The Romance of Names
by Ernest Weekley
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"And in his owene chambre hem made a bed, With sheetes and with chalons faire y-spred."

(A. 4139.)

Ganter or Gaunter is Fr. gantier, glove-maker.


Some metal-workers have already been mentioned in connection with Smith (Chapter IV), and elsewhere. The French Fevre, from Lat. faber, is found as Feaver. Fearon comes from Old Fr, feron, ferron, smith. Face le ferrun, i.e. Boniface (Chapter III) the smith, lived in Northampton in the twelfth century. This is an example of the French use of -on as an agential suffix. Another example is Old Fr. charton, or charreton, a waggoner, from the Norman form of which we have Carton. In Scriven, from Old Fr. escrivain (ecrivain), we have an isolated agential suffix. The English form is usually lengthened to Scrivener. In Ferrier, for farrier, the traditional spelling has prevailed over the pronunciation, but we have the latter in Farrar. Ferrier sometimes means ferryman, and Farrar has absorbed the common Mid. English nickname Fayrhayr. Aguilar means needle-maker, Fr. aiguille, but Pinner is more often official (Chapter XIX). Culler, Fr. coutelier, Old Fr. coutel, knife, and Spooner go together, but the fork is a modern fad. Poynter is another good example of the specialization of medieval crafts: the points were the metal tags by which the doublet and hose were connected. Hence, the play on words when Falstaff is recounting his adventure with the men in buckram—

Fal. "Their points being broken—"

Poins. "Down fell their hose."

(I Henry IV., ii, 4.)

Latimer, Latner sometimes means a worker in latten, a mixed metal of which the etymological origin is unknown. The Pardoner—

"Hadde a croys of latoun ful of stones" (A, 699).

For the change from -n to -m we may compare Lorimer for Loriner, a bridle-maker, belonging ultimately to Lat. lorum, "the reyne of a brydle" (Cooper). But Latimer comes also from Latiner, a man skilled in Latin, hence an interpreter, Sir John Mandeville tells us that, on the way to Sinai—

"Men alleweys fynden Latyneres to go with hem in the contrees."

The immortal Bowdler is usually said to take his name from the art of puddling, or buddling, iron ore. But, as this process is comparatively modern, it is more likely that the name comes from the same verb in its older meaning of making impervious to water by means of clay. Monier and Minter are both connected with coining, the former through French and the latter from Anglo-Saxon, both going back to Lat. moneta, [Footnote: On the curiously accidental history of this word see the Romance of Words, ch. x.] mint. Conner, i.e. coiner, is now generally swallowed up by the Irish Connor.

Leadbitter is for Leadbeater. The name Hamper is a contraction of hanapier, a maker of hanaps, i.e. goblets. Fr. hanap is from Old High Ger. hnapf (Napf), and shows the inability of French to pronounce initial hn- without inserting a vowel: cf. harangue from Old High Ger. hring. There is also a Mid. Eng. nap, cup, representing the cognate Anglo-Sax. hnaep, so that the name Napper may sometimes be a doublet of Hamper, though it is more probably for Napier (Chapter I) or Knapper (Chapter XII). The common noun hamper is from hanapier in a sense something like plate-basket. With metal-workers we may also put Furber or Frobisher, i.e. furbisher, of armour, etc. Poyser, from poise, scales, is official. Two occupative names of Celtic origin are Gow, a smith, as in The Fair Maid of Perth, and Caird, a tinker—

"The fellow had been originally a tinker or caird."

(Heart of Midlothian, ch. xlix.)

A few more names, which fall into no particular category, may conclude the chapter. Hillyer or Hellier is an old name for a Thacker, or thatcher, of which we have the Dutch form in Dekker. It comes from Mid. Eng. helen, to cover up. In Hillard, Hillyard we sometimes have the same name (cf. the vulgar scholard), but these are more often local (Chapter XIII). Hellier also meant tiler, for the famous Wat is described as tiler, tegheler, and hellier.

An Ashburner prepared wood-ash for the Bloomer (Chapter XV), and perhaps also for the Glaisher, or glass-maker, and Asher is best explained in the same way, for we do not, I think, add -er to tree-names. Apparent exceptions can be easily accounted for, e.g. Elmer is Anglo-Sax. AElfmaer, and Beecher is Anglo-Fr. bechur, digger (Fr. beche, spade). Neither Pitman nor Collier had their modern meaning of coal-miner. Pitman is local, of the same class as Bridgeman, Pullman, etc., and Collier meant a charcoal-burner, as in the famous ballad of Rauf Colyear. Not much coal was dug in the Middle Ages. Even in 1610 Camden speaks with disapproval, in his Britannia, of the inhabitants of Sherwood Forest who, with plenty of wood around them, persist in digging up "stinking pit-cole."

Croker is for Crocker, a maker of crocks or pitchers. The Miller's guests only retired to bed—

"Whan that dronken al was in the crowke" (A, 4158)

The spelling has affected the pronunciation, as in Sloper and Smoker (Chapter III). Tinker is sometimes found as the frequentative Tinkler, a name traditionally due to his approach being heralded by the clatter of metal utensils—

"My bonny lass, I work on brass, A tinkler is my station."

(BURNS, Jolly Beggars, Air 6.)

The maker of saddle-trees was called Fewster, from Old Fr. fust (fut), Lat. fustis. This has sometimes given Foster, but the latter is more often for Forster, i.e. Forester—

"An horn he bar, the bawdryk was of grene, A forster was he soothly as I gesse,"

(A, 116.)

The saddler himself was often called by his French name sellier, whence Sella', but both this and Sellars are also local, at the cellars (Chapter III). Pargeter means dauber, plasterer, from Old Fr. parjeter, to throw over. A Straker made the strakes, or tires, of wheels. A Stanger made stangs, i.e. poles, shafts, etc.

The fine arts are represented by Limmer, for limner, a painter, an aphetic form of illumines, and Tickner is perhaps from Dutch tekener, draughtsman, cognate with Eng, token, while the art of self-defence has given us the name Scrimgeoure, with a number of corruptions, including the local-looking Skrimshire. It is related to scrimmage and skirmish, and ultimately to Ger. schirmen, to fence, lit. to protect. The name was applied to a professional swordplayer—

"Qe nul teigne escole de eskermerye ne de bokeler deins la citee."

(Liber Albus.)


A particularly idiotic form of snobbishness has sometimes led people to advance strange theories as to the origin of their names. Thus Turner has been explained as from la tour noire. Dr. Brewer, in his Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, [Footnote: Thirteenth edition, revised and corrected.] apparently desirous of dissociating himself from malt liquor, observes that—

"Very few ancient names are the names of trades. . . A few examples of a more scientific derivation will suffice for a hint:—

Brewer. This name, which exists in France as Bruhiere and Brugere, is not derived from the Saxon briwan (to brew), but the French bruyere (heath), and is about tantamount to the German Plantagenet (broom plant). Miller is the old Norse melia, our mill and maul, and means a mauler or fighter.

Ringer is the Anglo-Saxon hring-gar (the mailed warrior). Tanner, German Thanger, Old German Dane-gaud, is the Dane-Goth...

This list might easily be extended."

There is of course no reason why such a list should not be indefinitely extended, but the above excerpt is probably quite long enough to make the reader feel dizzy. The fact is that there is no getting away from a surname of this class, and the bearer must try to look on the brighter side of the tragedy. Brewer is occasionally an accommodated form of the French name Bruyere or Labruyere, but is usually derived from an occupation which is the high-road to the House of Lords. The ancestor of any modern Barber may, like Salvation Yeo's father, have "exercised the mystery of a barber-surgeon," which is getting near the learned professions. A Pottinger (Chapter XV) looked after the soups, Fr. potage, but the name also represents Pothecary (apothecary), which had in early Scottish the aphetic forms Poticar, potigar—

"'Pardon me,' said he, 'I am but a poor pottingar. Nevertheless, I have been bred in Paris and learnt my humanities and my cursus medendi'"

(Fair Maid of Perth, ch. vii.).


"Jacque, il me faut troubler ton Somme; Dans le village, un gros huissier Rode et court, suivi du messier. C'est pour l'impot, las! mon pauvre homme. Leve-toi, Jacque, leve-toi: Voici venir I'huissier du roi."


General terms for what we now usually call a farmer are preserved in the surnames Bond (Chapter XV), whence the compound Husband, used both for the goodman of the house and in the modern sense, and Tillman. The labouring man was Day, from the same root as Ger. Dienen, to serve. It persists in "dairy" and perhaps in the puzzling name Doubleday (? doing two men's work). A similar meaning is contained in the names Swain, Hind, for earlier Hine (Chapter III), Tasker, Mann. But a Wager was a mercenary soldier. The mower has given us the names Mather (cf. aftermath), and Mawer, while Fenner is sometimes for Old Fr. feneur, haymaker (Lat. foenum, hay). For mower we also find the latinized messor, whence Messer. Whether the Ridler and the Sivier made, or used, riddles and sieves can hardly be decided. [Footnote: Riddle is the usual word for sieve in the Midlands. Hence the phrase "riddled with holes, or wounds."]

With the Wenman, who drove the wain, we may mention the Leader or Loader. The verbs "lead" and "load" are etymologically the same, and in the Midlands people talk of "leading," i.e. carting, coal. But these names could also come from residence near an artificial watercourse (Chapter XIII). Beecher has already been explained, and Shoveler is formed in the same way from dialect showl, a shovel—

" 'I,' said the owl,

'With my spade and showl.' "

To the variants of the Miller (Chapter XXIII) may be added Mulliner, from Old French. Tedder means a man who teds, i.e. spreads, hay, the origin of the word being Scandinavian

"I teede hey, I tourne it afore it is made in cockes, je fene." (Palsgrave.)

But the greater number of surnames drawn from rural occupations are connected with the care of animals. We find names of this class in three forms, exemplified by Coltman, Goater, Shepherd, and it seems likely that the endings -er and -erd have sometimes been interchanged, e.g. that Goater may stand for goat-herd, Calver for calf-herd, and Nutter sometimes for northern nowt-herd, representing the dialect neat-herd. The compounds of herd include Bullard, Calvert, Coltard, Coward, for cow-herd, not of course to be confused with the common noun coward (Fr. couard, a derivative of Lat. cauda, tail), Evart, ewe-herd, but also a Norman spelling of Edward, Geldard, Goddard, sometimes for goat-herd, Hoggart, often confused with the local Hogarth (Chapter XIII), Seward, for sow-herd, or for the historic Siward, Stobart, dialect stob, a bull, Stodart, Mid. Eng. stot, meaning both a bullock and a nag. Chaucer tells us that—

"This reve sat upon a ful good stot" (A, 615 ).

