Origin of Surnames
An Essay on the Origin and Import of Family Names
by William Arthur, M.A.
father of President Chester A. Arthur
The Creator bestowed on the first man the name of Adam, denoting his origin from the earth. Eve gave to her first born the name of Cain, implying acquisition, a standing testimony of her faith in the first promise made to man in Eden.
The signification of the Hebrew names recorded in the 5th chapter of Genesis, when arranged in order, present an epitome of the ruin and recovery of man through a Redeemer
ADAM, i. e., "Man in the image of God;"
SETH, "Substituted by;"
ENOS, "Frail Man;"
CANAAN, "Lamenting; "
MAHALALEEL, " The blessed God;"
JARED, "Shall come down;"
ENOCH, " Teaching;"
METHUSELAH, "His death shall send;" LAMECH, "To the humble ;"
NOAH, "Rest or consolation."
These names in the order in which they are recorded, read thus : "To man, once made in the image of God, now substituted by man frail and full of sorrow, the blessed God himself shall come down to the earth teaching, and his death shall send to the humble, consolation."
The son of Abraham and Sarah, by divine direction was to bear the name of Isaac, signifying laughter, in allusion to the circumstances recorded of the father of the faithful in the 17th chapter of Genesis. In like manner Jacob received the name Yaakob, that is, he shall "hold by the heel" or supplant, a prediction which was fulfilled when he supplanted his brother Esau, in the matter of his birthright.
The ancient Hebrews retained the greatest simplicity in the use of names, and generally a single name distinguished the individual. Where it was. necessary the name of the father was added,, and sometimes that of the mother, if she happened to be more celebrated.
Names were first given for the distinction of persons, and each individual had, at the beginning, but Dr. Cummings - one proper or given name, as Joseph among the Jews, Amasis among the Egyptians, Arbaces among the Medians, among the Greeks Ulysses, among the Romans Romulus, the Germans Ariovistus, the British Caradoc, the Saxons Edric, etc.
The Jews named their children the eighth day after the nativity, when the rite of circumcision was performed. The Greeks gave the name on the tenth day, and an entertainment was given by the parents to their friends, and sacrifices offered to the gods.
The Romans gave names to their female children on the eighth day, and to the males on the ninth, which they called Dies lustricus, the day of purification, on which day they solemnized a feast called Nominalia.
The name given was generally indicative of some particular circumstance attending the birth or infancy, some quality of body or mind, or was expressive of the good wishes or fond hopes of the parent. Objects in nature, the most admired and beautiful, were selected by them to designate their offspring. The sun, the moon and stars, the clouds, the beasts of the field, the trees and the flowers that adorn the face of nature, were all made subservient to this end.
Pythagoras taught that the minds, actions, and success of men would be according to their fate, genius and name, and Plato advises men to be careful in giving fair and happy names.
Such hopeful names as Victor, conqueror, Felix, happy, and Fortunatus, lucky, were called by Cicero, " bona nomina, "good names, and by Tacitus, " fausta nomina," prosperous names.
" Such names among the Romans were considered so happy and fortunate, that in the time of Galienus, Regilianus who commanded in the ancient Illyricum, obtained the empire in consequence of the derivation of his name. When it was demanded during a banquet, what was the origin of Regilianus, one answered, ' a Regno,' to reign, to be a king ; another began to decline ' Rex (a king), Regis, Regilianus,' when the soldiers began to exclaim, 'Ergo potest Rex esse, ergo potest regere, Deus tibi regis nomen imposuit,' and so invested him with the imperial robes."
Lewis the Eighth, King of France, sent two of his embassadors to Alphonso, king of Spain, to solicit one of his daughters in marriage. When the young ladies, whose names were Urraca and Blanche, were presented to the embassadors, they made choice of Blanche, though far less beautiful than her sister, assigning as a reason that her name would be better received in France, as Blanche signified fair and beautiful.
So the proverb, "Bonum nomen bonum omen"--A good name is a good omen.
Names, epithets, and soubriquets were often bestowed by others than the parents, at a more advanced age, expressive of character or exploits, of personal beauty, deformity or blemish-such as, among the Greeks (Telemachus), able to sustain the war; (Philip), a lover of horses ; (Alexander), a benefactor of men, and eagle-nose. Among the Romans, Victor, a conqueror ; Strabo, squint-eyed ; Varus, bow-legged. Among the Britons, Cadwallader, the leader of the war. Among the Gaels or Celts, Galgach, or Galgachus, the fierce fighter of battles ; Curaidh, a hero.
Among the Britons and Gaels, names were taken from those animals which excelled in swiftness, fierceness, boldness, strength or courage, as the Lion, the Bear, the Wolf, the Mastiff: The following are examples : Llew, Llewelyn, Arthur, Kee, etc.
Others from valor, skill in war, and various mental qualities, as Caw, Cadwallon, Cadwallader, Hardd; Donald, Duncan, Fergus, Colom, Coel, Caractacus.
Others from color. Lloyd, Brych, Winne, Goch, Gorm, Gwrmain, Glass, Dhu or Du, Da or Day, Melyn, Bane, Cane, Roe, &c.
The ROMANS introduced such names as Julius, Claudius, Felix, Constans, Constantine, Augustus, Augustine, etc. The SAXONS the names of Charles, Edward, Edmund, Baldwin, Oswald, etc. The Danes, such as Hengist, Horsa, Sweyne, Canute; and the NORMANS chose such as Robert, William, Richard, Henry, etc.
