The Romance of Names
by Ernest Weekley
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"A book of extraordinary interest; those who do not yet realise how enthralling a subject word-history is could not do better than sample its flavour in Mr. Weekley's admirable book."

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"A study of the origin and significance of surnames, full of fascination for the general reader."

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Third Edition, Revised




Professor of French and Head of the Modern Language Department at University College, Nottingham; Sometime Scholar of Trinity College, Cambridge

London John Murray, Albemarle Street, W. 1922

First Edition January 1914 Second Edition March 1914 Third Edition May 1922

All Rights Reserved


























































































































Advertising material from the end of the book 180



In preparing this revised edition I have been able to make use of much information conveyed to me by readers interested in the subject. The general arrangement of the book remains unchanged, but a certain number of statements have been modified, corrected, or suppressed. The study of our surnames has been mostly left to the amateur philologist, and many origins given by my predecessors as ascertained facts turn out, on investigation, to be unsupported by a shred of evidence. I cannot hope that this little book in its new form is free from error, but I feel that it has benefited by the years I have spent in research since its original publication. I would ask reader to accept it, not as a comprehensive treatise containing full information on any name that happens to occur in it, but as a general survey of the subject, and an attempt to indicate and exemplify the various ways in which our surnames have come into existence.




The early demand for a new edition of this little book is a gratifying proof of a widespread interest in its subject, rather than a testimony to the value of my small contribution to that subject. Of the imperfections of this contribution no one can be more conscious than myself, but I trust that the most palpable blemishes have been removed in this revised edition. The student of etymology seldom passes a day without coming across some piece of evidence which throws new light on a difficult problem (see Chapter XVI), or invalidates what had before seemed a reasonable conjecture. I have to thank many correspondents for sending me information of value and for indicating points in which conciseness has led to misunderstanding. Some of my correspondents need, however, to be reminded that etymology and genealogy are separate sciences; so that, while offering every apology to that Mr. Robinson whose name is a corruption of Montmorency, I still adhere to my belief that the other Robinsons derive from Robert.


NOTTINGHAM March 1914.


The interpretation of personal names has always had an attraction for the learned and others, but the first attempts to classify and explain our English surnames date, so far as my knowledge goes, from 1605. In that year Verstegan published his Restitution of Decayed Intelligence, which contains chapters on both font-names and surnames, and about the same time appeared Camden's Remains Concerning Britain, in which the same subjects are treated much more fully. Both of these learned antiquaries make excellent reading, and much curious information may be gleaned from their pages, especially those of Camden, whose position as Clarencieux King-at-Arms gave him exceptional opportunities for genealogical research. From the philological point of view they are of course untrustworthy, though less so than most modern writers on the same subject.

About the middle of the nineteenth century, the period of Archbishop Trench and Canon Taylor, began a kind of boom in works of this kind, and books on surnames are now numerous. But of all these industrious compilers one only, Bardsley, can be taken seriously. His Dictionary of English Surnames, published (Oxford Press, 1901) from his notes some years after his death, is invaluable to students. It represents the results of twenty years' conscientious research among early rolls and registers, the explanations given being usually supported by medieval instances. But it cannot be used uncritically, for the author does not appear to have been either a linguist or a philologist, and, although he usually refrains from etymological conjecture, he occasionally ventures with disastrous results. Thus, to take a few instances, he identifies Prust with Priest, but the medieval le prust is quite obviously the Norman form of Old Fr. le Proust, the provost. He attempts to connect pullen with the archaic Eng. pullen, poultry; but his early examples, le pulein, polayn, etc., are of course Fr. Poulain, i.e. Colt. Under Fallows, explained as "fallow lands," he quotes three examples of de la faleyse, i.e. Fr. Falaise, corresponding to our Cliff, Cleeve, etc; Pochin, explained as the diminutive of some personal name, is the Norman form of the famous name Poussin, i.e. Chick. Or, coming to native instances, le wenchel, a medieval prototype of Winkle, is explained as for "periwinkle," whereas it is a common Middle-English word, existing now in the shortened form wench, and means Child. The obsolete Swordslipper, now only Slipper, which he interprets as a maker of "sword-slips," or sheaths, was really a sword-sharpener, from Mid. Eng. slipen, cognate with Old Du. slijpen, to polish, sharpen, and Ger. schleifen. Sometimes a very simple problem is left unexplained, e.g. in the case of the name Tyas, where the medieval instances of le tyeis are to a student of Old French clearly le tieis or tiois, i.e. the German, cognate with Ger. deutsch and Ital. tedesco.

These examples are quoted, not in depreciation of conscientious student to whose work my own compilation is greatly indebted, but merely to show that the etymological study of surnames has scarcely been touched at present, except by writers to whom philology is an unknown science. I have inserted, as a specimen problem (ch. xvi.), a little disquisition on the name Rutter, a cursory perusal of which will convince most readers that it is not much use making shots in this subject.