Stoddart is naturally confused with Studdart, stud-herd, stud being cognate with Ger. Stute, mare. We also have Swinnert, and lastly Weatherhead, sometimes a perversion of wether-herd, though usually a nickname, sheep's head. The man in charge of the tups, or rams, was called Tupman or Tupper, the latter standing sometimes for tup-herd, just as we have the imitative Stutter for Stodart or Studdart. We have also Tripper from trip, a dialect word for flock, probably related to troop. Another general term for a herdsman was Looker, whence Luker.


I have headed this chapter "Hodge and his Friends," but as, a matter of strict truth he had none, except the "poure Persons," the most radiant figure in Chaucer's pageant. But his enemies were innumerable. Beranger's lines impress one less than the uncouth "Song of the Husbandman" (temp. Edward I.), in which we find the woes of poor Hodge incorporated in the persons of the hayward, the bailif, the wodeward, the budel and his cachereles (catchpoles)—

"For ever the furthe peni mot (must) to the kynge."

The bailiff has already been mentioned (Chapter IV). The budel, or beadle, has given us several surnames. We have the word in two forms, from Anglo-Sax. bytel, belonging to the verb to bid, whence the names Biddle and Buddle, and from Old Fr. bedel (bedeau), whence Beadle and its variants. The animal is probably extinct under his original name, but modern democracy is doing its best to provide him with an army of successors. The "beadle" group of names has been confused with Bithell, Welsh Ap Ithel.

Names in -ward are rather numerous, and, as they mostly come from the titles of rural officials and are often confused with compounds of -herd, they are all put together here. The simple Ward, cognate with Fr. garde, is one of our commonest surnames. Like its derivative Warden it had a very wide range of meanings. The antiquity of the office of church-warden is shown by the existence of the surname Churchward. Sometimes the surname comes from the abstract or local sense, de la warde. As the suffix -weard occurs very frequently in Anglo-Saxon personal names, it is not always possible to say whether a surname is essentially occupative or not, e.g. whether Durward is rather "door-ward" or for Anglo-Sax. Deorweard. Howard, which is phonetically Old Fr. Huard, is sometimes also for Hayward or Haward (Hereward), or for Hayward. It has no doubt interchanged with the local Howarth, Haworth.

Owing to the loss of w- in the second part of a word (Chapter III), -ward and -herd often fall together, e.g. Millard for Milward, and Woodard found in Mid. English as both wode-ward and wode-hird. Hayward belongs to hay, hedge, enclosure (Chapter XIII), from which we also get Hayman. The same functionary has given the name Haybittle, a compound of beadle. Burward and Burrard may represent the once familiar office of bear-ward; cf. Berman. I had a schoolfellow called Lateward, apparently the man in charge of the lade or leet (Chapter XIII). Medward is for mead-ward.

The name Stewart or Stuart became royal with Walter the Steward of Scotland, who married Marjorie Bruce in 1315. It stands for sty-ward, where sty means pen, not necessarily limited to pigs. Like most official titles, it has had its ups and downs, with the result that its present meaning ranges from a high officer of the crown to the sympathetic concomitant of a rough crossing.

The Reeve, Anglo-Sax. ge-refa, was in Chaucer a kind of land agent, but the name was also applied to local officials, as in port-reeve, shire-reeve. It is the same as Grieve, also originally official, but used in Scotland of a land steward—

"He has got a ploughman from Scotland who acts as grieve."

(Scott, Diary, 1814.)

This may be one source of the names Graves and Greaves. The name Woodruff, Woodroffe is too common to be referred to the plant woodruff, and the fact that the male and female of a species of sand-piper are called the ruff and reeve suggests that Woodruff may have some relation to wood-reeve. It is at any rate a curious coincidence that the German name for the plant is Waldmeister, wood-master. Another official surname especially connected with country life is Pinder, also found as Pinner, Pender, Penner, Ponder and Poynder, the man in charge of the pound or pinfold; cf. Parker, the custodian of a park, of which the Palliser or Pallister made the palings.


The itinerant dealer was usually called by a name suggesting the pack which he carried. Thus Badger, Kidder, Kiddier, Pedder, now pedlar, are from bag, kid, related to kit, and the obsolete ped, basket; cf. Leaper, Chapter XV. The badger, who dealt especially in corn, was unpopular with the rural population, and it is possible that his name was given to the stealthy animal formerly called the bawson (Chapter I.), brock or gray (Chapter XXIII). That Badger is a nickname taken from the animal is chronologically improbable, as the word is first recorded in 1523 (New English Dictionary).

To the above names may be added Cremer, Cramer, a huckster with a stall in the market, but this surname is sometimes of modern introduction, from its German cognate Kraemer, now generally used for a grocer. Packman, Pakeman, and Paxman belong more probably to the font-name Pack (Chapter IX), which also appears in Paxon, either Pack's son, or for the local Paxton.

The name Hawker does not belong to this group. Nowadays a hawker is a pedlar, and it has been assumed, without sufficient evidence, that the word is of the same origin as huckster. The Mid. Eng. le haueker or haukere (1273) is quite plainly connected with hawk, and the name may have been applied either to a Falconer, Faulkner, or to a dealer in hawks. As we know that itinerant vendors of hawks travelled from castle to castle, it is quite possible that our modern hawker is an extended use of the same name.

Nor is the name Coster to be referred to costermonger, originally a dealer in costards, i.e. apples. It is sometimes for Mid. Eng. costard (cf. such names as Cherry and Plumb), but may also represent Port. da Costa and Ger. Koester, both of which are found in early lists of Protestant refugees.

Jagger was a north-country name for a man who worked draught-horses for hire. Mr. Hardy's novel Under the Greenwood Tree opens with "the Tranter's party." A carrier is still a "tranter" in Wessex. In Medieval Latin he was called travetarius, a word apparently connected with Lat. transvehere, to transport.


"Big fleas have little fleas Upon their backs to bite 'em Little fleas have smaller fleas, And so ad infinitum."


It is a well-known fact that official nomenclature largely reflects the simple housekeeping of early times, and that many titles, now of great dignity, were originally associated with rather lowly duties. We have seen an example in Stewart. Another is Chamberlain. Hence surnames drawn from this class are susceptible of very varied interpretation. A Chancellor was originally a man in charge of a chancel, or grating, Lat. cancelli. In Mid. English it is usually glossed scriba, while it is now limited to very high judicial or political office. Bailey, as we have seen (Chapter IV), has also a wide range of meanings, the ground idea being that of care-taker. Cotgrave explains Old Fr. mareschal marechal as—

"A marshall of a kingdoms, or of a camp (an honourable place); also, a blacksmith; also, a farrier, horse-leech, or horse-smith; also, a harbinger,"

[Footnote: i.e. a quartermaster. See Romance of Words, ch. vii.]

which gives a considerable choice of origins to any modern Marshall or Maskell.

Another very vague term is sergeant, whence our Sargent. Its oldest meaning is servant, Lat. serviens, servient—. Cotgrave defines sergent as—

"A sergeant, officer, catchpole, pursuyvant, apparitor; also (in Old Fr.) a footman, or souldier that serves on foot." I

Probably catchpole was the commonest meaning—

"Sargeauntes, katche pollys, and somners" (Cocke Lorelles Bote).

The administration of justice occupied a horde of officials, from the Justice down to the Catchpole. The official title Judge is rarely found, and this surname is usually from the female name Judge, which, like Jug, was used for Judith, and later for Jane—

"Jannette, Judge, Jennie; a woman's name" (Cotgrave).

The names Judson and Juxon sometimes belong to these. Catchpole has nothing to do with poles or polls. It is a Picard cache-poule (chasse-poule), collector of poultry in default of money. Another name for judge was Dempster, the pronouncer of doom, a title which still exists in the Isle of Man. We also find Deemer—

"Demar, judicator" (Prompt. Parv.).

Mayor is a learned spelling of Mair, Fr. maire, Lat. major, but Major, which looks like its latinized form, is perhaps imitative for the Old French personal name Mauger. Bishop Mauger of Worcester pronounced the interdict in 1208, and the surname still exists.

Gaylor, Galer, is the Norman pronunciation of gaoler—

"And Palamon, this woful prisoner, As was his wone, bi leve of his gayler, Was risen" (A, 1064).


Usher is Fr. huissier, door-keeper, Fr. huis, door, Lat. ostium. I conjecture that Lusher is the French name Lhuissier, and that Lush is local, for Old Fr. le huis; cf. Laporte. Wait, corruptly Weight, now used only of a Christmas minstrel, was once a watchman. It is a dialect form of Old Fr. gaite, cognate with watch. The older sense survives in the expression "to lie in wait." Gate is the same name, when not local (Chapter XIII).

The Todhunter, or fox-hunter (Chapter XXIII), was an official whose duty was to exterminate the animal now so carefully preserved. Warner is often for Warrener. The Grosvenor (gros veneur), great hunter, was a royal servant. Bannerman is found latinized as Penninger (Chapter XV). Herald may be official or from Harold (Chapter VII), the derivation being in any case the same. Toller means a collector of tolls. Cocke Lorelle speaks of these officials as "false Towlers." Connected with administration is the name Mainprice, lit. taken by hand, used both for a surety and a man out on bail—

"Maynprysyd, or memprysyd, manucaptus, fideijussus" (Prompt. Parv.);

and Shurety also exists.

The individual bigwig had a very large retinue, the members of which appear to have held very strongly to the theory of one man, one job. The Nurse, or Norris, Fr. nourrice, was apparently debarred from rocking the cradle. This was the duty of the rocker—

"To the norice and rokker of the same lord, 25s. 8d."

(Household Accounts of Elizabeth of York, March, 1503),

from whom Mr. Roker, chief turnkey at the Fleet in Mr. Pickwick's time, may have sprung The Cook was assisted by the Baster and Hasler, or turnspit, the latter from Old Fr. hastille, spit, dim. of Lat. hasta, spear. The Chandler was a servant as well as a manufacturer.

A Trotter and a Massinger, i.e. messenger, were perhaps much the same thing. Wardroper is of course wardrobe keeper, but Chaucer uses wardrope (B. 1762) in the sense which Fr. garde-robe now usually has. The Lavender, Launder or Lander saw to the washing. Napier, from Fr. nappe, cloth, meant the servant who looked after the napery. The martial sound with which this distinguished name strikes a modern ear is due to historical association, assisted, as I have somewhere read, by its riming with rapier! The water-supply was in charge of the Ewer.