Before the general introduction of surnames, the Britons and Celts, for the sake of distinction, used explanatory names, descriptive of personal peculiarities, individual pursuits, mental or bodily qualities, accidental circumstances, or the performance of certain actions. These names have been called Soubriquets, Cognomens, and Nicknames-such as Howel Da, or Howel the good; Howel y Pedolau, or Howel of the horse-shoes, so called from being able to straighten them or bend them by manual strength ; Cadrod Hardd, or the beautiful; Ririd Vlaidd, or Ririd the Wolf; Cunedda Wledig, or the Patriotic ; Howel y Fwyall, or the Battle axe ; Caswallon Law hir, or the long hand; Llywarch Hen, or the aged ; Donald Corm, or Blue Donald ; Malcolm Can more, great head.
The Gaels of Ireland had also the same kind of cognomens or descriptive names, as Niall Roe, or Niall the Red ; Niall More, Niall the Great ; Con Bachach, Con the Lame; Henry Avrey, Henry the Contentious ; Shane au Dimais, John the Proud ; Shane Buidhe, or John with the yellow hair; Shane Gearr, John Short; Seumas Reagh, James the Swarthy; O'Connor Don, the Brown-haired O'Connor.
Sir Henry Piers, in the year 1682, in a letter to Anthony, Lord Bishop of Meath, gave the following account of Irish sobriquets and cognomens:
* * * " They take much liberty, and seem to do it with delight, in giving of nicknames; and if a man have any imperfection or evil habit, he shall be sure to hear of it in the nickname. Thus, if he be blind, lame, squint-eyed, gray-eyed, be a stammerer in speech, be left-handed, to be sure he shall have one of these added to his name ; so also from his color of hair, as black, red, yellow, brown, etc. ; and from his age, as young, old ; or from what he addicts himself to, or much delights in, as in draining, building, fencing, or the like; so that no man whatever can escape a nickname who lives among them, or converseth with them ; and sometimes, so libidinous are they in this kind of raillery, they will give nicknames per antiphrasim, or contrariety of speech. Thus a man of excellent parts, and beloved of all men, shall be called Grana, that is, naughty, or fit to be complained of. If a man have a beautiful countenance or lovely eyes, they will call him Cueegh, that is, squint-eyed ; if a great housekeeper, he shall be called Ackerisagh, that is, greedy."
The same custom prevailed in England, and other countries, in reference to descriptive names, many of which in after times became surnames ; as William the Lion; Henry the Fowler; Edmund Ironside; Harold Harefoot; William Rufus (the Red) ; Henry Beauclerk (fine Scholar) ; Richard Coeur de Lion (the Lion-hearted; John Lackland; Edward Longshanks; David Crookshanks. Some of this class indicate mental qualities, as Good, Goodman, Goodenough, Best, Sage, Wise. Others are derived from personal appearance or bodily peculiarities, as Big, Meikle, Little, Lightbody, Lightfoot, Armstrong, Greathead.
Among these are included names denoting complexion, color of hair and dress, as Black, Blond, Brown, Gray, Grissel, Red, Rufus, Rous, Russel, Rothe (German red), Rothman, Ruddiman, Blacket or Blackhead, Whitelock, and Whitehead.
Among names of costume are found Capet, Curthose (short hose), Robe, Mantle, etc.
The custom of giving nicknames to individuals bearing hereditary surnames has not yet been discontinued; and in many localities, the peasantry are better known by soubriquets than by their proper surnames. This is especially the case where several families bear the same surnames.
Mark Antony Lower, M. A., in his interesting and amusing Essay on Family Nomenclature, relates the following story, as given by a correspondent of Knight's Quarterly Magazine: "I knew an apothecary in the collieries, who, as a matter of decorum, always entered the real name of his patients in his books ; that is, when he could ascertain them. But they stood there for ornament; for use, he found it necessary to append the soubriquet, which he did with true medical formality, as, for instance, ` Thomas Williams, vulgo dict. (vulgarly called) ` Old Puff.'"
A story is told of an attorney's clerk, who was professionally employed to serve a process on one of these oddly-named persons, whose real name was entered in the instrument with legal accuracy. The clerk, after a great deal of inquiry as to the whereabouts of the party, was about to abandon the search as hopeless, when a young woman, who had witnessed his labors, kindly volunteered to assist him.
"Oy say, Bullyed," cried she to the first person they met, "does thee know a mon neamed Adam Green?" The bull-head was shaken in token of ignorance.
"Loy-a-bed, dost thee ?"
Lie-a-bed's opportunities of making acquaintance had been rather limited, and she could not resolve the difficulty.
Stumpy (a man with a wooden leg), Cowskin, Spindleshanks, Cockeye, and Pigtail were severally invoked, but in vain ; and the querist fell into a brown study, in which she remained for some time. At length, however, her eyes suddenly brightened, and slapping one of her companions on the shoulder, she exclaimed triumphantly, " Dash my wig 1 whoy he means moy feyther I" and then turning to the gentleman, added, "yo should'n ax'd for Ode (old) Blackbird."
It is stated that " few of the miners of Staffordshire bear the names of their fathers ; and an instance is given of a certain pig-dealer in that county whose father's name was Johnson, but the people call him Pigman, and Pigman he calls himself. This name may be now seen over the door of a public-house which this man keeps in Staffordshire."