My aim has been to steer a clear course between a too learned and a too superficial treatment, and rather to show how surnames are formed than to adduce innumerable examples which the reader should be able to solve for himself. I have made no attempt to collect curious names, but have taken those which occur in the London Directory (1908) or have caught my eye in the newspaper or the streets. To go into proofs would have swelled the book beyond all reasonable proportions, but the reader may assume that, in the case of any derivation not expressly stated as a conjecture, the connecting links exist. In the various classes of names, I have intentionally omitted all that is obvious, except in the rather frequent case of the obvious being wrong. The index, which I have tried to make complete, is intended to replace to some extent those cross-references which are useful to students but irritating to the general reader. Hundreds of names are susceptible of two, three, or more explanations, and I do not profess to be exhaustive.

The subject-matter is divided into a number of rather short chapters, dealing with the various classes and subdivisions into which surnames fall; but the natural association which exists between names has often prevailed over rigid classification. The quotations by which obsolete words are illustrated are taken as far as possible from Chaucer, whose writings date from the very period when our surnames were gradually becoming hereditary. I have also quoted extensively from the Promptorium Parvulorum, our earliest English-Latin Dictionary (1440).

In ch. vii, on Anglo-Saxon names, I have obtained some help from a paper by the late Professor Skeat (Transactions of the Philological Society, 1907-10, pp. 57-85) and from the materials contained in Searle's valuable Onomasticon Anglo-Saxonicum (Cambridge, 1897). Among several works which I have consulted on French and German family names, the most useful have been Heintze's Deutsche Familiennamen, 3rd ed. (Halle a. S., 1908) and Kremers' Beitraege zur Erforschung der franzoesischen Familiennamen (Bonn, 1910). The comparative method which I have adopted, especially in explaining nicknames (ch. xxi), will be found, I think, to clear up a good many dark points. Of books on names published in this country, only Bardsley's Dictionary has been of any considerable assistance, though I have gleaned some scraps of information here and there from other compilations. My real sources have been the lists of medieval names found in Domesday Book, the Pipe Rolls, the Hundred Rolls, and in the numerous historical records published by the Government and by various antiquarian societies.


Nottingham, September 1913

The following dictionaries are quoted without further reference:

Promptorium Parvulorum (1440), ed. Mayhew (E.E.T.S.; 1908).

PALSGRAVE, L'Esclarcissement de la langue francoyse (1530), ed. Genin (Paris, 1852).

COOPER, Thesaurus Lingua Romanae et Britannicae (London; 1573).

COTGRAVE A Dictionarie of the French and English Tongues

(London, 1611).

The Middle English quotations, except where otherwise stated, are from Chaucer, the references being to the Globe edition.


"The French and we termed them Surnames, not because they are the names of the Sire, or the father, but because they are super-added to Christian names."

(CAMDEN, Remains concerning Britain.)

The study of the origin of family names is at the same time quite simple and very difficult. Its simplicity consists in the fact that surnames can only come into existence in certain well-understood ways. Its difficulty is due to the extraordinary perversions which names undergo in common speech, to the orthographic uncertainty of our ancestors, to the frequent coalescence of two or more names of quite different Origin, and to the multitudinous forms which one single name can assume, such forms being due to local pronunciation, accidents of spelling, date of adoption, and many minor causes. It must always remembered that the majority of our surnames from the various dialects of Middle English, i.e. of a language very different from our own in spelling and sound, full of words that are now obsolete, and of others which have completely changed their form and meaning.

If we take any medieval roll of names, we see almost at a glance that four such individuals as—

John filius Simon

William de la Moor

Richard le Spicer

Robert le Long

exhaust the possibilities of English name-making—i.e. that every surname must be (i) personal, from a sire or ancestor, (ii) local, from place of residence, [Footnote: This is by far the largest class, counting by names, not individuals, and many names for which I give another explanation have also a local origin. Thus, when I say that Ely is Old Fr. Elie, i.e. Elias, I assume that the reader will know without being told that it has an alternative explanation from Ely in Cambridgeshire.] (iii) occupative, from trade or office, (iv) a nickname, from bodily attributes, character, etc.

This can easily be illustrated from any list of names taken at random. The Rugby team chosen to represent the East Midlands against Kent (January 22, 1913) consisted of the following fifteen names: Hancock; Mobbs, Poulton, Hudson, Cook; Watson, Earl; Bull, Muddiman, Collins, Tebbitt, Lacey, Hall, Osborne, Manton. Some of these are simple, but others require a little knowledge for their explanation.


