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Godwin Surname Origin

Same as Goodwin or Gooden, derived from God or good, Saxon, and win, conqueror, that is, a conqueror in God, converted or victorious in God. 'In one of those battles fought between Edmund the Anglo-Saxon, and Canute the Dane, the Danish army being routed and forced to fly, one of their principal captains named Ulf lost his way in the woods. After wandering all night, he met at daybreak a young peasant driving a herd of oxen whom he saluted, and asked his name. 'I am Godwin, the son of Ulfnoth,' said the young peasant, 'and thou art a Dane.' Thus, obliged to confess who he was, Ulf begged the young Saxon to show him the way to the Severn, where the Danish ships were at anchor. 'It is foolish in a Dane,' replied the peasant, 'to expect such a service from a Saxon; and besides, the way is long, and the country people are all in arms.' The Danish chief drew off a gold ring from his finger, and gave it to the shepherd as an inducement to be his guide. The young Saxon looked at it for an instant with great earnestness, and returned it, saying, 'I will take nothing from thee, but I will try to conduct thee.' Leading him to his father's cottage, he concealed him there during the day; when night came on, they made preparations to depart together. As they were going, the old peasant said to Ulf, 'This is my only son, Godwin, who risks his life for thee. He cannot return among his countrymen again; take him, therefore, and present him to thy King, Canute, that he may enter into his service.' The Dane promised, and kept his word. The young Saxon peasant was well received in the Danish camp, and rising from step to step by the force of his talents, he afterward became known over all England as the great Earl Godwin.'

Source: An Etymological Dictionary of Family and Christian Names With an Essay on their Derivation and Import; Arthur, William, M.A.; New York, NY: Sheldon, Blake, Bleeker & CO., 1857.


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