In this connection Mr. Lower adds : There were lately living in the small town of Folkestone, Co. Kent (Eng.), fifteen persons whose hereditary name was HALL, but who, gratin distinctions, bore the elegant designations of
DOGGY HALL, FEATHERTOE,
A SURNAME is an additional name added to the Proper or given name, for the sake of distinction, and so called because originally written over the other name, instead of after it, from the French Surnom, or the Latin "Super nomen," signifying above the name.
Surnames have originated in various ways. Some are derived from the names of places ; others from offices and professions ; from personal peculiarities ; from the Christian or proper name of the father; from the performance of certain actions; from objects in the animal, mineral, and vegetable world, and from accidental circumstances of every varied character.
The introduction of surnames arose from the necessity of the case. Soon after the diffusion of Christianity among the nations of Europe, their Pagan names were generally laid aside, and the people began to take Hebrew names, such as Moses, Aaron, Malachi, David, Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Peter, James. As the families increased, many persons were found bearing the same name. The Johns, and the Jameses, and the Peters became numerous.
For a long time, soubriquets and nicknames, like those of which we have spoken, and patronymics, were appended to the name to distinguish the individual, which were in some cases retained, and became surnames, but by degrees this means of remedying the confusion became insufficient, and to identify the individual more distinctly, surnames were found necessary.
It is impossible to state at what precise period names became stationary, or began to descend hereditarily. According to Camden, surnames began to be taken up in France about the year 1000, and in England about the time of the Conquest (1066), or a very little before, under King Edward the Confessor.
He says: "And to this time doe the Scottish men referre the antiquitie of their surnames, although Buchanan supposeth that they were not in use in Scotland many yeares after."
"But in England, certaine it is, that as the better sort, euen from the Conquest, by little and little, took surnames, so they were not settled among the common people fully until about the time of King Edward the Second, but still varied according to the father's name, as Richardson, if his father were Richard ; Hodgson, if his father were Roger, or in some other respect, and from thenceforth began to be established (some say by statute) in their posteritie."
" This will seem strange to some Englishmen and Scottishmen, which, like the Arcadians, think their surnames as ancient as the moone, or, at the least, to reach many an age beyond the Conquest. But they which thinke it most strange (I speake under correction), I doubt they will hardly finde any surname which descended to posteritie before that time; neither have they seene (I fear) any deed or donation before the Conquest, but subsigned with crosses and single names, without surnames, in this manner, in England-+ Ego Eadredus confirmaui; + Ego Edmundus corroboraui; + Ego Sigarius conclusi; + Ego Olfstanus consolidaui, etc."
"Likewise for Scotland, in an old booke of Duresme in the Charter, whereby Edgare, sonne of King Malcolme, gave lands neare Coldingham to that church, in the year 1097, the Scottish noblemen, witnesses thereunto, had no other surnames but the Christian names of their fathers, for thus they signed-S. + Gulfi filii Meniani. S .j. Culuerti filii Doncani, etc."
On the authority of Dr. Keating and his contemporary Gratianus Lucius, we learn that surnames first became hereditary in Ireland, in the reign of Brian Boru, who was killed in the battle of Clontarf, in the year 1014, in which battle the Danes were defeated. Previous to this time, individuals were identified by Tribe names, after the Patriarchal manner. These tribe names were formed from those of the progenitors by prefixing the following words, signifying race, progeny, descendants, etc. Corca, Lineal, Clan, Muintir, Siol, Sliocht, Dal, Tealach, Ua, Ui, or 0, which signifies grandson or descendant. It is asserted on the authority of the ancient Irish Manuscripts, that King Brian ordained that a certain surname should be imposed on every tribe or clan, in order that it might be more easily known from what stock each family was descended ; and that these names should become hereditary and fixed forever. In the formation of these names, care was taken that they should not be arbitrarily assumed. The several families were required to adopt the names of their fathers or grandfathers, and those ancestors were generally selected who were celebrated for their virtues or renowned for their valor.
Many of the surnames now common in Ireland were derived from the chiefs of the several clans who fought against the Danes at the battle of Clontarf, under King Brian, and others were assumed from ancestors who flourished subsequently to the reign of that monarch. Soon after the invasion of Ireland by Henry the Second, in the year 1172, the Anglo-Norman and Welsh families who had obtained large grants of land in that kingdom, in reward for their military services in subduing the inhabitants, from intermarriages and other causes, began by degrees to adopt the language and manners of the people, and in process of time became "Hibernis ipsis Hiberniores," more Irish than the Irish themselves. They not only spoke the Irish language, but conformed to the Irish custom of surnames, by placing "MAC," which signifies "son," before the Christian name of their father. This was particularly the case in regard to those English and Welsh families who settled in the province of Connaught. Thus, the descendants of William De Burgos were called MacWilliam, that is, the son of William, and the De Exeters assumed the name of MacJordan, from Jordan De Exeter, who derived his name from Exeter, a town in Devonshire, England.
In the year 1465, in the reign of Edward the Fourth, it was enacted by statute, that every Irishman dwelling within the English pale, then comprising the counties of Dublin, Meath, Lowth, and Kildare, in Ireland, should take an English surname.