The provisioning of the great house was the work of the Lardner, Fr. lard, bacon, the Panter, or Pantler, who was, at least etymologically, responsible for bread, and the Cator (Chapter III) and Spencer (Chapter III), whose names, though of opposite meaning, buyer and spender, come to very much the same thing. Spence is still the north-country word for pantry, and is used by Tennyson in the sense of refectory—

"Bluff Harry broke into the Spence And turn'd the cowls adrift."

(The Talking Oak, 1. 47.)

Purser, now used in connection with ships only, was also a medieval form of bursar, and every castle and monastery had its almoner, now Amner. Here also belongs Carver. In Ivey Church (Bucks) is a tablet to Lady Mary Salter with a poetic tribute to her husband—

"Full forty years a carver to two kings."

As the importance of the horse led to the social elevation of the marshal and constable (Chapter IV), so the hengstman, now henchman, became his master's right-hand man. The first element is Anglo-Sax. hengest, stallion, and its most usual surnominal forms are Hensman and Hinxman. Historians now regard Hengist and Horsa, stallion and mare, as nicknames assumed by Jutish braves on the war-path. Sumpter, Old Fr. sommetier, from Somme, burden, was used both of a packhorse and its driver, its interpretation in King Lear being a matter of dispute—

"Return with her? Persuade me rather to be slave and Sumpter To this detested groom" (Lear, ii, 4).

As a surname it probably means the driver, Medieval Lat. sumetarius.

Among those who ministered to the great man's pleasures we must probably reckon Spelman, Speller, Spillman, Spiller, from Mid. Eng. spel, a speech, narrative, but proof of this is lacking

"Now holde your mouth, par charitee, Bothe knyght and lady free, And herkneth to my spelle" (B, 2081).

The cognate Spielmann, lit. Player, was used in Medieval German of a wandering minstrel.

The poet is now Rymer or Rimmer, while Trover, Fr. trouvere, a poet, minstrel, lit. finder, has been confused with Trower, for Thrower, a name connected with weaving. Even the jester has come down to us as Patch, a name given regularly to this member of the household in allusion to his motley attire. Shylock applies it, to Launcelot—

"The patch is kind enough; but a huge feeder."

(Merchant of Venice, ii. 5.)

But the name has another origin (Chapter IX). Buller and Cocker are names taken from the fine old English sports of bull-baiting and cock-fighting.

Two very humble members of the parasitic class have given the names Bidder and Maunder, both meaning beggar. The first comes from Mid. Eng. bidden, to ask. Piers Plowman speaks of "bidderes and beggers." Maunder is perhaps connected with Old Fr. quemander—

"Quemander, or caimander, to beg; or goe a begging; to beg from doore to doore" (Cotgrave),

but it may mean a maker of "maunds," i.e. baskets.

A Beadman spent his time in praying for his benefactor. A medieval underling writing to his superior often signs himself "your servant and bedesman."


"Here is Wyll Wyly the myl pecker, And Patrick Pevysshe heerbeter, With lusty Hary Hangeman, Nexte house to Robyn Renawaye; Also Hycke Crokenec the rope maker, And Steven Mesyllmouthe muskyll taker."

(Cocke Lorelles Bote.)

[Footnote: This humorous poem, inspired by Sebastian Brandt's Narrenschiff, known in England in Barclay's translation, was printed early in the reign of Henry VIII. It contains the fullest list we have of old trade-names.]

Every family name is etymologically a nickname, i.e. an eke-name, intended to give that auxiliary information which helps in identification. But writers on surnames have generally made a special class of those epithets which were originally conferred on the bearer in connection with some characteristic feature, physical or moral, or some adjunct, often of the most trifling description, with which his personality was associated. Of nicknames, as of other things, it may be said that there is nothing new under the sun. Ovidius Naso might have received his as a schoolboy, and Moss cum nano, whom we find in Suffolk in 1184, lives on as "Nosey Moss" in Whitechapel. Some of our nicknames occur as personal names in Anglo-Saxon times (Chapter VII), but as surnames they are seldom to be traced back to that period, for the simple reason that such names were not hereditary. An Anglo-Saxon might be named Wulf, but his son would bear another name, while our modern Wolfe does not usually go farther back than some Ranulf le wolf of the thirteenth or fourteenth century. This is of course stating the case broadly, because the personal name Wolf also persisted and became in some cases a surname. In this and the following chapters I do not generally attempt to distinguish between such double origins.

Nicknames are formed in very many ways, but the two largest classes are sobriquets taken from the names of animals, e.g. Hogg, or from adjectives, either alone or accompanied by a noun, e.g. Dear, Goodfellow. Each of these classes requires a chapter to itself, while here we may deal with the smaller groups.

Some writers have attempted to explain all apparent nicknames as popular perversions of surnames belonging to the other three classes. As the reader will already have noticed, such perversions are extremely common, but it is a mistake to try to account for obvious nicknames in this way. Any of us who retain a vivid recollection of early days can call to mind nicknames of the most fantastic kind, and in some cases of the most apparently impossible formation, which stuck to their possessors all through school-life. A very simple test for the genuineness of a nickname is a comparison with other languages. Camden says that Drinkwater is a corruption of Derwentwater. The incorrectness of this guess is shown by the existence as surnames of Fr. Boileau, It. Bevilacqua, and Ger. Trinkwasser. It is in fact a perfectly natural nickname for a medieval eccentric, the more normal attitude being represented by Roger Beyvin (boi-vin), who died in London in 1277.


Corresponding to our Goodday, we find Ger. Gutentag and Fr. Bonjour. The latter has been explained as from a popular form of George, but the English and German names show that the explanation is. unnecessary. With Dry we may compare Fr. Lesec and Ger. Duerr, with Garlick Ger. Knoblauch (Chapter XV), and with Shakespeare Ger. Schuettespeer. Luck is both for Luke and Luick (Liege, Chapter XI), but Rosa Bonheur and the composer Gluck certify it also as a nickname. Merryweather is like Fr. Bontemps, and Littleboy appears in the Paris Directory as Petitgas, gas being the same as gars, the old nominative (Chapter I) of garcon—

"Gars, a lad, boy, stripling, youth, yonker" (Cotgrave).

Bardsley explains Twentyman as an imitative corruption of twinter-man, the man in charge of the twinters, two-year-old colts. This may be so, but there is a German confectioner in Hampstead called Zwanziger, and there are Parisians named Vingtain. Lover is confirmed by the French surnames Amant and Lamoureux, and Wellbeloved by Bienaime. Allways may be the literal equivalent of the French name Partout. On the other hand, the name Praisegod Barebones has been wrongly fixed on an individual whose real name was Barbon or Barborne.

It may seem strange that the nickname, conferred essentially on the individual, and often of a very offensive character, should have persisted and become hereditary. But schoolboys know that, in the case of an unpleasant nickname, the more you try to pull it off, the more it sticks the faster. Malapert and Lehideux are still well represented in the Paris Directory. Many objectionable nicknames have, however, disappeared, or have been so modified as to become inoffensive.

Sometimes such disappearance has resulted from the depreciation in the meaning of a word, e.g. le lewd, the layman, the unlettered, was once as common as its opposite le learned, whence the name Larned. But many uncomplimentary names are no longer objected to because their owners do not know their earlier meanings. A famous hymn-writer of the eighteenth century bore all unconsciously a surname that would almost have made Rabelais blush. Drinkdregs, Drunkard, Sourale, Sparewater, Sweatinbed, etc. have gone, but we still have Lusk—

"Falourdin, a luske, loot, lurden, a lubberlie sloven, heavie sot, lumpish hoydon" (Cotgrave)—

and many other names which can hardly have gratified their original possessors.

A very interesting group of surnames consists of those which indicate degrees of kinship or have to do with the relations existing between individuals. We find both Master and Mann, united in Masterman, meaning the man in the service of one locally known as the master. With this we may compare Ladyman, Priestman, etc. But Mann is often of local origin, from the Isle of Man. In some cases such names are usually found with the patronymic -s, e.g. Masters, Fellows, while in others this is regularly absent, e.g. Guest, Friend. The latter name is sometimes a corruption of Mid. Eng. fremed, stranger, cognate with Ger. fremd, so that opposite terms, which we find regularly contrasted in Mid. Eng. "frend and fremed," have become absorbed in one surname.

The frequent occurrence of Fellows is due to its being sometimes for the local Fallows. From Mid. Eng. fere, a companion, connected with faren, to travel, we get Littlefair and Playfair. In Wyclif's Bible we read that Jephthah's daughter—

"Whanne sche hadde go with hir felowis and pleiferis, sche biwept hir maydynhed in the hillis" (Judges xi. 38).

Springett is for springald, and Arlett is Mid. Eng. harlot, fellow, rascal, a word which has changed its gender and meaning—

"He was a gentil harlot and a kynde, A betre felawe sholde men noght fynde."

(A, 647.)


In surnames taken from words indicating family relationship we come across some survivals of terms no longer used, or occurring only in rustic dialect. The Mid. Eng. eme, uncle, cognate with Ger. Oheim, has given Eames. In Chaucer's Troilus and Criseyde, the heroine addresses Pandarus as "uncle dere" and "uncle mine," but also uses the older word—

"'In good feith, em,' quod she, 'that liketh me'" (ii. 162);

and the word is used more than once by Scott—

"Didna his eme die. . . wi' the name of the Bluidy Mackenzie?"

(Heart of Midlothian, ch. xii.)

It is also one of the sources of Empson, which thus corresponds to Cousins or Cozens. In Neame we have a prosthetic n- due to the frequent occurrence of min eme (cf. the Shakespearean nuncle, Lear, i. 4). The names derived from cousin have been reinforced by those from Cuss, i.e. Constant or Constance (Chapter X). Thus Cussens is from the Mid. English dim. Cussin. Anglo-Sax. nefa, whence Mid. Eng. neve, neave, is cognate with, but not derived from, Lat. nepos. [Footnote: In all books on surnames that I have come across this is referred to Old Fr. le neve. There is no such word in old French, which has nom. nies, acc. neveu.]

This is now replaced as a common noun by the French word nephew, but it survives in the surname Neave. It also meant in Mid. English a prodigal or parasite, as did also Lat. nepos—

"Neve, neverthryfte, or wastowre" (Prompt. Parv.).

It is likely that Nevison and Nevinson are sometimes derivatives of this word.

Child was sometimes used in the special sense of youth of gentle blood, or young knight; cf. Childe Harold and Childe Rowland (Lear, iii. 4). But the more general meaning may be assumed in its compounds, of which the most interesting is Leifchild, dear-child, a fairly common name in Anglo-Saxon. The corresponding Faunt, whence Fauntleroy (Chapter XV), is now rare. Another word, now only used in dialect or by affectation, is "bairn," a frequent source of the very common surname Barnes; cf. Fairbairn and Goodbairn, often perverted to Fairburn, Goodburn, Goodban. Barnfather is about equivalent to Lat. paterfamilias, but Pennefather is an old nickname for a miser—

"Caqueduc, a niggard, micher, miser, scrape-good, pinch-penny, penny-father; a covetous and greedy wretch" (Cotgrave).

