaughtered the animals for the butcher, and also a place name for the person who lived by the muddy spot, or the sloe tree.

Slight/Slightam: Scottish Descriptive name from Middle English sleght = smooth or slim.

Sloan: Scottish/Northern Irish patronymic name from the Anglicized version of the Gaelic Sluaghadhan, a diminutive form of Sluaghadh. The family emigrated from Scotland to Northern Ireland during `Great Plantation' of Ulster during the reign of King James I. Sir Hans Sloan (1660-1753) a collector of papers, manuscripts and curios, donated his holdings to the government, and they became the basis for the British Museum.

Smedley is an English Place name from Old English smede = smooth + leah = clearing, for a literal translation of "smooth clearing" in the woods.

Smith: is an English Occupational name for man who works with metal, one of the earliest jobs for which specialist skills were required. It is a craft that was practiced in all countries, making the surname and its cognizants the most widely found of all occupational names in Europe. Medieval Smiths made horseshoes, plows, and items for the house. English variations are Smyth, and Smither; German = Schmidt; Flemish = De Smid; Dutch = Smit; Norwegian = Smidth; Polish = Szmyt; Czechoslovakian = Smid; Jewish = Schmieder. Even the gypsies had the name: the Romany Petulengro translates to Smith.

Snyder: Dutch form of Taylor, an occupational name for the person who stitched coats and clothing.

Solis/Soltis: Polish occupational name for the magistrate or the mayor of the town.

Spears: is among the many variations of the English Nickname for the tall, thin person, or for the man who used the spear with great skill. It derives from Old English spere = spear. It occasionally is derived from the maker of spears. Variations include: Spear, Speir, Spier (Scotland) and Speer (N. Ireland). When the -S- is present at the end of the name, it generally denotes a Patronymic version, as in the 'son of Spear.'

Spence/Spencer: English Occupational name for the person at the manor who dispensed the lord's provisions to those who lived on his land and worked at his estate. Requested by Walter Spence.

Spires is a patronymic variant of the surname Spire (that is, one would have identified the son of Spire by saying he was Spire's...). Spire is an English Nickname from the Middle English word spir = stalk or stem, and was used to describe the tall, thin man. By the way, church steeples, sometimes called spires, were not known as such until the 1500's, well after the surname was established.

Springer, Weller, and Wilder are examples of names that end in -er that are NOT occupational names. Most that do -- are. These three surnames are English Place names derived from colloquialisms at the time for a woods or forest, and the man designated as Springer lived nearby.

Stafford: is an English Place name that was adopted by the man who lived near a river or creek at a crossing point -- which was called a ford. The particular crossing point was a 'stony ford, or ford by a landing place.'

Standish: is an English Place name for the location in Lancashire (now Greater Manchester) from OE stan=stone + edisc=pasture, for a literal meaning of 'stone pasture.'

Stanier/Stonyer/Stanyer/Stonier: English Occupational Name...for stone cutter. Old English stan =stone. A stan sawyer or stan'yer was a cutter of stone.

Starr: English Place name... Many surnames derived from the signs at the roadside inns during early times, when people didn't read signs as much as they looked at the pictures – and innkeepers sometimes took their sign's picture as a surname. Most were animals, birds or fish, but occasionally the innkeeper displayed other signs, such as the star, by which they became known.

Steele: English Place name, from 'stile' or a place of steep ascent.

Stevenson is a variation of the English Patronymic name Stephen/Steven, which originated in the Greek given name Stephanos, meaning 'crown.' Stephen was the first Christian martyr, stoned to death three years after the death of Christ, and his name was widely adopted throughout the Christian countries in the Middle Ages. Among the numerous variations are Stephenson, Stevenson, Steven, Stiven, Steffen, Steffan. French cognates are Stephan, Stephane, Estienne, Etienne. Other cognates include Estievan, Etievant, Tievant, Thevand (Provencal), Stefano, Stifano, Stephano, Stievano, Steffani (Italian), Esteban (Spanish), Esteva, Esteve (Portuguese), Stefan (Rumanian), Stoffen (Bavaria), Stevaen (Flemish), Schippang, Zschepang, Schoppan (German of Slav origin), and many, many others.

Stiehr, Stier, Steer: German occupational names for the man who watched the livestock.

Strobel: German nickname that is derived from Straub, which comes from Middle High German strup = rough, and was given to the "shock-headed man" for his hair style.