"At the request of the Commons, it is ordeyned and established by authority of said Parliament, that every Irishman that dwells betwixt or among Englishmen, in the county Dublin, Myeth, Uriell, and Kildare, shall goe like to one Englishman in apparel, and shaveing off his beard above the mouth, and shall be within one year sworn the liege man of the king, in the hands of the lieutenant, or deputy, or such as he will assigne to receive this oath for the multitude that is to be sworne, and shall take to him an English surname of one towne, as Sutton, Chester, Trym, Skyrne, Corke, Kinsale ; or colour, as White, Black, Brown ; or art or science, as Smith, or Carpenter ; or office, as Cook, Butler; and that he and his issue shall use this name under payne of forfeyting of his goods yearly till the premises be done, to be levied two times by the yeare to the king's warres, according to the discretion of the lieutenant of the king or his deputy."-5 Edward IV., cap. 3.
In obedience to this law, Harris, in his additions to Ware, remarks that the Shanachs took the name of Fox, the McGabhans or McGowans, that of Smith, and the Geals the name of White. In consequence of this statute of Edward, many Irish families were induced to translate or change their names into English.
The ancient prefixes of Mac and 0 are still retained in Irish names, the former denoting son, and the latter grandson, or descendant. To distinguish the individual the father's name was used, and sometimes that of the grandfather after the manner of the Scripture. Thus, should Donnel have a son, he would be called MacDonnel, that is, the son of Donnel, and his grandson would be termed O'Donnel ; O'Neal, the grandson of Neal, or the descendant of Neal ; MacNeal, the son of Neal.
The Welsh, in like manner, prefixed Ap, mab, ab, or vap to the given or first name to denote son, as David Ap Howell; David the son of Howell ; Evan AP Rhys, Evan the son of Rees ; Richard Ap Evan, Richard the son of Evan; John Ap Hugh, John the son of Hugh. These names are now abbreviated into Powell, Price, Bevan, and Pugh.
The name of the ancestor was appended in this manner for half-a-dozen generations back, and it is no uncommon occurrence to find in their old records a name like this:
Evan - ap - Griffith-ap-Jones-ap-William-ap Owenap-Jenkin-ap-Morgan-ap-Rheese.
Lower tells of a church at Llangollen, Wales, dedicated to "St.Collen-ap-Gwynnawg-ap-Clyndawg-ap-Cowrda-ap-Caradoc-Freichfras-ap-LlynMerim-ap-Einion- Yrth-ap-Cunedda-Wledig-a name that casts that of the Dutchman `Inkvervankodsdorspankkinkadrachdern' into the shade."
Surnames were not adopted in Wales until long after they were in England and Scotland. The old manner was retained as far down as the time of Henry the Eighth. It is related in Camden, " That in late yeares, in the time of King Henry the Eight, an ancient worshipful gentleman of Wales beeing called at the pannel of Jurie by the name of Thomas ap-William-ap-Thomas-ap -Richard-ap-Hoel-ap-Euen-Vaghan,' was advised by the judge to leave that old manner; whereupon he after called himself Moston, according to the name of his principall house, and left that surname to his posteritie."
About this time, the heads of the Welsh families either took the names of their immediate ancestors as surnames, or adopted names from their estates, after the English manner.
The old Normans prefixed Fitz, a son, the same as Fils in French, and Filius in Latin, to the name of the father as a patronymic, as Fitz William, the son of William, the -same as Williamson.
In Ireland, after the invasion of Strongbow, in the time of Henry the Second, names commencing with Fitz frequently occur, as Fitzhugh, Fitzgerald, Fitzgibbon, Fitzsimmons, Fitzpatrick, which are of Anglo-Norman origin. Camden informs us that in the reign of Henry the First, the daughter and heir of Fitzhamon, an English nobleman of wealth, refused the hand of Robert, the natural son of the king, saying,
"It were to me a great shame To have a lord withouten his twa name."
Whereupon, the king gave him the name of Fitz Roy, "the son of the king." Children born out of lawful wedlock not un frequently have had Fitz prefixed to the name of their mother or reputed father. The children of his Royal Highness, William, Duke of Clarence, and Mrs. Jordan, took the surname of Fitzclarence.
WITZ, a termination common in Russian names, denotes son, and is somewhat analogous to the Norman Fitz, as Peter Paulowitz, Peter the son of Paul.
SKY is used in a similar manner by the Poles, as James Petrowsky, James the son of Peter.
ING, Teutonic, denoting progeny-which Wachter derives from the British engi, to produce, bring forth-was affixed by the Anglo-Saxons to the father's name as a surname for the son, as Cuthing the son of Cuth, AElfreding the son of Alfred, Whiting the Fair offspring, Browning the Dark offspring. Gin, in Gaelic, signifies to beget ; An, Gaelic, is a termination of nouns implying the diminutive of that to which it is annexed, and an, in the Welsh, as an affix, conveys also the idea of littleness. The termination son was also added to the father's name, and instead of saying John the son of William, the name was written John Williamson; Peter Johnson, in place of Peter the son of John. While the English affixed son to the baptismal name of the father, the Welsh merely appended "s," as John Matthews, that is, John the son of Mathew; David Jones (Johns), David the son of John ; John Hughs, John the son of Hugh.
Kin, kind, ling, let, et, ot, cic, cock, are diminutives.
From the German kind, a child, is formed the diminutive termination kin, as Watkin the son of Wat or Walter; Wilkin the son of Will or William. Kin or kind has the same signification as the Greek yevos and the Latin genus, race, offspring, children.