The name Bastard was once considered no disgrace if the dishonour came from a noble source, and several great medieval warriors bore this sobriquet. With this we may compare Leman or Lemon, Mid. Eng. leof-man, dear man, beloved, and Paramor, Fr. par amour, an example of an adverbial phrase that has become a noun. This expression, used of lawful love in Old French, in the stock phrase "aimer une belle dame par amour," had already an evil meaning by Chaucer's time—

"My fourthe housbonde was a revelour, This is to seyn, he hadde a paramour" (D, 453).

With these names we may put Drewry or Drury, sweetheart, from the Old French abstract druerie, of Germanic origin and cognate with true—

"For certeynly no such beeste To be loved is not worthy, Or bere the name of druerie."

(Romaunt of the Rose, 5062.)

Suckling is a nickname applied to a helpless person; cf. Littlechild and "milksop," which still exists, though rare, in the forms Milsopp and Mellsop. The heir survives as Ayre and Eyre. Batchelor, the origin of which is one of the etymological problems yet unsolved, had in Old French and Mid. English also the meaning of young warrior or squire. Chaucer's Squier is described as—

"A lovyere and a lusty bacheler" (A, 80).

May, maiden, whence Mildmay, is used by Chaucer for the Holy Virgin

"Now, lady bright, to whom alle woful cryen, Thow glorie of wommanhede, thow faire may, Thow haven of refut, brighte sterre of day" (B, 850).

This is the same word as Mid. Eng. mai, relative, cognate with maid and Gaelic Mac- (Chapter VI). A form of it survives in the Nottingham name Watmough and perhaps in Hickmott—

"Mow, housbandys sister or syster in law" (Prompt. Parv.).

I imagine that William Echemannesmai, who owed the Treasury a mark in 1182, was one of the sponging fraternity.

Virgoe, a latinization of Virgin, is perhaps due to a shop-sign. Rigmaiden, explained by Lower as "a romping girl," is local, from a place in Westmorland. Richard de Riggemayden was living in Lancashire in 1307. With this group of names we may put Gossip, originally a god-parent, lit. related in God, from Mid. Eng. sib, kin.

With names like Farebrother, Goodfellow, we may compare some of French origin such as Bonser (bon sire), Bonamy, and Bellamy

"Thou beel amy, thou pardoner, he sayde, Telle us som myrth, or japes, right anon."

(B, 318.)

Beldam (belle dame), originally a complimentary name for grandmother or grandam, has become uncomplimentary in meaning—

First Witch. "Why, how now, Hecate! you look angerly."

Hecate. "Have I not reason, beldams as you are, Saucy and overbold?" (Macbeth, iii. 5).

From the corresponding Old Fr. bel-sire, beau-sire, we have Bewsher, Bowser, and the Picard form Belcher

"The great belsire, the grandsire, sire, and sonne, Lie here interred under this grave stone."

(Weever, Ancient Funeral Monuments.)

Relationship was often expressed by the use of French words, so that for son-in-law we find Gender, Ginder, corresponding to Fr. Legendre. Fitch, usually an animal nickname (Chapter XXIII), is occasionally for le fiz, the son, which also survives as Fitz. Goodson, from the personal name Good (Chapter I), is sometimes registered as Fiz Deu. Cf. Fr. Lefilleul, i.e. the godson.


A possible derivative of the name May (Chapter XXI) is Ivimey. Holly and Ivy were the names of characters in Christmas games, and an old rime says

"Holy and his mery men, they dawnsyn and they syng, Ivy and hur maydins, they wepen and they wryng."

If Ivimey is from this source, the same origin must sometimes be allowed to Holliman (Chapter I). This conjecture [Footnote: Probably a myth. See my Surnames, p. 197.] has in its favour the fact that many of our surnames are undoubtedly derived from characters assumed in dramatic performances and popular festivities. To this class belong many surnames which have the form of abstract nouns, e.g. Charity, Verity, Virtue, Vice. Of similar origin are perhaps Bliss, Chance, Luck, and Goodluck; cf. Bonaventure. Love, Luff, occurs generally as a personal name, hence the dim. Lufkins, but it is sometimes a nickname. Lovell, Lovett, more often mean little wolf. Both Louvet and Louveau are common French surnames. The name Lovell, in the wolf sense, was often applied to a dog, as in the famous couplet

"The ratte, the catte, and Lovell, our dogge Rule all England under the hogge,"

for which William Collingborne was executed in 1484. Lowell is a variant of Lovell.

But many apparent abstract names are due to folk-etymology, e.g. Marriage is local, Old Fr. marage, marsh, and Wedlock is imitative for Wedlake; cf. Mortlock for Mortlake and perhaps Diplock for deep-lake. Creed is the Anglo-Saxon personal name Creda. Revel, a common French surname, is a personal name of obscure origin. Want is the Mid. Eng. wont, mole, whence Wontner, mole-catcher. It is difficult to see how such names as Warr, Battle, and Conquest came into existence. The former, found as de la warre, is no doubt sometimes local (Chapter XIII), and Battle is a dim. of Bat (Chapter VI). But de la batayle is also a common entry, and Laguerre and Labataille are common French surnames.


A nickname was often conferred in connection with some external object regularly associated with the individual. Names taken from shop-signs really belong to this class. Corresponding to our Hood [Footnote: Hood may also be for Hud (Chapter I), but the garment is made into a personal name in Little Red Ridinghood, who is called in French le petit Chaperon Rouge.] we have Fr. Capron (chaperon). Burdon, Fr. bourdon, meant a staff, especially a pilgrim's staff. Daunger is described as having—

"In his honde a gret burdoun"

(Romaunt of the Rose, 3401).

But the name Burdon is also local. Bracegirdle, i.e. breeks-girdle, must have been the nickname of one who wore a gorgeous belt. It is a curious fact that this name is chiefly found in the same region (Cheshire) as the somewhat similar Broadbelt. The Sussex name Quaile represents the Norman pronunciation of coif. More usually an adjective enters into such combinations. With the historic Curthose, Longsword, Strongbow we may compare Shorthouse, a perversion of shorthose, Longstaff, Horlock (hoar), Silverlock, Whitlock, etc. Whitehouse is usually of local origin, but has also absorbed the medieval names Whitehose and White-hawse, the latter from Mid. Eng. hawse, neck. Woollard may be the Anglo-Saxon personal name Wulfweard, but is more probably from woolward, i.e. without linen, a costume assumed as a sign of penitence

"Wolwarde, without any lynnen nexte ones body, sans chemyse." (Palsgrave.)

The three names Medley, Medlicott, and Motley go together, though all three of them may be local (the mid-lea, the middle-cot, and the moat-lea). Medley mixed, is the Anglo-French past participle of Old Fr. mesler (meler). Motley is of unknown origin, but it was not necessarily a fool's dress—

"A marchant was ther with a forked berd, In mottelye, and hye on horse he sat, Upon his heed a Flaundryssh bevere hat" (A, 270).

So also the Serjeant of the Law was distinguished his, for the period, plain dress—

"He rood but hoomly in a medlee cote" (A, 328).

Gildersleeve is now rare in England, though it still flourishes in the United States. [Footnote: We have several instances of this phenomenon. A familiar example is Lippincott, a surname of local origin (Devonshire). But Bardsley's inclusion of American statistics is often misleading. It is a well-known fact that the foreign names of immigrants are regularly assimilated to English forms in the United States. In some cases, such as Cook for Koch, Cope (Chapter XII) for Kopf, Stout (Chapter XXII) for Stolz or Stultz, the change is etymologically justified. But in other cases, such as Tallman for Thalmann, dale-man, Trout for Traut, faithful, the resemblance is accidental. Beam and Chestnut, common in the States but very rare in England, represent an imitative form of Boehm or Behm, Bohemian, and a translation of Kestenbaum, chestnut tree, both Jewish names. The Becks and Bowmans of New York outnumber those of London by about five to one, the first being for Beck, baker (Chapter XV), and the second for Baumann, equivalent to Bauer, farmer. Bardsley explains the common American name Arrison by the fact that there are Cockneys in America. It comes of course from Arend, a Dutch name related to Arnold.

"A remarkable record in changes of surname was cited some years ago by an American correspondent of Notes and Queries. 'The changes which befell a resident of New Orleans were that when he moved from an American quarter to a German neighbourhood his name of Flint became Feuerstein, which for convenience was shortened to Stein. Upon his removal to a French district he was re-christened Pierre. Hence upon his return to an English neighbourhood he was translated into Peters, and his first neighbours were surprised and puzzled to find Flint turned Peters.'"

(Daily Chronicle, April 4, 1913.)]


Names like Beard, Chinn, Tooth were conferred because of some prominent feature. In Anglo-French we find Gernon, moustache, now corrupted to Garnham, and also al gernon, with the moustache, which has become Algernon. But we have already seen (Chapter XIII) that some names which appear to belong to this class are of local origin. So also Tongue is derived from one of several places named Tong or Tonge, though the ultimate origin is perhaps in some cases the same, a "tongue" of land. Quartermain is for Quatre-mains, perhaps bestowed on a very acquisitive person; Joscius Quatre-buches, four mouths, and Roger Tunekes, two necks, were alive in the twelfth century; and there is record of a Saracen champion named Quinze-paumes, though this is perhaps rather a measure of height. Cheek I conjecture to be for Chick. The odd-looking Kidney is apparently Irish. There is a rare name Poindexter, appearing in French as Poingdestre, "right fist." [Footnote: President Poincare's name appears to mean "square fist."] I have seen it explained as from the heraldic term point dexter, but it is rather to be taken literally. I find Johannes cum pugno in 1184, and we can imagine that such a name may have been conferred on a medieval bruiser. There is also the possibility, considering the brutality of many old nicknames, that the bearer of the name had been judicially deprived of his right hand, a very common punishment, especially for striking a feudal superior. Thus Renaut de Montauban, finding that his unknown opponent is Charlemagne, exclaims—

"J'ai forfait le poing destre dont je l'ai adese (struck)."

We have some nicknames describing gait, e.g. Ambler and Shaylor—

"I shayle, as a man or horse dothe that gothe croked with his leggs, je vas eschays" (Palsgrave)—

and perhaps sometimes Trotter. If George Eliot had been a student of surnames she would hardly have named a heroine Nancy Lammiter, i.e. cripple—

"Though ye may think him a lamiter, yet, grippie for grippie, he'll make the bluid spin frae under your nails" (Black Dwarf, ch. xvii.).