There are seven personal names, and the first of these, Hancock, is rather a problem. This is usually explained as from Flemish Hanke, Johnny, while the origin of the suffix -cock has never been very clearly accounted for (see The suffix -cock, Chapter VI). With Hancock we may compare Hankin. But, while the Flemish derivation is possible for these two names, it will not explain Hanson, which sometimes becomes Hansom (Epithesis And Assimilation, Chapter III). According to Camden, there is evidence that Han was also used as a rimed form of Ran, short for Ranolf and Randolf (cf. Hob from Robert, Hick from Richard), very popular names in the north during the surname period. In Hankin and Hancock this Han would naturally coalesce with the Flemish Hanke. This would also explain the names Hand for Rand, and Hands, Hance for Rands, Rance. Mobbs is the same as Mabbs (cf. Moggy for Maggy), and Mabbs is the genitive of Mab, i.e. Mabel, for Amabel. We have the diminutive in Mappin and the patronymic in Mapleson. [Footnote: Maple and Mapple, generally tree names (Chapter XII), are in some cases for Mabel. Maplethorpe is from Mablethorpe (Line.), thorp of Madalbert (Maethelbeorht).] Hudson is the son of Hud, a very common medieval name, which seems to represent Anglo-Saxon Hudda (Chapter VII), the vigorous survival of which into the surname period is a mystery. Watson is the son of Wat, i.e. Walter, from the Old N.E. Fr. Vautier (Gautier), regularly pronounced and written Water at one time—

". . . My name is Walter Whitmore. How now! Why start'st thou? What! doth death affright?

Suffolk. Thy name affrights me, in whose sound is death. A cunning man did calculate my birth, And told me that by water I should die."

(2 Henry VI, iv.1)

Hence the name Waters, which has not usually any connection with water; while Waterman, though sometimes occupative, is also formed from Walter, like Hickman from Hick (Chapter VI). Collins is from Colin, a French diminutive of Col, i.e. Nicol or Nicolas.

Tebbitt is a diminutive of Theobald, a favourite medieval name which had the shortened forms Teb, Tib, Tub, whence a number of derivatives. But names in Teb- and Tib- may also come from Isabel (Chapter X). Osborne is the Anglo-Saxon name Osbeorn.

Of course, each of these personal names has a meaning, e.g. Amabel, ultimately Latin, means lovable, and Walter, a Germanic name, means "rule army" (Modern Ger. walten and Heer), but the discussion of such meanings lies outside our subject. It is, in fact, sometimes difficult to distinguish between the personal name and the nickname. Thus Pagan, whence Payn, with its diminutives Pannell, Pennell, etc., Gold, Good, German, whence Jermyn, Jarman, and many other apparent nicknames, occur as personal names in the earliest records. Their etymological origin is in any case the same as if they were nicknames.

To return to our football team, Poulton, Lacey, Hall, and Manton are local. There are several villages in Cheshire and Lancashire named Poulton, i.e. the town or homestead (Chapter XIII) by the pool. Lacey occurs in Domesday Book as de Laci, from some small spot in Normandy, probably the hamlet of Lassy (Calvados). Hall is due to residence near the great house of the neighbourhood. If Hall's ancestor's name had chanced to be put down in Anglo-French as de la sale, he might now be known as Sale, or even as Saul. Manton is the name of places in Lincolnshire and Northamptonshire, so that this player, at any rate, has an ancestral qualification for the East Midlands.

The only true occupative name in the list is Cook, for Earl is a nickname. Cook was perhaps the last occupative title to hold its own against the inherited name. Justice Shallow, welcoming Sir John Falstaff, says—

"Some pigeons, Davy; a couple of short-legged hens, a joint of mutton, and any pretty little tiny kickshaws. Tell William Cook" (2 Henry IV, v. i.).

And students of the Ingoldsby Legends will remember that

"Ellen Bean ruled his cuisine.—He called her Nelly Cook."

(Nell Cook, 1. 32.)

There are probably a goodly number of housewives of the present day who would be at a loss if suddenly asked for "cook's" name in full. It may be noted that Lequeux means exactly the same, and is of identical origin, archaic Fr. le queux, Lat. coquus, while Kew is sometimes for Anglo-Fr. le keu, where keu is the accusative of queux (Alternative Origins, Chapter I).


The nicknames are Earl, Bull, and Muddiman. Nicknames such as Earl may have been acquired in various ways (Chapter XV). Bull and Muddiman are singularly appropriate for Rugby scrummagers, though the first may be from an inn or shop sign, rather than from physique or character. It is equivalent to Thoreau, Old Fr. toreau (taureau). Muddiman is for Moodyman, where moody has its older meaning of valiant; cf. its German cognate mutig. The weather on the day in question gave a certain fitness both to the original meaning and the later form.

The above names are, with the exception of Hancock, Hudson, and Muddiman, easy to solve; but it must not be concluded that every list is as simple, or that the obvious is always right. The first page of Bards Dictionary of Surnames might well serve as a danger-signal to cocksure writers on this subject. The names Abbey and Abbott would naturally seem to go back to an ancestor who lived in or near an and to another who had been nicknamed the abbot.