LING at the end of a word conveys the idea of something young or little, as darling or dearling, firstling, gosling,. and denotes also the situation, state, or condition of the subject to which it is applied, as hireling, worldling.
LET, Anglo-Saxon lyt, is sometimes used for little, as hamlet, ringlet, streamlet, Bartlet; i. e., little Bart or Bartholomew. The terminations et and ot are used in the same sense, as Willet, Willmot, the son of William or little William.
The termination cic or cock is also a diminutive, and signifies little or son, as Hiccic, Hiccock, the son of Hig or Hugh; Wilcock, the son of William; Babcock, the son of Bob or Robert.
LOCAL NAMES form the largest class of our surnames. First among these are those which are national, expressing the country whence the person first bearing the name came; as ENGLISH, SCOTT, IRISH, FRENCH.
GERMAN or GORMAN, BRETT and BRITAIN.
FLEMING, from Flanders.
BURGOYNE, from Burgundy.
CORNISH and CORNWALLIS, from Cornwall.
GERMAINE, ALMAN and D'ALMAINE (D'Alle magne), from Germany.
CHAMPAGNE and CHAMPNEYS, from Champagne, France.
GASCOYNE and GASKIN, from Gascony. ROMAYNE. from Rome.
WESTPHAL, from Westphalia.
HANWAY, from HAINAULT.
JANEWAY, a Genoese-etc., etc.
These names had commonly Le (the) prefixed to them in old records.
The practice of taking names from patrimonial estates, or from the place of residence or birth, was prevalent in Normandy and the contiguous parts of France in the latter part of the tenth century, and was generally adopted in England and Scotland after the Conquest.
Names were taken from almost every county,, city, town, parish, village, and hamlet, and from manors, farms,- and single houses, such as Cheshire,. Kent, Ross, Hastings, Cunningham, Huntingdon.,, Preston, Hull, Compton, Goring, etc., so that local names of this class number many thousands.
Where the name was taken from the patrimonial estate, it was assumed by the individual himself; when from the place of residence or birth, it was probably bestowed by others. A person who had removed from his native place and settled in another, received from the inhabitants of the town or village in which he took up his abode the name of his native place as a surname, which descended to his children.
These names were first given with the prefix "of," shortened frequently to "0" or "a," signifying from (or it may be sometimes an abbreviation of " at"), as John O'Huntingdon, Adam a Kirby. These prefixes were after a time dropped, and Adam a Kirby became Adam Kirby, and John O'Kent, John Kent.
Besides these, we have a great number of local surnames which are general and descriptive of the nature or situation of the residence of the persons upon whom they were bestowed, as Hill, Wood, Dale, Parke, etc. The prefix At or Atte was generally used before these names, as John At Hill, John at the hill, James At Well, Will At- Gate, Tom At- Wood, now Atwell, Adgate, and Atwood. Atte was varied to Atten when the following name began with a vowel, as Peter Atten Ash, now Nash, Richard Atten Oak, now Noakes or Nokes.
Sometimes "a" was used instead of at, as Thomas d Becket, Jack a Deane. By and under were used as Prefixes, as James By-field, Tom Under-hill.
In this way men took their names from rivers and trees, from residing at or near them, as Beck, Gill, Eden, Trent, Grant, and Shannon; Beach, Vine, Ashe, Bush, and Thorn.
Local names prefixed with De (from) and terminating in ville, originated in Normandy, and were introduced into England at the time of the Conquest. These names were taken from the districts towns, or hamlets of which they were possessed, or in which they resided previously to their following the fortunes of William the Conqueror, such as De Mandeville, De Neville, De Montague, De Warren, De Beaumont, etc. The prefix De was generally dropped about the reign of Henry the Sixth. All these names introduced into England at the time of the Conquest, from Normandy and the contiguous parts of France may easily be distinguished by the prefixes De, Du, Des, De La, St., and the suffixes, Beau, Mont, Font, Fant, Ers, Age, Ard, Aux, Bois, Eux, Et, Val, Court, -Faux, Lay, Fort, Ot, Champ, and Ville, the component parts of names of places in Normandy, the signification of most of which we give in the derivation of those names into the composition of which they enter.
The greater part of English local surnames are composed of the following words or terminations Ford, Ham., Ley, Ey, Ney, Ton, Tun, Ing, Hurst, Wick, Stow, Sted, Caster, Combe, Cote, Thorpe, Worth, Burg, Beck, and Gill. There is an ancient proverb--
In, Ford, in Ham, in Ley and Ton, The most of English surnames run.
To which Lower has added--
Eng, Wurst, and Wood, Wick, Sted anti Field,
Full many English surnames yield,
With Thorpe anti Bourne, Cote, Caster, Ote,
Combe, Burg, Don, and Stowe, and Stoke,
With Ey and Port, Shaw, Worth and Wade,
Will, Gate, Well, Stone, are many made;
Cliff, Marsh, and Mouth, and Down, and Sand,
And Beck, and Sea, with numbers stand.
Ford, Welsh, Fford, signifies a way, a road. Ford, Saxon, from the verb Faran, to go or pass, denotes a shallow place in a river, where it may be passed on foot, whence Bradford, Crawford, Stanford, etc.
Ham, Saxon, a house, a home, a dwelling-place; German, heim, a home. It is used in the names of places, as Waltham, Durham, Buckingham, etc. Ham, in some localities in England, indicates a rich, level pasture; a plot of land near water; a triangular field.