Stroupe: comes from the Middle High German word strup, which means 'rough, unkempt' and is a German Descriptive name for the 'shock-headed' man.

Stukeley: Stukley, Stucley, and Stukeley are variations of a habitation name from a place in the county of Huntingdonshire (now Cambridgeshire) which got its name from Old English styfic = stump + leah = wood. A family by the name of Stucley can be traced to Richard Stucley (died 1441) who is also recorded as Richard Styuecle.

Sullivan/Sullivant: Anglicized form of the Gaelic O'Suileabhain , descendant of Suileabhan , a given name composed of the elements suil = eye + dubh = black, dark + the diminutive suffix -an.

Swann/Swan: English Nickname for a person noted for purity of excellence (attributes of the swan, supposedly), from Old English swan. Some Swan surnames derived from the signs at the roadside inns during early times, when people didn't read signs as much as they looked at the pictures – and innkeepers sometimes took their sign's picture as a surname. (Most were animals, birds or fish.) Occasionally, Swan is derived as an Occupational name for the servant or retainer as a variant of Swain. Cognates include Schwan (German), De Swaen (Flemish), De Swaan, Van den Swaan, Van den Zwaan (Dutch), Svane (Norwegian), and Svahn, Swahn (Swedish).

Sweet: Swett is a variation of Sweet, an English Nickname for a popular person, derived from Old English swete. Given names Swet(a) -- masculine, and Swete -- feminine, were derived from this word, and survived into the early Middle Ages, and may be the source of the surname. Swett isn't the only variant: Swetman, Sweetman, Sweatman, and Swatman are among the English varieties. There are cognative versions many countries including Sussman (German), DeZoete (Flemish), and Susser (Jewish).

Syri: English Patronymic Name... from given name Syred and elements sige = victory + roed = counsel

Szymczyk/Szymczak: Polish Patronymic Name...from the popular name Simon, which means 'gracious hearing' and was common during the Middle Ages. It was due to affection for Simon Bar-Jonah surnamed Peter, rather than to Simeon -- the second son of Jacob by Leah. (from Elsdon Smith)


 

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Taber/Tabor: was the man who beat the tabor, a small drum. It's an English Occupational name.

Terrell: is an English Patronymic name, with a little Nordic influence. (remember, they invaded early on...) Thurold or Thorold were given names that mean 'Thor, strong' and have lapsed into disuse these days...but during the Middle Ages there were enough that their sons were sometimes known as Terrell, meaning the 'son of Thurold' or 'son of Thorold.'

Terry: is derived from the pet form of the given name Terence, which means 'smooth, tender.' It's an English Patronymic name from a Latin given name. Requested by Philip Terry

Tew: English Place name from the Old English word tiewe which meant row, or ridge, and the person living near the ridge became known as Tew. Requested by Karen Tew

Thomasson: English Patronymic name derived from the given name Thomas, which was the preferred usage in Wales, while in England the Patronymic surname evolved as Thoma, Thomasson, Thompkins, Tomlinson, and Toombs.

Thompson: English and Scottish Patronymic name from Thomas (twin) which was a popular name in the Middle Ages (and still is...). Requested by Philip Terry

Thomson: Thomas was a popular given name in the Middle Ages, and it has endured through the years. Thom is a pet form and the man who had Thom for a Dad, was Thom'son. It's an English Patronymic name. Requested by Ronald Thomson

Thurman: Thor was the ancient god of thunder, and was known in Old Norse as Porr (not exactly the correct P as the Norse wrote it, but it's the best this keyboard will do). Porr + mundr = Thor's protection, and that became a given name in Old Norse -- Pormundr, which evolved into the Middle English version Thurmond. Thurman is an English Patronymic Name derived from Thurmond as a given name.

Tipton: English Place name from Staffordshire which described Tibba's homestead. Requested by Philip Terry

Todd: English Occupational Name...In the north of England, a fox was commonly referred to as a 'todd' and the picture of the fox or todd often appeared on the sign outside a roadside inn. (Many couldn't read and the signs used pictures instead.) The animal on the signs often were adopted as surnames by those who lived there.

Tomlin: English Patronymic name...another derivative of the given name Thomas. Thomas was the preferred usage in Wales, while in England the Patronymic surname evolved as Tomlin, Thoma, Thomasson, Thompkins, Tomlinson, and Toombs. Requested by James Tomlin

Toomey, O'Toomey and Twomey are Anglicized versions of the Gaelic O'Tuama (descendant of Tuama) with Tuama being a personal name derived from tuaim'which meant "small hill." Other variations are Twoomy, Tuomy, Towmey, O'Twomey, and O'Toomey.