But Abbey is more often from the Anglo-French entry le abbe, the abbot, and Abbott may be a diminutive of Ab, standing for Abel, or Abraham, the first of which was a common medieval font-name. Francis Holyoak describes himself on the title-page of his Latin Dictionary (1612) as Franciscus de Sacra Quercu, but his name also represents the holly oak, or holm oak (Tree Names, Chapter XII). On the other hand, Holliman always occurs in early rolls as hali or holi man, i.e. holy man.


It may be stated here, once for all, that etymologies of names which are based on medieval latinizations, family mottoes, etc., are always to be regarded with suspicion, as they involve the reversing of chronology, or the explanation of a name by a pun which has been made from it. We find Lilburne latinized as de insula tontis, as though it were the impossible hybrid de l'isle burn, and Beautoy sometimes as de bella fide, whereas foy is the Old French for beech, from Lat. fagus. Napier of Merchiston had the motto n'a pier, "has no equal," and described himself on title-pages as the Nonpareil, but his ancestor was a servant who looked after the napery. With Holyoak's rendering of his own name we may compare Parkinson's "latinization" of his name in his famous book on gardening(1629), which bears the title Paradisi in Sole Paradisus Terrestris, i.e. the Earthly Paradise of "Park in Sun."

Many noble names have an anecdotic "explanation." I learnt at school that Percy came from "pierce-eye," in allusion to a treacherous exploit at Alnwick. The Lesleys claim descent from a hero who overthrew a Hungarian champion

"Between the less lee and the Mair He slew the knight and left him there."

(Quentin Durward, ch. xxxvii.)

Similarly, the great name of Courtenay, Courtney, of French local origin, is derived in an Old French epic from court nez, short nose, an epithet conferred on the famous Guillaume d'Orange, who, when the sword of a Saracen giant removed this important feature, exclaimed undauntedly—

"Mais que mon nes ai un poi acorcie, Bien sai mes nons en sera alongie."

(Li Coronemenz Loois, 1. 1159.)

[Footnote: "Though I have my nose a little shortened, I know well that my name will be thereby lengthened."]

I read lately in some newspaper that the original Lockhart took the "heart" of the Bruce to the Holy Land in a "locked" casket. Practically every famous Scottish name has a yarn connected with it, the gem perhaps being that which accounts for Guthrie. A Scottish king, it is said, landed weary and hungry as the sole survivor of a shipwreck. He approached a woman who was gutting fish, and asked her to prepare one for him. The kindly fishwife at once replied, "I'll gut three." Whereupon the king, dropping into rime with a readiness worthy of Mr. Wegg, said—

"Then gut three, Your name shall be," [Footnote added by scanner, who has not read much of Dickens: Silas Wegg was a ready-witted character in "Our Mutual Friend."]

and conferred a suitable estate on his benefactress.

After all, truth is stranger than fiction. There is quite enough legitimate cause for wonderment in the fact that Tyas is letter for letter the same name as Douch, or that Strangeways, from a district in Manchester which, lying between the Irwell and the Irk, formerly subject to floods, is etymologically strong-wash. The Joannes Acutus whose tomb stands in Florence is the great free-lance captain Sir John Hawkwood, "omitting the h in Latin as frivolous, and the k and w as unusual" (Verstegan, Restitution of Decayed Intelligence, ch. ix), which makes him almost as unrecognizable as that Peter Gower, the supposed founder of freemasonry, who turned out to be Pythagoras.


Many names are susceptible of two, three, or more explanations. This is especially true of some of our commonest monosyllabic surnames. Bell may be from Anglo-Fr. le bel (beau), or from a shop sign, or from residence near the church or town bell. It may even have been applied to the man who pulled the bell. Finally, the ancestor may have been a lady called Isabel, a supposition which does not necessarily imply illegitimacy (Chapter X). Ball is sometimes the shortened form of the once favourite Baldwin. It is also from a shop sign, and perhaps most frequently of all is for bald. The latter word is properly balled, i.e., marked with a ball, or white streak, a word of Celtic origin; cf. "piebald," i.e., balled like a (mag)pie, and the "bald-faced stag." [Footnote: Halliwell notes that the nickname Ball is the name of a horse in Chaucer and in Tusser, of a sheep in the Promptorium Parvulorum, and of a dog in the Privy Purse Expenses of Henry VIII. In each case the name alludes to a white mark, or what horsy people call a star. A cow thus marked is called in Scotland a boasand cow, and from the same word comes the obsolete bawson, badger.] From the same word we get the augmentative Ballard, used, according to Wyclif, by the little boys who unwisely called to an irritable prophet—

"Stey up ballard" (2 Kings ii. 23).