LEY, LEGH, and LEIGH, a pasture, field, commons ; uncultivated land. Lie, Welsh, a place, Stanley, Burkeley, Raleigh, etc.
EY, NEY, EA are applied to places contiguous to water; a wet or watery place, as Chertsey, Lindsey, Ilsley.
TON and TUNE, Saxon, and Tun, Dutch, signify an inclosure; DUN and DIN, Gaelic and Welsh, a hill, a fortified place ; now a town, dun, tune, town. If the residence of the Briton was on a plain, it was called Van, from lagen or logan, an inclosed plain, or a low-lying place ; if on an eminence, it was called Dun. Dun, in the Gaelic, signifies a heap ; a hill, mount; a fortified house or hill, fortress, castle, or tower.
The surnames terminating in den, din, ton and tun, are numerous, as Houghton, Leighton, Chittendin, Huntington.
ING is, a meadow; low flat lands near a river, lake, or wash of the sea, as Lansing, Washington. HURST, a wood, a grove ; a word found in many names of places, as Bathurst, Hayhurst, Crowhurst, Reddenhurst.
Wick, in old Saxon, is a village, castle, or fort; the same as vices in Latin; a bay, a port or harbor, whence Wickware, Wickliff Warwick, Sedgewick.
STOW, a fixed place or mansion, whence Barstow, Bristow, Raystow.
STED, in the Danish, signifies a place inclosed, an inclosure; a fixed residence; whence Halsted, Olmsted, Rusted, Stedham, Grinsted.
Ceaster, Saxon, a camp, a city ; Latin, castrum, whence Rochester, Winchester, Chichester, Exeter. Combe, Anglo-Saxon, a valley ; Welsh, cwm, a vale, from which we have Balcombe, Bascombe, Slocum. Cot, Cete, Saxon, a cottage ; COTE, French, the sea-coast ; a hill, hillock ; down ; the side. Several names are composed of these words, as Cotesworth, Lippencot, Westcot.
THORPE, Anglo-Saxon, a village. Dutch, Dorp, from this comes Northrop, Northrup or Northorp, Winthorp or Winthrop.
WORTH, a possession, farm; court, place; a fort, an island. Such names end in worth, as Bosworth, Farnsworth, Wordsworth, Woodworth.
BURG, BURY, a hill ; Dutch, Berg, a mountain, a hill ; now, a court, a castle, a town. From these words we have the names Kingsbury, Loundsbury, Waterbury, Salisbury, Rosenburg or Rosenbury.
Tre, Tref, Welsh, a town, Coventry, the town of the Convent ; Trelawny, Tremayne.
The Britons of Cornwall derived many of their surnames from local objects, while most of the Welsh names are patronymics. The following couplet expresses the usual character of Cornish names:
By Tre, Ros, Pol, Lan, Caer, and Pen, You know the most of Cornish men.
These words signify town, heath, pool, church, castle, and promontory.
By is a termination of Danish names of places, and denotes a dwelling, a village, or town, as Willoughby, Busby, Ormsby, Selby, Goadby.
Over. The Anglo-Saxon over corresponds to the German ufer, and signifies a shore or bank, as Westover. Beck, a brook, Anglo-Saxon, Becc, from which we have Beckford, Beckwith, Beckley, etc.
A majority of Dutch surnames are local, derived from places in Holland. Van, Dutch, Von, German, signify of or, from, and denote locality, as Van Antwerp, belonging to or coming from the city of Antwerp ; Van Buren, from the town of Buren in Holland. Nearly all the Dutch local names have this prefix.
SURNAMES DERIVED FROM CHRISTIAN OR BAPTISMAL NAMES are probably next in number to the local surnames. For a long time, before and even after the introduction of stationary surnames, the name of the father was used by the child as a surname.
Camden says we have many surnames formed of such forenames as are now obsolete, and only occur in Doomsday Book and other ancient records, of which he gives a list.
I have already shown how the Normans prefixed Fitz to their father's name for a surname, to denote son; the Welsh Ap, and the ancient Irish, Mac.
The surnames formed from Christian or baptismal names are very numerous; as many as ten or fifteen are frequently formed from a single Christian name. Lower forms no less than twenty-nine from the name of William.
First we have the names terminating in son, which was added to the name of the father, as Williamson, Johnson, Thompson, Wilson, etc.
The Welsh merely appended "s" instead of son, as Edwards, Davis, Jones (Johns), Hughs.
Then we have those formed from nicknames, nursenames, and abbreviated names, as Watson, the son of Wat or Walter; Watts, the same; Simpson, Simms; Dobson, the son of Dob or Robert; Dobbs, Hobson, Hobbs, etc., etc.
A great many are formed of these abbreviated or nursenames, with the addition of the diminutive terminations ette, kin, and, cock or cox, all of which signify "little" or "child." From the termination ette we have such names as Willett, little Will, or the son of Will; Hallett, little Hal or Henry.
From kin or kins we have Wilkins, Tompkins, Simpkins, Atkins, Hawkins, Higgins, Dobbin, and Gilkin. From cock or cox, Wilcox, Simcox, Babcock, the son of Bab or Bartholomew ; Alcock, the son of Hal or Henry, and Hickcox, the son of Hig or Hugh.