Pettigrew and Pettifer are of French origin, pied de grue (crane) and pied de fer. The former is the origin of the word pedigree, from a sign used in drawing genealogical trees. The Buckinghamshire name Puddifoot or Puddephatt (Podefat, 1273) and the aristocratic Pauncefote are unsolved. The former may be a corruption of Pettifer, which occurs commonly, along with the intermediate Puddifer, in the same county. But the English Dialect Dictionary gives as an obsolete Northants word the adjective puddy, stumpy, pudgy, applied especially to hands, fingers, etc., and Pudito (puddy toe) occurs as a surname in the Hundred Rolls. As for Pauncefote, I believe it simply means what it appears to, viz. "belly-foot," a curious formation, though not without parallels, among obsolete rustic nicknames. If these two conjectures are correct, both Puddifoot and Pauncefote may be almost literal equivalents of the Greek OEdipus, i.e. "swell-foot."

In other languages as well as English we find money nicknames. It is easy to understand how some of these come into existence, e.g. that Pierce. Pennilesse was the opposite of Thomas Thousandpound, whose name occurs c. 1300. With the latter we may compare Fr. Centlivre, the name of an English lady dramatist of the eighteenth century. Moneypenny is found in 1273 as Manipeni, and a Londoner named Manypeny died in 1348. The Money- is partly north country, partly imitative.

Money itself is usually occupative or local (Chapter XVII), and Shilling is the Anglo-Saxon name Scilling. The oldest and commonest of such nicknames is the simple Penny, with which we may compare the German surname Pfennig and its compounds Barpfennig, Weisspfennig, etc. The early adoption of this coin-name as a personal name is due to the fact that the word was taken in the sense of money in general. We still speak of a rich man as "worth a pretty penny." Hallmark is folk-etymology for the medieval Half-mark. Such medieval names as Four-pence, Twenty-mark, etc., probably now obsolete, are paralleled by Fr. Quatresous and Sixdenier, still to be found in the Paris Directory. It would be easy to form conjectures as to the various ways in which such names may have come into existence. To the same class must belong Besant, the name of a coin from Byzantium, its foreign origin giving it a dignity which is absent from the native Farthing and Halfpenny, though the latter, in one instance, was improved beyond recognition into MacAlpine.


There is also a small group of surnames derived from oaths or exclamations which by habitual use became associated with certain individuals. We know that monarchs had a special tendency to indulge in a favourite expletive. To Roger de Collerye we owe some information as to the imprecations preferred by four French kings—

"Quand la Pasque-Dieu (Louis XI.) deceda, Le Bon Jour Dieu (Charles VIII.) luy succeda, Au Bon Jour Dieu deffunct et mort Succeda le Dyable m'emport (Louis XII). Luy decede, nous voyons comme Nous duist (governs) la Foy de Gentilhomme (Francis I.)."

So important was this branch of linguistics once considered that Palsgrave, the French tutor of Princess Mary Tudor, includes in his Esclarcissement de la Langue Francoyse a section on "The Maners of Cursyng." Among the examples are "Le grant diable luy rompe le col et les deux jambes," "Le diable l'emporte, corps et ame, tripes et boyaux," which were unfortunately too long for surname purposes, but an abridged form of "Le feu Saint Anthoyne l'arde" [Footnote: Saint Anthony's fire, i.e. erysipelas, burn him!] has given the French name Feulard. Such names, usually containing the name of God, e.g. Godmefetch, Helpusgod, have mostly disappeared in this country; but Dieuleveut and Dieumegard are still found in Paris, and Gottbehuet, God forbid, and Gotthelf, God help, occur in German. Godbehere still exists, and there is not the slightest reason why it should not be of the origin which its form indicates. In Gracedieu, thanks to God, the second element is an Old French dative. Pardoe, Purdue, whence Purdey, is for par Dieu—

"I have a wyf pardee, as wel as thow" (A, 3158).

There is a well-known professional footballer named Mordue ('sdeath), and a French composer named Boieldieu (God's bowels). The French nickname for an Englishman, goddam—

"Those syllables intense, Nucleus of England's native eloquence"

(Byron, The Island, iii. 5)—

goes back to the fifteenth century, in which invective references to the godons are numerous. [Footnote: "Les Anglais en verite ajoutent par-ci, par-la quelques autres mots en conversant; mais il est bien aise de voir que goddam est le fond de la langue" (Beaumarchais, Mariage de Figaro, iii. 5).]

Such nicknames are still in common use in some parts of France—

"Les Berrichons se designent souvent par le juron qui leur est familier. Ainsi ils diront: 'Diable me brule est bien malade. Nom d'un rat est a la foire. La femme a Diable m'estrangouille est morte. Le garcon a Bon You (Dieu) se marie avec la fille a Dieu me confonde.'"

(Nyrop, Grammaire historique de la langue francaise, iv. 209).


Perhaps the most interesting group of nicknames is that of which we may take Shakespeare as the type. Incidentally we should be thankful that our greatest poet bore a name so much more picturesque than Corneille, crow, or Racine, root. It is agreed among all competent scholars that in compounds of this formation the verb was originally an imperative. This is shown by the form; cf. ne'er-do-well, Fr. vaurien, Ger. Taugenichts, good-for-naught. Thus Hasluck cannot belong to this class, but must be an imitative form of the personal name Aslac, which we find in Aslockton.

As Bardsley well says, it is impossible to retail all the nonsense that has been written about the name Shakespeare—"never a name in English nomenclature so simple or so certain in its origin; it is exactly what it looks—shake-spear." The equivalent Schuettespeer is found in German, and we have also in English Shakeshaft, Waghorn, Wagstaff, Breakspear, Winspear. "Winship the mariner" was a freeman of York in the fourteenth century. Cf. Benbow (bend-bow), Hurlbatt, and the less athletic Lovejoy, Makepeace. Gathergood and its opposite Scattergood are of similar origin, good having here the sense of goods. Dogood is sometimes for Toogood, and the latter may be, like Thoroughgood, an imitative form of Thurgod (Chapter VII); but both names may also be taken literally, for we find Ger. Thunichtgut, do no good, and Fr. Trodoux (trop doux).

As a pendant to Dolittle we find a medieval Hack-little, no doubt a lazy wood-cutter, while virtue is represented by a twelfth-century Tire-little. Sherwin represents the medieval Schere-wynd, applied to a swift runner; cf. Ger. Schneidewind, cut wind, and Fr. Tranchevent. A nurseryman at Highgate has the appropriate name Cutbush, the French equivalent of which, Taillebois, has given us Tallboys; and a famous herbalist was named Culpepper. In Gathercole the second element may mean cabbage or charcoal. In one case, Horniblow for horn-blow, the verb comes after its object.

Names of this formation are very common in Mid. English as in Old French, and often bear witness to a violent or brutal nature. Thus Scorch-beef, which is found in the Hundred Rolls, has no connection with careless cookery; it is Old Fr. escorche (ecorche) -buef, flay ox, a name given to some medieval "Skin-the-goat." Catchpole (Chapter XX) is formed in the same way, and in French we find, applied to law officials, the surnames Baillehart, give halter, [Footnote: Bailler, the usual Old French for to give, is still used colloquially and in dialect.] and Baillehache, give axe, the latter still appropriately borne, as Bailhache, by an English judge.

It has sometimes been assumed that most names of this class are due to folk-etymology. The frequency of their occurrence in Mid. English and in continental languages makes it certain that the contrary is the case and that many surnames of obscure origin are perversions of this very large and popular class. I have seen it stated somewhere that Shakespeare is a corruption of an Old French name Sacquespee, [Footnote: Of common occurrence in Mid. English records.] the theorist being apparently unable to see that this latter, meaning draw-sword, is merely an additional argument, if such were needed, for the literal interpretation of the English name. [Footnote: In one day's reading I came across the following Mid. English names: Baillebien (give good), Baysedame (kiss lady), Esveillechien (wake dog), Lievelance (raise lance), Metlefrein (put the bridle), Tracepurcel (track hog), Turnecotel (turn coat), together with the native Cachehare and Hoppeschort.]

Tredgold seems to have been conferred on some medieval stoic, for we find also Spurnegold. Without pinning our faith to any particular anecdote, we need have no hesitation in accepting Turnbull as a sobriquet conferred for some feat of strength and daring on a stalwart Borderer. We find the corresponding Tornebeuf in Old French, and Turnbuck also occurs. Trumbull and Trumble are variants due to metathesis followed by assimilation (Chapter III), while Tremble is a very degenerate form. In Knatchbull we have the obsolete verb knatch, which in Mid. English meant to strike on the head, fell. Crawcour is Fr. Crevecoeur, breakheart, which has also become a local name in France. With Shacklock, shake-lock, and Sherlock, Shurlock, shear-lock, we may compare Robin Hood's comrade Scathelock, though the precise interpretation of all three names is difficult. Rackstraw, rake-straw, corresponds to Fr. Grattepaille. Golightly means much the same as Lightfoot (Chapter XIII), nor need we hesitate to regard the John Gotobed who lived in Cambridgeshire in 1273 as a notorious sluggard compared with whom his neighbour Serl Gotokirke was a shining example. [Footnote: The name is still found in the same county. Undergraduates contemporary with the author occasionally slaked their thirst at a riverside inn kept by Bathsheba Gotobed.]

Telfer is Fr. Taillefer, the iron cleaver, and Henry II.'s yacht captain was Alan Trenchemer, the sea cleaver. He had a contemporary named Ventados, wind abaft.

Slocomb has assumed a local aspect, but may very well correspond to Fr. Tardif or Ger. Muehsam, applied to some Weary Willie of the Middle Ages. Doubtfire is a misspelling of Dout-fire, from the dialect dout, to extinguish (do out), formed like don and doff. Fullalove, which does not belong to the same formation, is also found as Plein d'amour—

"Of Sir Lybeux and Pleyndamour" (B, 2090)—

and corresponds to Ger. Liebevoll. Waddilove actually occurs in the Hundred Rolls as Wade-in-love, presumably a nickname conferred on some medieval Don Juan.


There is one curious little group of nicknames which seem to correspond to such Latin names as Piso, from pisum, a pea, and Cicero, from cicer—

"Cicer, a small pulse, lesse than pease" (Cooper).

Such are Barleycorn and Peppercorn, the former found in French as Graindorge. The rather romantic names Avenel and Peverel seem to be of similar formation, from Lat. avena, oats, and piper, pepper. In fact Peverel is found in Domesday as Piperellus, and Pepperell still exists. With these may be mentioned Carbonel, corresponding to the French surname Charbonneau, a little coal.