Tracy: English Place name based on a French town called Tracy which meant 'terrace.' Many English surnames were those based on the name of the former home of those who emigrated with William the Conqueror or soon after. Requested by William Tracy.

Treat: The surname Treat is an English descriptive name that originated with a 'friendly, beloved person' whose company was well-enjoyed, as any treat today would be!

Troy: French Place name from Troyes, a place known for "the Gaulish tribe, the Tricassii."

Tullos/Tulloh/Tulloch/Tullock: Scottish Place Name near Dingwall on the Firth of Cromarty which got its name from the Gaelic tulach = hillock, or hill.

Turnbull: Some names are derived from descriptions of their originators...like the Englishman strong enough to 'turn a bull.' Requested by Jennifer Turnbull

Turner: English/Scottish Occupational Name...from the French turnier = turn for the man who used a lathe to turn objects from wood or metal. Requested by Phil Hopkins

Turvey: English Place name from a place by that name whose elements are comprised of OE turf= grassy + eg'= island. Requested by Brock Vodden

Tweedy/Tweedie: English Place Name...traced back to the Scotsman who came from the land of Tweedie (which means 'hemming in') in Stonehouse parish, Lanarkshire.


Uberuaga: originates from Bizkaia, the Basque Country, Spain, and means Hot Springs in English, derived from the elements ur = water + bero = hot + aga = place of. Submitted by B. Uberuaga.

Ulmer: Research indicates that the original Ulmer who came to Charleston, South Carolina from Germany was named Baron Heinrich Philip Von Ulm. Some sources say that he changed his name in England before coming to the colonies in order to receive a land grant. Submitted by Jim Ulmer. Von Ulm is a Place designation that references Ulm, a city in Baden-Wurttemberg, Germany.

Uusimake: Finnish Acquired/ornamental Name... Like many other nationalities, the Finnish people often constructed surnames that pleased the ear; maki = hill

 

V-W



Valdez/Valdes: Spanish Place Name...The Spanish and Portugese were fond of bestowing as a surname, the name of the place from which the person had departed. Valdez ends in -ez, so it is Spanish rather than Portuguese where -es is preferred. Valdes was the name of the town that gave its name to those who came to be known as Valdez.

Valentine: means 'vigorous or healthy' and was originally a Latin given name that found its way to various countries. Valentino was a derivative in a number of countries. It's Patronymic in that it was derived from the father's name.

Varn: Variation of Fern, an English Place name for someone who lived in a place where many ferns were growing, derived from Old English fearn = fern. Variations include Fearn, Fairn, Feirn, Fearne, Ferns, Farnes, Vern, Verne, Varn, Varne, and Varnes.

Vass/Voss: English Occupational name... OE vassus = serf, Gaelic foss = servant

Veale/Veal: English Nickname...Veale is a name that was influenced by the Normans. Old French viel meant old, and the nickname referred to an old man or the elder of two brothers that had the same given name American heavyweight boxer George Foreman named several of his sons George, so it still happens!). Requested by Kylie Lacey

Veitch/Veach/Vetch/Veath: Veitch is a Norman (Old French) cognitive of the name Veath/Vacca (Italian) which described 'one who herds cows.'

Verdoorn/VanDoorn/Van den Doorne/Doorneman: Dutch Place/Patronymic...A version of the English name THORN; a person living by the thorn bush/hedge, or from the Danish version of "tower". With the prefix Van it becomes "the son of Thorn/Tower" and Ver would denote "from Doorn," a place of thorns. Requested by: David Verdoorn, Jr.

Vidal: Italian Patronymic name from Vitale, a name derived from the Latin Vitalis and its root vita which means life. It was a popular name among Italians professing their early Christian faith.


Wagner/Waggoner: German/English Occupation Name...One who drove the high-sided carts or wagons carrying produce between manors was called the Waggoner in England, and the German counterpart is Wagner. Among the Pennsylvania Germans who were among the first non-English settlers of the American colony, Wagner also denoted a wagon-maker. According to one survey, Wagner is 116th on the list of most-frequently found surnames in America. Requested by Susan Davenport-Wagner

Wall/Walls/Waller: English Place and Occupational Name...one who lived by the wall (medieval towns always used them for protection) was Wall/Walls/Waller, and the name was also used to designate the one who did the repair. Requested by: Bev Waller

Walsh: English/Welsh place name. In England, the man from Wales would be described as Walsh, Welsh, Wallace, or Welch -- that is, foreigner or stranger.