NAMES OF TRADE, OCCUPATIONS, AND PURSUITS, are next in number, as Smith, Carpenter, Joiner, Taylor, Barker, Barber, Baker, Brewer. Sherman (a shearman, one who used to shear cloth), Naylor (nail-maker), Chapman, Mercer, Jenner (Joiner), Tucker (a fuller), Monger (a merchant), etc., etc.
These names originally had the Norman prefix "Le" (the), as Le Spicer, Le Dispenser, Le Tailleur.
OFFICIAL NAMES, including civil and ecclesiastical dignities, viz., King, Prince, Duke, Lord, Earl, Knight, Pope, Bishop, Priest, Monk, Marshall, Bailey, Chamberlain, etc., etc.
Many of these titles, as King, Prince, etc., were imposed on individuals from mere caprice, as few of these kings or dukes ever held the distinguished rank their names indicate.
It is said that nearly nine hundred Kings are born annually in England and Wales.
We find the following in Lower's Essay, as taken from the "History of Huntingdon."
TRUE COPY of a jury taken before Judge Doddridge, at the assizes holden at Huntingdon, A.D. 1619. (It is necessary to remark, `that the judge had, at the preceding circuit, censured the sheriff for empanneling men not qualified by rank for serving on the Grand Jury, and the sheriff being a humorist, resolved to fit the judge with sounds at least.') On calling over the following names, and pausing emphatically at the end of the Christian,instead of the surname, his lordship began to think he had, indeed, a jury of quality:
Maximilian KING of Toseland,
Henry PRINCE of Godmanchester,
George DUKE of Somersham,
William MARQUIS of Stukeley,
Edmund EARL of Hartford,
Richard BARON of Bythorn,
Stephen POPE of Newton,
Stephen CARDINAL of Kimbolton,
Humphrey BISHOP of Buckden,
Robert LORD of Waresley,
Robert KNIGHT of Winwick,
William ABBOTT of Stukeley,
Robert BARON of St. Neots,
William DEAN of Old Weston,
John ARCHDEACON of Paxton,
Peter ESQUIRE of Easton,
Edward FRYER of Ellington,
Henry Monk of Stukeley,
George GENTLEMAN of Spaldwick,
George PRIEST of Graffham,
Richard DEACON of Catworth.
"The judge, it is said, was highly pleased with this practical joke, and commended the sheriff for his ingenuity. The descendants of some of these illustrious jurors still reside in the county, and bear the same names; in particular, a Maximilian King, we are informed, still presides over Toseland."
Personal characteristics have given origin to another class of surnames, descriptive of mental or bodily peculiarities. Among these are many names of color and complexion, as Black, Brown, Blond, White, Gray, Grissel (grayish), Rous (red), Dunn (brown) ; and from the color of the hair, Whitehead, Whitlock, Fairfax (fair-hair), Brunel, Roth (red), Swartz (black), Fairchild, Black, Blackman, etc. Those which indicate the mental or moral qualities are such as Good, Goodman, Goodfellow, Giddy, Wise, Wiley, Meek, Merry, Moody, Bliss, Joy, Gay, Sage.
Those derived from bodily peculiarity and from feats of personal strength or courage, Strong, Mickle, Little, Long, Short, Strongfellow or Strengfellow, Hardy, Proudfit, Lightbody, Ironside, Armstrong, Crookshanks, Turnbull, and Camoys.
"Round was his face, and camuse was his nose."
We find such names bestowed among the Greeks and Romans. The Greeks had their Sophocles (wise), Agathios (good), and Strabo (squint-eyed), and Paulus (little). The Romans, their Pius, Pru. dentius, Longus; their Naso (bottle-nose), Calvus (bald-pate), Flaccus (loll-eared), Varus (bow-legged), Ancus (crooked arm), Crispus (curly-headed), etc. As I have before remarked, the Britons, Gaels, and Celts bestowed many names descriptive of personal peculiarities, and mental and bodily qualities, as Cadrod Hardd, Cadrod the beautiful ; Con Bachach, Con the lame; Shane Buidhe (Boyd), John with the yellow hair; Seumas Reagh, James the swarthy; Vaughan, little; Gough, red ; Gwynne, white, etc.
Some surnames are derived from animals, such especially as were noted for fierceness or courage, as the bear, the wolf, the lion, whence the names Byron, or bear; Wolf, French Loupe, German Guelph, the surname of the existing Royal Family of Great Britain; Wild-boar or Wilbur, Level or Luvel, from Lupellus, a little wolf; Bull, Brock (a badger), Todd (a fox), Hare, Hart, Leveret, Roe, Stagg, etc., to which some add the name of Hog and Hogden, a sheltered swine pasture.
A writer in the Edinburg Review, April, 1855, has remarked that Eber or Eafer, a boar, is the root of the following names: Eber, Ever, Ebers, Everard, Evered, Everett, Everingham, Everington, Everly, and Everton.
Richard the Third was called the Boar or the Hog, and so gave occasion to the rhyme that cost the maker his life:
The Cat, the Rat, and Level the Dog
Rule all England under the Hog.
The names of fishes have been taken as family names. From this source we have Pike, Burt, Chubb, Mullet, Bass, Fish, etc.
Birds also come in for a share in our surnames. We have Dove, Raven, Lark, Wren, Peacock, Finch, Sparrow, Swan, Culver, Gosling, Heron, Wild-goose or Wilgus, Jay, and many others.