"The man replied that he did not know the object of the building; and to make it quite manifest that he really did not know, he put an adjective before the word 'object,' and another—that is, the same—before the word 'building.' With that he passed on his way, and Lord Jocelyn was left marvelling at the slender resources of our language, which makes one adjective do duty for so many qualifications."

(BESANT, All Sorts and Conditions of Men, ch. xxxviii.)

The rejection by the British workman of all adjectives but one is due to the same imaginative poverty which makes the adjective "nice" supreme in refined circles, and which limits the schoolgirl to "ripping" and her more self-conscious brother to the tempered "decent." But dozens of useful adjectives, now either obsolete or banished to rustic dialect, are found among our surnames. The tendency to accompany every noun by an adjective seems to belong to some deep-rooted human instinct. To this is partly due the Protean character of this part of speech, for the word, like the coin, becomes dulled and worn in circulation and needs periodically to be withdrawn and replaced. An epithet which is complimentary in one generation is ironical in the next and eventually offensive. Moody, with its northern form Mudie, which now means morose, was once valiant (Chapter I); and pert, surviving in the name Peart, meant active, brisk, etc.—

"Awake the pert and nimble spirit of mirth."

(Midsummer Night's Dream, i. 1.)


To interpret an adjectival nickname we must go to its meaning in Chaucer and his contemporaries. Silly, Seeley, Seely

"This sely, innocent Custance" (B, 682)—

still means innocent when we speak of the "silly sheep," and happy in the phrase "silly Suffolk." It is cognate with Ger. selig, blessed, often used in speaking of the dead. We have compounds in Sillilant, simple child (Chapter X), and Selibarn. Seely was also used for Cecil or Cecilia. Sadd was once sedate and steadfast

"But thogh this mayde tendre were of age, Yet in the brest of hire virginitee Ther was enclosed rype and sad corage"

(E, 218);

and as late as 1660 we find a book in defence of Charles I. described as—

"A sad and impartial inquiry whether the King or Parliament began the war."

Stout, valiant, now used euphemistically for fat, is cognate with Ger. stolz, proud, and possibly with Lat. stultus, foolish. The three ideas are not incompatible, for fools are notoriously proud of their folly and are said to be less subject to fear than the angels. Sturdy, Sturdee, once meant rebellious, pig-headed—

"Sturdy, unbuxum, rebellis, contumax, inobediens." (Prompt. Parv.)

Cotgrave offers a much wider choice for the French original—

"Estourdi (etourdi), dulled, amazed, astonished, dizzie-headed, or whose head seemes very much troubled; (hence) also, heedlesse, inconsiderate, unadvised, witlesse, uncircumspect, rash, retchlesse, or carelesse; and sottish, blockish, lumpish, lusk-like, without life, metall, spirit"

Sly and its variant Sleigh have degenerated in the same way as crafty and cunning, both of which once meant skilled. Chaucer calls the wings of Daedalus "his playes slye," i.e. his ingenious contrivances. Quick meant alert, lively, as in "the quick and the dead." Slight, cognate with Ger. schlecht, bad, once meant plain or simple.

Many adjectives which are quite obsolete in literary English survive as surnames. Mid. Eng. Lyle has been supplanted by its derivative Little, the opposite pair surviving as Mutch and Mickle. The poor parson did not fail—

"In siknesse nor in meschief to visite The ferreste in his parisshe, muche and lyte."

(A, 493.)

We have for Lyte also the imitative Light; cf. Lightwood. With Little may be mentioned Murch, an obsolete word for dwarf—

"Murch, lytyl man, nanus."

(Prompt. Parv.)

Lenain is a fairly common name in France. Snell, swift or valiant, had become a personal name in Anglo-Saxon, but we find le snel in the Middle Ages. Freake, Frick, also meant valiant or warrior—

"Ther was no freke that ther wolde flye"

(Chevy Chase);

but the Promptorium Parvulorum makes it equivalent to Craske (Chapter XXII)—

"Fryke, or craske, in grete helth, crassus."

It is cognate with Ger. frech, which now means impudent. Nott has already been mentioned (Chapter II). Of the Yeoman we are told—

"A not hed hadde he, with a broun visage."

(A, 109.)

Stark, cognate with starch, now usually means stiff, rather than strong—

"I feele my lymes stark and suffisaunt To do al that a man bilongeth to."

(E, 1458.)


But Stark is also for an earlier Sterk (cf. Clark and Clerk), which represents Mid. Eng. stirk, a heifer. In the cow with the crumpled horn we have a derivative of Mid. Eng. crum, crooked, whence the names Crum and Crump. Ludwig's German Dict. (1715) explains krumm as "crump, crooked, wry." The name Crook generally has the same meaning, the Ger. Krummbein corresponding to our Cruikshank or Crookshanks. It is possible that Glegg and Gleig are Mid. Eng. gleg, skilful, of Scand. origin.

There are some adjectival surnames which are not immediately recognizable. Bolt, when not local (Chapter XIII) is for bold, Leaf is imitative for lief, i.e. dear. Dear itself is of course hopelessly mixed up with Deer... The timorous-looking Fear is Fr. le fier, the proud or fierce. Skey is an old form of shy; Bligh is for Blyth; Hendy and Henty are related to handy, and had in Mid. English the sense of helpful, courteous—

"Oure hoost tho spak, 'A, sire, ye sholde be hende And curteys, as a man of youre estat.'"

(D, 1286.)

For Savage we find also the archaic spelling Salvage (Lat. silvaticus). Curtis is Norman Fr. curteis (courtois). The adjective garish, now only poetical, but once commonly applied to gaudiness in dress, has given Gerrish. Quaint, which has so many meanings intermediate between its etymological sense of known or familiar (Lat. cognitus) and its present sense of unusual or unfamiliar, survives as Quint. But Coy is usually local, from Quy (Cambridgeshire).

Orpwood is a corruption of Mid. Eng. orped, bold, warlike. Craske is an East Anglian word for fat, and Crouse is used in the north for sprightly, confident. To these we may add Ketch, Kedge, Gedge, from an East Anglian adjective meaning lively—

"Kygge, or joly, jocundus" (Prompt. Parv.)—

and Spragg, etymologically akin to Spry. Bragg was once used for bold or brave, without any uncomplimentary suggestion. The New English Dictionary quotes (c. 1310) from a lyric poem—

"That maketh us so brag and bolde And biddeth us ben blythe."

Crease is a West-country word for squeamish, but the East Anglian name Creasey, Cressy, is usually for the local Kersey (Suffolk). The only solution of Pratt is that it is Anglo-Sax. praett, cunning, adopted early as a personal name, while Storr, of Scandinavian origin, means big, strong. It is cognate with Steer, a bull. Devey and Dombey seem to be diminutive forms of deaf and dumb, still used in dialect in reference to persons thus afflicted. We find in French and German surnames corresponding to these very natural nicknames. Cf. Crombie from Crum (Chapter XXII).


A large proportion of our adjectival nicknames are of French origin. Le bel appears not only as Bell but also, through Picard, as Beal. Other examples are Boon, Bone, Bunn (bon), Grant (grand), Bass (bas) and its derivative Bassett, Dasent (decent), Follett and Folliott, dim. of fol (fou), mad, which also appears in the compound Foljambe, Fulljames.

Mordaunt means biting. Power is generally Anglo-Fr. le poure (le pauvre) and Grace is for le gras, the fat. Jolige represents the Old French form of joli—

"This Absolon, that jolif was and gay, Gooth with a sencer (censer) on the haliday."

(A, 3339.)

Prynne, now Pring, is Anglo-Fr. le prin, the first, from the Old French adjective which survives in printemps. Cf. our name Prime and the French name Premier. The Old French adjective Gent, now replaced by gentil, generally means slender in Mid. English—

"Fair was this yonge wyf, and therwithal As any wezele hir body gent and smal."

(A, 3233)

Petty and Pettit are variant forms of Fr. petit, small. In Prowse and Prout we have the nominative and objective (Chapter I) of an Old French adjective now represented by preux and prude, generally thought to be related in some way to Lat. pro in prosum, and perhaps also the source of our Proud.

Gross is of course Fr. le gros, but Grote represents Du. groot, great, probably unconnected with the French word. The Devonshire name Coffin, which is found in that county in the twelfth century, is the same as Caffyn, perhaps representing Fr. Chauvin, bald, the name of the theologian whom we know better in the latinized form Calvin. Here belongs probably Shovel, Fr. Chauvel. We also have the simple Chaffe, Old Fr. chauf (chauve), bald. Gaylard, sometimes made into the imitative Gaylord, is Fr. gaillard, brisk, lively

"Gaillard he was as goldfynch in the shawe."

(A, 4367.)


Especially common are colour nicknames, generally due to the complexion, but sometimes to the garb. As we have already seen (Chapter XV), Black and its variant Blake sometimes mean pale. Blagg is the same word; cf. Jagg for Jack. White has no doubt been reinforced by wight, valiant

"Oh for one hour of Wallace wight Or well-skilled Bruce to rule the fight."

(Marmion, vi. 20.)

As an epithet applied to the hair we often find Hoar; cf. Horlock. Redd is rare, the usual forms being the northern Reid, Reed, Read; but we also have Rudd from Anglo-Sax. rud, whence ruddy and the name Ruddock, really a bird nickname, the redbreast. To these must be added Rudge, Fr. rouge, Rouse, Rush and Russ, Fr, roux, and Russell or Rowsell, Old Fr. roussel (Rousseau). The commonest nickname for a fair-haired person was Blunt, Blount, Fr. blond, with its dim. Blundell, but the true English name is Fairfax, from Anglo-Sax. feax, hair. The New English Dictionary quotes from the fifteenth century

"Then they lowsyd hur feyre faxe, That was yelowe as the waxe."

The adjective dun was once a regular name, like Dobbin or Dapple, for a cart-horse; hence the name of the old rural sport "Dun in the mire"—

"If thou art dun we'll draw thee from the mire." (Romeo and Juliet, i. 4.)

It is possible that the name Dunn is sometimes due to this specific application of the word. The colour blue appears as Blew—

"At last he rose, and twitch'd his mantle blew: To-morrow to fresh woods and pastures new"

(Lycidas, 1. 192)—

and earlier still as Blow—

"Blak, blo, grenysh, swartysh, reed."

(House of Fame, iii. 557.)

Other colour names of French origin are Morel, swarthy, like a Moor, also found as Murrell [Footnote: This, like Merrill, is sometimes from Muriel.]; and Burnell, Burnett, dims. of brun, brown. Chaucer speaks of—

"Daun Burnet the asse" (B, 4502);

[Footnote: Lat. dominus; the masculine form of dame in Old French.]