The name may also be personal, Anglo-Sax. Beal-heard. Rowe may be local, from residence in a row (cf. Fr. Delarue), or it may be an accidental spelling of the nickname Roe, which also survives in the Mid. English form Ray (Beasts, Chapter XXIII).

But Row was also the shortened form of Rowland, or Roland. Cobb is an Anglo-Saxon name, as in the local Cobham, but it is also from the first syllable of Cobbold (for either Cuthbeald or Godbeald) and the second of Jacob. From Jacob come the diminutives Cobbin and Coppin.

Or, to take some less common names, House not only represents the medieval de la house, but also stands for Howes, which, in its turn, may be the plural of how, a hill (Chapter XII), or the genitive of How, one of the numerous medieval forms of Hugh (Chapter VI). Hind may be for Hine, a farm servant (Chapter III), or for Mid. Eng. hende, courteous (cf. for the vowel change Ind, Chapter XIII), and is perhaps sometimes also an animal nickname (Beasts, Chapter XXIII). Rouse is generally Fr. roux, i.e. the red, but it may also be the nominative form of Rou, i.e. of Rolf, or Rollo, the sea-king who conquered Normandy. [Footnote: Old French had a declension in two cases. The nominative, which has now almost disappeared, was usually distinguished by -s. This survives in a few words, e.g. fils, and proper names such as Charles, Jules, etc] Was Holman the holy man, the man who lived near a holm, i.e. holly (Chapter XII), on a holm, or river island (Chapter XII), or in a hole, or hollow? All these origins have equal claims.

As a rule, when an apparent nickname is also susceptible of another solution, baptismal, local, or occupative, the alternative explanation is to be preferred, as the popular tendency has always been towards twisting names into significant words. Thus, to take an example of each class, Diamond is sometimes for an old name Daymond (Daegmund), Portwine is a corruption of Poitevin, the man from Poitou (Chapter XI), and Tipler, which now suggests alcoholic excess, was, as late as the seventeenth century, the regular name for an alehouse keeper.

In a very large number of cases there is a considerable choice for the modern bearer of a name. Any Boon or Bone who wishes to assert that

Of Hereford's high blood he came, A race renown'd for knightly fame (Lord of the Isles, vi. 15),

can claim descent from de Bohun. While, if he holds that kind hearts are more than coronets, he has an alternative descent from some medieval le bon. This adjective, used as a personal name, gave also Bunn and Bunce; for the spelling of the latter name cf. Dance for Dans, and Pearce for Piers, the nominative of Pierre (Alternative Origins, Chapter I), which also survives in Pears and Pearson. Swain may go back to the father of Canute, or to some hoary-headed swain who, possibly, tended the swine. Not all the Seymours are St. Maurs. Some of them were once Seamers, i.e. tailors. Gosling is rather trivial, but it represents the romantic Jocelyn, in Normandy Gosselin, a diminutive of the once very popular personal name Josse. Goss is usually for goose, but any Goss, or Gossett, unwilling to trace his family back to John Goose, "my lord of Yorkes fole," [Footnote: Privy Purse Expenses of Elizabeth of York (1502).] may likewise choose the French Josse or Gosse. Goss may also be a dialect pronunciation of gorse, the older form of which has given the name Gorst. Coward, though humble, cow-herd, is no more timid than Craven, the name of a district in the West Riding of Yorkshire.


Mr. Chucks, when in good society, "seldom bowed, Sir, to anything under three syllables" (Peter Simple, ch. xvii.). But the length of a name is not necessarily an index of a noble meaning. As will be seen (pp. 74, 5), a great number of our monosyllabic names belong to, the oldest stratum of all. The boatswain's own name, from Norman-Fr. chouque, a tree-stump, is identical with the rather aristocratic Zouch or Such, from the usual French form souche. Stubbs, which has the same meaning, may be compared with Curson, Curzon, Fr. courson, a stump, a derivative of court, short. [Footnote: Curson is also a dialect variant of Christian.] Pomeroy has a lordly ring, but is the Old French for Applegarth or Appleyard (Tree Names, Chapter XIV), and Camoys means flat-nosed, Fr. Camus—

"This wenche thikke and wel y-growen was, With kamuse nose, and eyen greye as glas."

(A, 3973.)

Kingsley, speaking of the name assumed by John Briggs, says—

"Vavasour was a very pretty name, and one of those which is [sic] supposed by novelists and young ladies to be aristocratic; why so is a puzzle; as its plain meaning is a tenant farmer and nothing more or less" (Two Years Ago, ch. xi.).

The word is said to represent a Vulgar Lat. vassus vassorum, vassal of vassals.