The mineral and vegetable kingdoms have contributed their full quota of names. In this list we find Garnet, Jewel, Gold, Silver, Salt, Steel, Iron, Flint, and Stone.
From flowers, plants, shrubs, and trees, we have Lilly, Rose, Ferne, Furze, Heath, Broome, Primrose, Pease, Peach, Oak, Cherry, Beach, Ash, Thorn, Alder, Pine, and Burch.
We find such names among the Romans-Taurus, a bull ; Vitulus, a calf ; Porcius, like a hog ; Caprillus, like a goat ; Leo, lion; Lupus, a wolf ; and the names of Fabius, Lentulus, Cicero, and Piso, were given respectively for skill in cultivating beans, lentils, peas, and vetches.
Many names were taken from the signs over the doors of inns, or the shops of various tradesmen, where goods were manufactured and sold.
Camden informs us, " that he was told by them who said they spake of knowledge, that many names that seem unfitting for men, as of brutish beasts, etc., come from the very signs of the houses where they inhabited. That some, in late time, dwelling at the sign of the Dolphin, Bull, Whitehorse, Racket, Peacocke, etc., were commonly called Thomas at the Dolphin, Will at the Bull, George at the Whitehorse, Robin at the Racket, which names, as many other of the like sort, with omitting at, became afterward hereditary to their children."
In olden times, in London, might be seen the sign of the Boar's Head, the Crosskeyes, the Gun, the Castle, the Crane, the Cardinal's Hat, the Angell, the Bell, the Swan, the Bowles, the Barrell, the Crosier, the Griffin, the Coney, the Jugg, the Kettle, the Potts, the Pitcher, Sword, Shears, Scales, Tabor, Tub, etc.
In the cities and towns, every kind of beasts, birds, and fishes, objects animate and inanimate, were taken by tradesmen as signs to distinguish their shops from others, and to excite the attention of customers. From many of these, names were bestowed, and we can account in this way for many surnames which would otherwise seem strange and absurd.
Armorial ensigns and heraldic bearings have given surnames to families. Many of the old knights took their names from the figures and devices they bore on their shields.
The royal line of Plantagenet (Broome) took their surname from the broom plant, Fulke, Earl of Anjou, the founder of the house, having worn a sprig of broom, as a symbol of humility, and adopted it as his badge after his pilgrimage to the Holy Land.
Names were borrowed from armor and costume, as Fortescue (strong-shield), Strongbow, Harness, Beauharnois, Broadspeare, Shakespeare, Shotbolt, Curthose, that is, short hose, Curtmantle, a name given to Henry the Second from his wearing shorter mantles than were then in fashion ; Freemantle, Coates, Capet. " Hugh Capet, the founder of the royal line of France, in the tenth century, is said to have acquired that surname from a freak of which, in his boyhood, he was very fond, that of snatching off the caps of his play-fellows. De La Rocque, however, gives a different origin for this name, deriving it from ' le bon seas et esprit qui residoit a sa teste !"'
We have names taken from the seasons, the months, and the days of the week, holidays and festivals of the church, most of which probably originated from the period of birth, such as Summer, Spring, Winter, Fall, Monday, Friday, May, March, Morrow, Weekes, Day, Christmas, Paschal, Holiday, Noel (Christmas), etc.
Many surnames have originated in soubriquets, epithets of contempt, and ridicule, and nicknames, imposed for personal peculiarities, habits, and qualities, or from incidents or accidents which happened to the original bearers. Such names are very numerous, and can be accounted for in no other way. They are such as Doolittle, Hearsay, Timeslow, Houseless, Tugwell, Steptoe, Goelightly, Bragg, Trollope, that is, slattern ; Parnell, a woman of bad character; Lawless, Silliman, Bastard (William the Conqueror was not ashamed of the illegitimacy of his birth, as he often signed his name William the Bastard), Crookshanks, Longshanks, Addlehead, and Leatherhead, Gubbins, that is, the refuse parts of a fish ; Gallows, and Devil!
We can easily imagine how some ridiculous incident or foolish act or saying would confer a soubriquet or nickname upon a person by which he would be known and called through life, and which would even descend to his children, for we often see this in our day.
The following anecdote from Lower is an illustration : " The parish clerk of Langford, near Wellington, was called Redcock for many years before his death ; for having one Sunday slept in church, and dreaming that he was at a cock-fighting, he bawled out ' a 'shilling upon the red cock !' And behold, the family are called Redcock to this day."
We have gone through the principal sources from which the greater part of our surnames are derived ; but many names yet remain for the origin of which we are at a loss to account.
But shall we wonder when we consider that names have been taken and bestowed from every imaginable incident and occurrence unknown to us, and that many of them have been so corrupted in process of time, that we can not trace their originals.
All names must have been originally significant.
In the words of our old friend Camden:
"To draw to an end, no name whatsoever is to be disliked, in respect either of original or of signification ; for neither the good names doe disgrace the bad, neither does evil names disgrace the good. If names are to be accounted good or bad, in all countries both good and bad have bin of the same surnames, which, as they participate one with the other in glory, so sometimes in shame. Therefore, for ancestors, parentage, and names, as Seneca said, let every man say, Vix ea nostra voco. Time hath intermingled and confused all, and we are come all to this present, by successive variable descents from high and low; or as he saith more plainly, the low are descended from the high, and contrariwise the high from the low."