"Daun Russel the fox" (B, 4524.)

But both Burnell and Burnett may also be local from places ending in -hill and -head (), and Burnett is sometimes for Burnard. The same applies to Burrell, usually taken to be from Mid. Eng. borel, a rough material, Old Fr. burel (bureau), also used metaphorically in the sense of plain, uneducated

"And moore we seen of Cristes secree thynges Than burel folk, al though they weren kynges."

(D, 1871.)

The name can equally well be the local Burhill or Burwell.

Murray is too common to be referred entirely to the Scottish name and is sometimes for murrey, dark red (Fr. mure, mulberry). It may also represent merry, in its variant form murie, which is Mid. English, and not, as might appear, Amurrican—

"His murie men comanded he To make hym bothe game and glee."

(B, 2029.)

Pook, of uncertain origin, is supposed to have been a dark russet colour. Bayard, a derivative of bay, was the name of several famous war-horses. Cf. Blank and Blanchard. The name Soar is from the Old French adjective sor, bright yellow. It is of Germanic origin and cognate with sere.

The dim. Sorrel may be a colour name, but it was applied in venery to a buck in the third year, of course in reference to colour; and some of our names, e.g. Brocket and Prickett, [Footnote: Both words are connected with the spiky young horns, Fr. broche, spit, being applied in venery to the pointed horns of the second year.] both applied to a two-year-old stag, must sometimes be referred to this important department of medieval language. Holofernes uses some of these terms in his idiotic verses

"The preyful princess pierc'd and prick'd a pretty pleasing priket; Some say a sore; but not a sore, till now made sore with shooting. The dogs did yell; put l to sore, then sorel jumps from thicket."

(Love's Labour's Lost, iv. 2.)

A few adjective nicknames of Celtic origin are so common in England that they may be included here. Such are the Welsh Gough, Goff, Gooch, Gutch, red, Gwynn and Wynne, white, Lloyd, grey, Sayce, Saxon, foreigner, Vaughan, small, and the Gaelic Bain, Bean, white, Boyd, Bowie, yellow-haired, Dow, Duff, black, Finn, fair, Glass, grey, Roy, Roe, red. From Cornish come Coad, old, and Couch, [Footnote: Cognate with Welsh Gough.] red, while Bean is the Cornish for small, and Tyacke means a farmer. It is likely that both Begg and Moore owe something to the Gaelic adjectives for little and big, as in the well-known names of Callum Beg, Edward Waverley's gillie, and McCallum More. The Gaelic Begg is cognate with the Welsh Vaughan. Two other famous Highland nicknames which are very familiar in England are Cameron, crooked nose, and Campbell, wry mouth. With these may be mentioned the Irish Kennedy, ugly head, the name of the father of Brian Boru.


"As I think I have already said, one of Umslopogaas' Zulu names was The Woodpecker."

(HAGGARD, Allan Quatermain, ch. vii.)

The great majority of nicknames coming under the headings typified by Bird and Fowell, Best, and Fish or Fisk (Scand.) are easily identified. But here, as everywhere in the subject, pitfalls abound. The name Best itself is an example of a now misleading spelling retained for obvious reasons—

"First, on the wal was peynted a forest, In which ther dwelleth neither man nor best."

(A, 1976.)

We do not find exotic animals, nor even the beasts of heraldry, at all frequently. Leppard, leopard, is in some cases for the Ger. Liebhart; and Griffin, when not Welsh, should no doubt be included among inn-signs. Oliphant, i.e. elephant—

"For maystow surmounten thise olifauntes in gretnesse or weighte of body" (Boece, 782)—

may be a genuine nickname, but Roland's ivory horn was also called by this name, and the surname may go back to some legendary connection of the same kind. Bear is not uncommon, captive bears being familiar to a period in which the title bear-ward is frequently met with.

It is possible that Drake may sometimes represent Anglo-Sax. draca, dragon, rather than the bird, but the latter is unmistakable in Sheldrick, for sheldrake. As a rule, animal nicknames were taken rather from the domestic species with which the peasantry were familiar and whose habits would readily suggest comparisons, generally disparaging, with those of their neighbours.


Bird names are especially common, and it does not need much imagination to see how readily and naturally a man might be nicknamed Hawke for his fierceness, Crowe from a gloomy aspect, or Nightingale for the gift of sweet song. Many of these surnames go back to words which are now either obsolete or found only in dialect. The peacock was once the Poe, an early loan from Lat. pavo, or, more fully, Pocock

"A sheaf of pocok arwes, bright and kene, Under his belt he bar ful thriftily."

(A, 104.)

The name Pay is another form of the same word. Coe, whence Hedgecoe, is an old name for the jackdaw—

"Cadow, or coo, or chogh (chough), monedula" (Prompt. Parv.)—

but may also stand for cow, as we find, in defiance of gender and sex, such entries as Robert le cow, William le vache. Those birds which have now assumed a font-name, such as Jack daw, Mag pie, of course occur without it as surnames, e.g. Daw and Pye—

"The thief the chough, and eek the jangelyng pye" (Parliament of Fowls, 305).

The latter has a dim. Pyatt.

Rainbird is a local name for the green woodpecker, but as an East-Anglian name it is most likely an imitative form of Fr. Rimbaud or Raimbaud, identical with Anglo-Sax. Regenbeald. Knott is the name of a bird which frequents the sea-shore and, mindful of Cnut's wisdom, retreats nimbly before the advancing surf—

"The knot that called was Canutus' bird of old."

(Drayton, Polyolbion, xxv. 368.)

This historical connection is most probably due to folk-etymology. Titmus is of course for tit-mouse. Dialect names for the woodpecker survive in Speight, Speke, and Spick, Pick (Chapter III). The same bird was also called woodwall—

"In many places were nyghtyngales, Alpes, fynches, and wodewales"

(Romaunt of the Rose, 567)—

hence, in some cases, the name Woodall. The Alpe, or bullfinch, mentioned in the above lines, also survives as a surname. Dunnock and Pinnock are dialect names for the sparrow. It was called in Anglo-Norman muisson, whence Musson. Starling is a dim. of Mid. Eng. stare, which has itself given the surname Starr

"The stare, that the counseyl can be-wrye." (Parliament of Fowls, 348.)

Heron is the French form of the bird-name which was in English Herne—

"I come from haunts of coot and hern." (Tennyson, The Brook, 1. 1.)

The Old French dim. heronceau also passed into English—

"I wol nat tellen of hir strange sewes (courses), Ne of hir swannes, ne of hire heronsewes."

(F, 67.)

As a surname it has been assimilated to the local, and partly identical, Hearnshaw (Chapter XII). Some commentators go to this word to explain Hamlet's use of handsaw—

"I am but mad north-north-west: when the wind is southerly, I know a hawk from a handsaw" (Hamlet, ii. 2).

When the author's father was a boy in Suffolk eighty years ago, the local name for the bird was pronounced exactly like answer. Grew is Fr. grue, crane, Lat. grus, gru-. Butter, Fr. butor, "a bittor" (Cotgrave), is a dialect name for the bittern, called a "butter-bump" by Tennyson's Northern Farmer (1. 31). Culver is Anglo-Sax. culfre, a pigeon—

"Columba, a culver, a dove"


hence the local Culverhouse. Dove often becomes Duff. Gaunt is sometimes a dialect form of gannet, used in Lincolnshire of the crested grebe. Popjoy may have been applied to the successful archer who became king of the popinjay for the year. The derivation of the word, Old Fr. papegai, whence Mid. Eng. papejay—

"The briddes synge, it is no nay, The sparhawk and the papejay, That joye it was to heere"

(B, 1956)—

is obscure, though various forms of it are found in most of the European languages. In English it was applied not only to the parrot, but also to the green woodpecker. The London Directory form is Pobgee.

With bird nicknames may be mentioned Callow, unfledged, cognate with Lat. calvus, bald. Its opposite also survives as Fleck and Flick—

"Flygge, as byrdis, maturus, volabilis."

(Prompt. Parv.)

Margaret Paston, writing (1460) of the revived hopes of Henry VI., says—

"Now he and alle his olde felawship put owt their fynnes, and arn ryght flygge and mery."


We have naturally a set of names taken from the various species of falcons. To this class belongs Haggard, probably related to Anglo-Sax. haga, hedge, and used of a hawk which had acquired incurable habits of wildness by preying for itself. But Haggard is also a personal name (Chapter VIII). Spark, earlier Sparhawk, is the sparrow-hawk. It is found already in Anglo-Saxon as a personal name, and the full Sparrowhawk also exists. Tassell is a corruption of tiercel, a name given to the male peregrine, so termed, according to the legendary lore of venery—

"Because he is, commonly, a third part lesse than the female." (Cotgrave, )

Juliet calls Romeo her "tassell gentle" (ii. 2). Muskett was a name given to the male sparrow-hawk.

"Musket, a lytell hauke, mouchet." (Palsgrave.)

Mushet is the same name. It comes from Ital. moschetto, a little fly. For its later application to a firearm cf. falconet. Other names of the hawk class are Buzzard and Puttock, i.e. kite—

"Milan, a kite, puttock, glead"


and to the same bird we owe the name Gleed, from a Scandinavian name for the bird

"And the glede, and the kite, and the vulture after his kind." (Deut. xiv. 13.)

To this class also belongs Ramage—

"Ramage, of, or belonging to, branches; also, ramage, hagard, wild, homely, rude"


and sometimes Lennard, an imitative form of "lanner," the name of an inferior hawk—

"Falcunculus, a leonard."

(Holyoak, Lat. Dict., 1612.)

Povey is a dialect name for the owl, a bird otherwise absent from the surname list.


Among beast nicknames we find special attention given, as in modern vituperation, to the swine, although we do not find this true English word, unless it be occasionally disguised as Swain. Hogg does not belong exclusively to this class, as it is used in dialect both of a young sheep and a yearling colt. Anglo-Sax. sugu, sow, survives in Sugg. Purcell is Old Fr. pourcel (pourceau), dim. of Lat. porcus, and I take Pockett to be a disguised form of the obsolete porket—

"Porculus, a pygg: a shoote: a porkes."


The word shoote in the above gloss is now the dialect shot, a young pig, which may have given the surname Shott. But Scutt is from a Mid. English adjective meaning short—

"Scute, or shorte, curtus, brevis"

(Prompt. Parv.)—

and is also an old name for the hare. Two other names for the pig are the northern Galt and the Lincolnshire Grice—

"Marcassin, a young wild boare; a shoot or grice." (Cotgrave.)