Walt: Walter means "rule, army" and has been a popular name since the Middle Ages. There were a number of surnames derived from the given name -- including the pet form Walt. The son of Walt was Walts. It's an English Patronymic name.

Warf: is taken from the Old English word hwearf=shipyard and as an English name would designate a man who works at the docks, and the word evolved into our lexicon as wharf. The Dutch equivalent is Van Der Werf.

Warner/Warren: both names were derived from the job of the man who watched over the wildlife at a park. They are both English Occupational names. Requested by Lori Warner.

Warren: English Place Name...(Norman) from La Varrenne in Seine-Maritime which means sandy soil.

Walton: The ending -ton comes from the Old English/Norse -tun which designated a town or settlement. Walton was the 'walled' town or the 'wood' town and is an English Place name.

Wessel: is a Frisian cognative of the name Warner. The Frisian Islands are in the North Sea off the coast of the Netherlands and near Denmark. It's a patronymic name from the given name Warner (guard).

Whaley: English Place Name for the meadow by the road or hill.

Whetstone: normally whet is a derivative of white, and white stone would be a place name for one who lived near a prominent white stone...but the Old English word whetten = to make keen + ston = stone --combine for whetstone, an abrasive stone for sharpening tools, which could have been adopted as a surname by the man who used it.

White: English/Scottish/Irish Nickname for the man with white hair, or pale skin, from the Middle English whit = white. Requested by Darryl Rogers

Whitehead: is an English Nickname that described the man with the fair hair, or the prematurely white hair. It's from the Old English whit=white + heved=head.

Whitelock/Whitlock/Whitlatch: English Descriptive name for the man who had an especially white head of hair. Requested by James Whitlatch

Whitmer/Whitemore: English Place name derived from Whitemore, in county Staffordshire. It was a white barren ground, and the man who lived near could easily be identified by his dwelling's location.

Wien: German/Jewish Place Name for a city in Vienna of Celtic origin. There was a large Jewish population in Vienna previous to the Holocaust. Requested by Jane Cowart

Wiesenhunt: German place name from Middle High German wise = meadow. Requested by Jane Cowart

Wilcynski: is a Polish Place name and is derived from the Polish wilk which means wolf. Wilk was generally used to describe someone wolf-like -- but in the case of Wilcynski, it indicates a place name, and could be for the man who lived near the wolves.

Wiley: Some names were taken from the places where the home was kept...in the case of the man who became known as Wiley, he lived near the Wiley River in England, which was so-called as a "tricky" river.

Wilson/Willson/Will: Scottish/N.English Patronymic name derived from the given name William. It was also sometimes an English Place name for the person who lived by the stream or well from the Saxon wiell = well.

Wingate: English Place Name...taken from the Wingate, Durham area of England. Wingate was the 'pass where the wind blows.'

Womack: English Place name that designated a 'hollow or crooked oak' tree. The person who wound up with the surname was the one who lived nearby. Requested by Mark Womack

Wojcik/Wojtas: Polish Patronymic Name...The Czech missionary who converted Poland to Christianity was Voitech, which meant 'noble, bright.' The Polish version of the name was Wojciech which became a family name in Poland, and another form of the name was Wojcik, as was Wojtas.

Word: is an English (and German) place name for the man who lived near the thicket. Or near a winding brook. Or the man who inhavited an open place in a village. Or the man who had an ancestor named Werdo, which was a pet form of the name Werdmann or Werdheri. In the case of the latter, it's a Patronymic name.

Wyatt: the word wido was Old German for 'wood' and was brought to England with the Normans as the given name Guy. Diminutive forms include Wyatt which was adopted as a Patronymic surname.


 

X-Y-Z



Young: Comparitive age was an easy way to reference men with a common name -- for example, John, the young -- as opposite to John, the elder. It is sometimes found with the old spelling Yong, and is found in other languages. Jung is the version found in Germany, and Jaros is the Polish variety.
Zumwalt/Zumwald: The prefix -zum is the German indicator for "at the" or "of" and Zumwalt and Zumwald are "at the woods," or "of the woods."

Zweiacker: is two German words, Zwei and Acker, Zwei is the number 2 and Acker means field. Submitted by a Zweiacker surnamer.

 

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