On the other hand, many a homely name has a complimentary meaning. Mr. Wegg did not like the name Boffin, but its oldest form is bon-fin, good and fine. In 1273 Mr. Bumble's name was spelt bon-bel, good and beautiful. With these we may group Bunker, of which the oldest form is bon-quer (bon coeur), and Boffey, which corresponds to the common French name Bonnefoy, good faith; while the much more assertive Beaufoy means simply fine beech (Chapter I).

With Bunker we may compare Goodhart and Cordeaux, the oldest form of the latter being the French name Courdoux. Momerie and Mummery are identical with Mowbray, from Monbrai in Normandy. Molyneux impresses more than Mullins, of which it is merely the dim., Fr. moulins, mills. The Yorkshire name Tankard is identical with Tancred. Stiggins goes back to the illustrious Anglo-Saxon name Stigand, as Wiggins does to wigand, a champion. Cadman represents Caedmon, the name of the poet-monk of Whitby. Segar is an imitative form of the Anglo-Sax. Saegaer, of which the normal modern representative is Sayers. Giblett is not a name one would covet, but it stands in the same relationship to Gilbert as Hamlet does to Hamo.

A small difference in spelling makes a great difference in the look of a name. The aristocratic Coke is an archaic spelling of Cook, the still more lordly Herries sometimes disguises Harris, while the modern Brassey is the same as de Bracy in Ivanhoe. The rather grisly Nightgall is a variant of Nightingale. The accidental retention of particles and articles is also effective, e.g. Delmar, Delamere, Delapole, impress more than Mears and Pool, and Larpent (Fr. I'arpent), Lemaitre, and Lestrange more than Acres, Masters, and Strange. There are few names of less heroic sound than Spark and Codlin, yet the former is sometimes a contraction of the picturesque Sparrow-hawk, used as a personal name by the Anglo-Saxons, while the latter can be traced back via the earlier forms Quodling (still found), Querdling, Querdelyoun to Coeur de Lion.


"Quelque diversite d'herbes qu'il y alt, tout s'enveloppe sous le nom de salade; de mesme, sous la consideration des noms, je m'en voys faire icy une galimafree de divers articles." (Montaigne, Essais, i. 46.)

Just as, in studying a new language, the linguist finds it most helpful to take a simple text and hammer out in detail every word and grammatical form it contains, so the student of name-lore cannot do better than tackle a medieval roll and try to connect every name in it with those of the present day. I give here two lists of names from the Hundred Rolls of 1273. The first contains the names of London and Middlesex jurymen, most of them, especially the Londoners, men of substance and position. The second is a list of cottagers resident in the village of Steeple Claydon in Bucks. Even a cursory perusal of these lists should Suffice to dispel all recollection of the nightmare "philology" which has been so much employed to obscure what is perfectly simple and obvious; while a very slight knowledge of Latin and French is all that is required to connect these names of men who were dead and buried before the Battle of Crecy with those to be found in any modern directory. The brief indications supplied under each name will be found in a fuller form in the various chapters of the book to which references are given.

For simplicity I have given the modern English form of each Christian name and expanded the abbreviations used by the official compilers. It will be noticed that English, Latin, and Anglo-French are used indifferently, that le is usually, though not always, put before the trade-name or nickname, that de is put before place-names and at before spots which have no proper name. The names in the right-hand column are only specimens of the, often very numerous, modern equivalents.


Hundred Rolls

Modern Form

William Dibel.

Dibble (Theobald).

Initial t- and d- alternate (Dialectic Variants, Chapter III) according to locality. In Tennyson, for Denison, son of Denis, we have the opposite change. The forms assumed by Theobald are very numerous (Chapter I). Besides Dibble we have the shorter Dibb. Other variants are Dyball, Dipple, Tipple, Tidball, Tudball, and a number of names in Teb-, Tib-, Tub-. The reason for the great popularity of the name is obscure.

Baldwin le Bocher.


On the various forms of this name, see Chapter XV.

Robert Hauteyn.


The Yorkshire name Auty is probably unconnected. It seems rather to be an altered form of a Scandinavian personal name cognate with Odo.

Henry le Wimpler.

The name has apparently disappeared with the garment. But it is never safe to assert that a surname is quite extinct.

Stephen le Peron


From Old Fr. feron, ferron, smith. In a few cases French has -on as an agential suffix (Chapter XVIII).

William de Paris.

Paris, Parris, Parish.

The commoner modern form Parish is seldom to be derived from our word parish. This rarely occurs, while the entry de Paris is, on the other hand, very common.

Hundred Rolls

Modern Form

Roger le Wyn.


Anglo-Saxon wine, friend. Also a Celtic nickname, Identical with Gwynne (Chapter XXII).

Matthew de Pomfrait


The usual pronunciation of Pontefract, broken bridge, one of the few English place-names of purely Latin origin (Chapter XIII). The Old French form would be Pont-frait.

Richard le Paumer.