Grice also represents le gris, the grey; cf. Grace for le gras (Chapter XXII). Bacon looks like a nickname, but is invariably found without the article. As it is common in French, it would appear to be an Old French accusative to Back, going back to Germanic Bacco (Chapter XIII). Hinks is Mid. Eng. hengst, a stallion, and is thus identical with Hengist (Chapter XX). Stott means both a bullock and a nag (Chapter XIX).

Everyone remembers Wamba's sage disquisition on the names of animals in the first chapter of Ivanhoe. Like much of Scott's archaeology it is somewhat anachronistic, for the live animals were also called veals and muttons for centuries after Wamba's death

"Mouton, a mutton, a weather"; "veau, a calfe, or veale." (Cotgrave.)

Calf has become very rare as a surname, though Kalb is still common in Germany. Bardsley regards Duncalf and Metcalf as perverted from dun-croft and meadow-croft. It seems possible that they may be for down-calf and mead-calf, from the locality of the pasture, but this is a pure guess on my part. It is curious that beef does not appear to have survived, though Leboeuf is common in French, and bullocks are still called "beeves" in Scotland. Tegg is still used by butchers for a two-year-old sheep. Palsgrave gives it another meaning—

"Tegg, or pricket (Chapter XXII), saillant."

Roe is also found in the older forms Rae and Ray, of course confused with Wray (Chapter XIII), as Roe itself is with Rowe (Chapter I). Doe often becomes Dowe. Hind is usually occupative (Chapter III), but Fr. Labiche suggests that it must sometimes be a nickname—

"Biche, a hind; the female of a stagge." (Cotgrave.)

Pollard was applied to a beast or stag that had lost its horns—

"He has no horns, sir, has he?

"No, sir, he's a pollard."

(Beaumont and Fletcher, Philaster, v. 4.)

Leverett is certified by the French surname Levrault. Derivation from Lever, Anglo-Sax. Leofhere, whence Levers, Leverson, or Leveson, is much less probable, as these Anglo-Saxon names rarely form dims. (Chapter VII). Luttrel is in French Loutrel, perhaps a dim. of loutre, otter, Lat. lutra. From the medieval lutrer or lutrarius, otter hunter, we get Lutterer, no doubt confused with the musical Luter.

While Catt is fairly common in the eastern counties, Robertus le chien and Willelmus le curre, who were living about the end of the twelfth century, are now completely disguised as Ken and Kerr. Modern French has both Lechien and the Norman Lequien. [Footnote: Lekain, the name of a famous French actor, has the same origin.] We owe a few other surnames to the friend of man. Kennett, from a Norman dim. of chien, meant greyhound—

"Kenette, hounde, leporarius." (Prompt. Parv.)

The origin of the name Talbot is unknown, and it is uncertain whether the hound or the family should have precedence; but Chaucer seems to use it as the proper name of a hound

"Ran Colle our dogge, and Talbot, and Gerland, And Malkyn, with a dystaf in hir hand."

(B, 4573.)

The great Earl of Shrewsbury is affectionately called "Talbot, our good dogge" in political rimes of the fifteenth century.

In early dictionaries may be found long lists of the fanciful names, such as Bright, Lightfoot, Ranger, Ringwood, Swift, Tempest, given to hounds. This practice seems to throw some light on such surnames as Tempest, with which we may compare the German names Storm and Sturm. In the Pipe Rolls the name le esturmi, the stormy, occurs several times. To the same class belongs Thunder, found in the Pipe Rolls as Tonitruus, and not therefore necessarily a perversion of Tunder, i.e. Sherman (Chapter XVIII)—

"Tondeur de draps, a shearman, or clothworker." (Cotgrave.)

Garland, used by Chaucer as a dog's name, was earlier graland, and, as le garlaund is also found, it may be referred to Old Fr. grailler, to trumpet. It no doubt has other origins.

We should expect Fox to be strongly represented, and we find the compounds Colfox and Stelfox. The first means black fox—

"A colfox ful of sly iniquitee"

(B, 4405)—

and I conjecture that the first part of Stelfox is connected with stealing, as in the medieval name Stele-cat—

"The two constables made a thorough search and found John Stelfox hiding behind some bushes. Some of the jewellery was found upon him"

(Daily Chronicle, June 3, 1913).

In the north a fox is called Tod, whence Todhunter. This Tod is probably a personal name, like the French Renard and the Scottish Lawrie or Lowrie, applied to the same animal. Allan Ramsay calls him "slee Tod Lowrie." From the badger we have Brock and sometimes Gray—

Blaireau, a badger, gray, boason, brock (Cotgrave)—

but Badger itself is occupative (Chapter XIX). The polecat survives as Fitch, Fitchett, and Fitchew—

"Fissau, a filch, or fulmart."



On fish-names Bardsley remarks, "We may quote the famous chapter on 'Snakes in Iceland': 'There are no snakes in Iceland,' and say there are no fish-names in England." This is almost true. The absence of marked traits of character in the, usually invisible, fish would militate against the adoption of such names. We should not expect to find the shark to be represented, for the word is of too late occurrence. But Whale is fairly common. Whale the mariner received two pounds from Henry VII's privy purse in 1498. The story of Jonah, or very generous proportions, may have originated the name Whalebelly, "borne by a respectable family in south-east England" (Bardsley).

But there would obviously be no great temptation to go fishing for nicknames when the beasts of the farmyard and the forest, the birds of the marshes and the air, offered on every side easily understood comparisons. At the same time Bardsley's statement goes a little too far. He explains Gudgeon as a corruption of Goodison. But this, true though it may be in some cases, will not explain the very common French surname Goujon. The phrase "greedy gudgeon" suggests that in this case a certain amount of character had been noticed in the fish. Sturgeon also seems to be a genuine fish-name. We find Fr. Lesturgeon and Ger. Stoer, both meaning the same. We have also Smelt and the synonymous Spurling. In French and German we find other surnames which undoubtedly belong to this class, but they are not numerous and probably at first occurred only in regions where fishing or fish-curing were important industries.

A few examples will show that apparent fish-names are usually not genuine. Chubb is for Job (Chapter III), Eeles is one of the numerous derivatives of Elias (Chapter IX), Hake is, like Hack, from the Scandinavian Hacun, Haddock is sometimes a perversion of the local Haydock, Lamprey comes via Old French from Old High Ger. Landprecht, which has usually given Lambert.

Pike is local (Chapter XII), Pilchard is for Pilcher (Chapter XVIII), Roach is Fr. Laroche, Salmon is for Salomon, and Turbot is the Anglo-Sax. Thurbeorht, which has also given Tarbut, as Thurgod has given Targett. But in few of the above examples is the possibility of fish origin absolutely excluded.


We have also many surnames due to physical resemblances not extending beyond one feature. Birdseye may be sometimes of local origin, from ey, island (Chapter XII), but as a genuine nickname it is as natural as the sobriquet of Hawkeye which Natty Bumppo received from the Hurons. German has the much less pleasing Gansauge, goose-eye; and Alan Oil de larrun, thief's eye, was fined for very reprehensible conduct in 1183. To explain Crowfoot as an imitative variant of Crawford is absurd when we find a dozen German surnames of the same class and formation and as many in Old or Modern French beginning with pied de. Cf. Pettigrew (Chapter XXI) and Sheepshanks. We find in the Paris Directory not only Piedeleu (Old Fr. leu, wolf) and Piedoie (oie, goose), but even the full Pied-de-Lievre, Professeur a la Faculte de droit. The name Bulleid was spelt in the sixteenth century bul-hed, i.e. bull-head, a literal rendering of Front de Boeuf. Weatherhead (Chapter XIX) is perhaps usually a nickname

"For that old weather-headed fool, I know how to laugh at him."

(Congreve, Love for Love, ii. 7.)

Coxhead is another obvious nickname. A careful analysis of some of the most important medieval name-lists would furnish hundreds of further examples, some too outspoken to have survived into our degenerate age, and others which are now so corrupted that their original vigour is quite lost.

Puns and jokes upon proper names are, pace Gregory the Great and Shakespeare, usually very inept and stupid; but the following lines by James Smith, which may be new to some of my readers, are really clever—

Men once were surnamed from their shape or estate (You all may from History worm it); There was Lewis the Bulky, and Henry the Great, John Lackland, and Peter the Hermit. But now, when the door-plates of Misters and Dames Are read, each so constantly varies From the owner's trade, figure, and calling, Surnames Seem given by the rule of contraries.

Mr. Box, though provoked, never doubles his fist, Mr. Burns, in his grate, has no fuel; Mr. Playfair won't catch me at hazard or whist, Mr. Coward was wing'd in a duel. Mr. Wise is a dunce, Mr. King is a whig, Mr. Coffin's uncommonly sprightly, And huge Mr. Little broke down in a gig, While driving fat Mrs. Golightly.

Mrs. Drinkwater's apt to indulge in a dram, Mrs. Angel's an absolute fury, And meek Mr. Lyon let fierce Mr. Lamb Tweak his nose in the lobby of Drury. At Bath, where the feeble go more than the stout, (A conduct well worthy of Nero), Over poor Mr. Lightfoot, confined with the gout, Mr. Heaviside danced a Bolero.

Miss Joy, wretched maid, when she chose Mr. Love, Found nothing but sorrow await her; She now holds in wedlock, as true as a dove, That fondest of mates, Mr. Hayter. Mr. Oldcastle dwells in a modern-built hut, Miss Sage is of madcaps the archest; Of all the queer bachelors Cupid e'er cut, Old Mr. Younghusband's the starchest.

Mr. Child, in a passion, knock'd down Mr. Rock, Mr. Stone like an aspen-leaf shivers; Miss Poole used to dance, but she stands like a stock Ever since she became Mrs. Rivers; Mr. Swift hobbles onward, no mortal knows how, He moves as though cords had entwin'd him; Mr. Metcalfe ran off, upon meeting a cow, With pale Mr. Turnbull behind him.

Mr. Barker's as mute as a fish in the sea, Mr. Miles never moves on a journey; Mr. Gotobed sits up till half-after three, Mr. Makepeace was bred an attorney. Mr. Gardiner can't tell a flower from a root, Mr. Wilde with timidity draws back, Mr. Ryder performs all his journeys on foot, Mr. Foote all his journeys on horseback.

Mr. Penny, whose father was rolling in wealth, Kick'd down all his fortune his dad won; Large Mr. Le Fever's the picture of health, Mr. Goodenough is but a bad one. Mr. Cruickshank stept into three thousand a year, By showing his leg to an heiress:— Now I hope you'll acknowledge I've made it quite clear That surnames ever go by contraries.

Printed by Hazell, Watson & Viney, Ld., London and Aylesbury, England.

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