The History of Last Names •
Surnames A-Z •
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
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,
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
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
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.
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
Alarcon: is a Spanish Place name derived from Alarcon in Cuenca
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
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
Appel/Appelbaum: The German Place names Appel and Applebaum/Appelbaum
described the man who lived by the apple tree, and Appelt is a
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
Bauer is a German status name for a peasant or a nickname for the
"neighbor, fellow citizen," with variants Baumann, Gebuhr, Pauer,
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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,
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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,
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
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
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.
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
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
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:
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
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
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.
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
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:
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
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
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 =
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
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
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,
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
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
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.
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:
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
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
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
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
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
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,
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
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
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
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,
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
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
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
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.
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
Lambkin/Lumpkin/Lamkin: English Patronymic names derived from
"Little Lamb" which was a pet form of the given name Lambert
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
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
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
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,
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
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.
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
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
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.'
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,
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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!
Paris/Parris: French Place Name...Paris is the name taken by many
who originated in that French city, named for the Gaultic tribe
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
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
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
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
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
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,
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
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:
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
Schwertz is from schwert, a German Occupational name from the word
for sword, which described the man who worked as an armourer for
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
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
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 =
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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)
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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"
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.
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
Zweiacker: is two German words, Zwei and Acker, Zwei is the number
2 and Acker means field. Submitted by a Zweiacker surnamer.