A man who had made pilgrimage to the Holy Land (Chapter XVII). The modern spelling is restored, but the l remains mute. It is just possible that this name sometimes means tennis-player, as tennis, Fr. le jeu de paume, once played with the palm of the hand, is of great antiquity.

Walter Poletar.


A dealer in poults, i.e. fowls. For the lengthened form poulterer, cf. fruiterer for fruiter, and see Chapter XV.

Reginald Aurifaber.


The French form orfevre may have given the name Offer.

Henry Deubeneye.

Daubeney, Dabney.

Fr. d'Aubigny. One of the many cases in which the French preposition has been incorporated in the name. Cf. Danvers, for d'Anvers, Antwerp, and see Chapter XI.

Hundred Rolls

Modern Form

Richard Knotte


From Scandinavian Cnut, Canute. This name is also local, from knot, a hillock, and has of course become confused (Variant Spellings, Chapter III) with the nickname Nott, with cropped hair (Chapter XXII)—

"Thou nott-pated fool."

(1 Henry IV, ii. 4.)

Walter le Wyte.


The large number of Whites is partly to be accounted for by their having absorbed the name Wight (Chapter XXII) from Mid. Eng. wiht, valiant.

Adam le Sutel.


Both Eng. subtle and Fr. subtil are restored spellings, which do not appear in nomenclature (Chapter III).

Fulk de Sancto Edmundo.


The older form would be Tednam. Bury St. Edmund's is sometimes referred to as Tednambury. For the mutilation of the word saint in place-names, see Chapter III.

William le Boteler.


More probably a bottle-maker than what we understand by a butler, the origin being of course the same.

Gilbert Lupus


Wolf, and the Scandinavian Ulf, are both common as personal names before the Conquest, but a good many Modern bearers of the name are German Jews (Chapter IV). Old Fr. lou (loup) is one source of Low.

Hundred Rolls

Modern Form

Stephen Juvenis.


Senex is rarely found. The natural tendency was to distinguish the younger man from his father. Senior is generally to be explained differently (Chapter XV).

William Braciator.


The French form brasseur also survives as Bracher and Brasher, the latter being also confused with Brazier, the worker in brass.

John de Cruce.

Cross, Crouch.

A man who lived near some outdoor cross. The form crouch survives in "Crutched Friars." Hence also the name Croucher.

Matthew le Candeler.

Candler, Chandler.

Initial c- for ch- shows Norman or Picard origin (Chapter III).

Henry Bernard.

Barnard, Barnett.

The change from er to ar is regular; cf. Clark, and see Chapter III. The endings -ard, -ald, are generally changed to -ett; cf. Everett for Everard, Barrett for Berald, Garrett for Gerard, Garrard, whence the imitative Garrison for Garretson.

William de Bosco.

Bush, Busk, Buss.

"For there is neither bush nor hay (Chapter XIII) In May that it nyl shrouded bene."

(Romaunt of the Rose, 54.)

The name might also be translated as Wood. The corresponding name of French origin is Boyce or Boyes, Fr. bois (Chapter XIV).

Hundred Rolls

Modern Form

Henry de Sancta Ositha.


Cf. Fulk de Sancto Edmundo (supra), and cf. Tooley St. for St. Olave St. (Chapter III).

Walter ate Stede.


In this case the preposition has not coalesced, as in Adeane, at the dean, i.e. hollow, Agate, at gate, etc. (Chapter XII).

William le Fevere.

Wright, Smith.

The French name survives as Feaver and Fevyer. Cf. also the Lat. Faber, which is not always a modern German importation

(Chapter XII).

Thomas de Cumbe.

Combe, Coombes.

A West-country name for a hollow in a hillside (Chapter XII).

John State.

State, Stacey.

Generally for Eustace, but sometimes perhaps for Anastasia, as we find Stacey used as a female name (Chapter III).

Richard le Teynturier.

Dyer, Dexter.

Dexter represents Mid. Eng. dighester, with the feminine agential suffix (Chapter XV).

Henry le Waleys.

Wallis, Walsh, Welch.

Literally the foreigner, but especially applied by the English to the Western Celts. Quelch represents the: Welsh pronunciation. With Wallis cf. Cornwallis, Mid. Eng. le cornwaleis (Chapter X).

John le Bret.

Brett, Britton.

An inhabitant of Brittany, perhaps resident in that Breton colony in London called Little Britain. Bret The Old French nominative of Breton (Chapter VIII).

Hundred Rolls

Modern Form

Thomas le Clerc.


One of our commonest names. We now spell the common noun clerk by etymological reaction, but educated people pronounce the word as it was generally written up to the eighteenth century (Chapter III).

Stephen le Hatter


The great rarity of this name is a curious problem (Chapter XV). The name Capper exists, though it is not very common.

Thomas le Batur.


But, being a Londoner, he was more probably a gold-beater, or perhaps a beater of cloth. The name Beater also survives.

Alexander de Leycestre

Leicester, Lester.

For the simpler spelling, once usual and still adopted by those who chalk the names on the mail-vans at St. Pancras, cf. such names as Worster, Wooster, Gloster, etc. (Chapter XI).

Robert le Noreys.

Norris, Nurse.

Old Fr. noreis, the Northerner (Chapter XI), or norice (nourrice), the nurse, foster-mother (Chapter XX).

Reginald le Blond

Blount, Blunt.

Fr. blond, fair. We have also the dim. Blundell. The corresponding English name is Fairfax, from Mid. Eng. fax, hair (Chapter XXII).

Randolf ate Mor.


With the preposition retained (Chapter XII) it has given the Latin-looking Amor.

Hundred Rolls

Modern Form

Matthew le Pevrier.


For the reduction of pepperer to Pepper cf. Armour for armourer, and see Chapter XV.

Godfrey le Furmager.

Cheeseman, Firminger.

From Old Fr. formage (fromage). The intrusion of the n in Firminger is regular; cf. Massinger, messenger, from Fr. messager, and see Chapter III.

Robert Campeneys.

Champness, Champneys.

Old Fr. champeneis (champenois), of Champagne (Chapter XI).

John del Pek.

Peck, Peaks, Pike, Pick.

A name taken from a hill-top, but sometimes referring to the unrelated Derbyshire Peak.

Richard Dygun.


A diminutive of Dig, for Dick (Chapter VI).

Peter le Hoder.


A maker of hods or a maker of hoods? The latter is more likely.

Alan Allutarius.


Lat. alutarius, a "white-tawer", Similarly, Mid. Eng. stan-heawere, stone-hewer, is contracted to Stanier, now almost swallowed up by Stainer. The simple tawer is also one origin of the name Tower.

Peter le Rus.

Russ, Rush, Rouse.

Fr. roux, of red complexion. Cf. the dim. Russell, Fr. Rousseau (Chapter XXII).


Hundred Rolls

Modern Form

Roger de la Hale.

Hall, Hale, Hales.

One of our commonest local surnames. But it has two interpretations, from hall and from heal (Chapter XII).

Walter de la Hedge.

Hedge, Hedges.

Other names of similar meaning are Hay, Hayes, Haig, Haigh, Hawes (Chapter XIII)

John Rex


One of our commonest nicknames, the survival of which is easily understood (Chapter XV).

Stephen de la Novels Meyson.


Cf. also Newbigging, from Mid. Eng. biggen, to 'build (Chapter XIII).

Randolf Pokoc.

Pocock, Peacock.

The simple Poe, Lat. pavo, has the same meaning (Chapter XXIII).

William de Fonte.

Spring, Wells, Fountain, Attewell.

This is the most usual origin of the name Spring (Chapter IX).

Robert del Parer


Old Fr. perier (poirier), pear-tree. Another origin of Perrier is, through French, from Lat. petrarius, a stone-hewer.

Adam de la Denne.

Denne, Dean, Done.

A Mid. English name for valley (Chapter XII).

Hundred Rolls

Modern Form

Robertus filius Gillelmi.


For other possible names to be derived from a father named William, see Chapter VI.

William filius Radolfi.


A very common medieval name, Anglo-Sax. Raedwulf, the origin of our Ralph, Relf, Rolfe, Roff, and of Fr. Raoul. Some of its derivatives, e.g. Rolls, have got mixed with those of Roland. To be distinguished from Randolf or Randall, of which the shorter form is Ran or Rand, whence Rankin, Rands, Rance, etc.


Hundred Rolls

Modern Form

Andrew Colle

Collins, Colley

For Nicolas (Chapter V).

William Neuman

Newman, Newcomb.

A man recently settled in the village (Chapter XII).

Adam ate Dene

Dean, Denne, Adeane.

The separate at survives in A'Court and A'Beckett, at the beck head; cf. Allan a' Dale (Chapter XII).

Ralph Mydevynter.


An old name for Christmas (Chapter IX).

William ate Hull.

Athill, Hill, Hull.

The form hul for hil occurs in Mid. English (Chapter XII).

Hundred Rolls

Modern Form

Gilbert Sutor.

Sutor, Soutar.

On the poor representation of the shoemaker see Chapter XV.

Walter Maraud.

It is easy to understand the disappearance of this name—

"A rogue, beggar, vagabond; a varlet, rascall, scoundrell, base knave" (Cotgrave); but it may be represented by Marratt, Marrott, unless these are from Mary (Chapter X).

Nicholas le P.ker.

This may be expanded into Parker, a park-keeper, Packer, a wool-packer, or the medieval Porker, a swine-herd, now lost in Parker.

John Stegand

Stigand, Stiggins.

Anglo-Saxon names survived chiefly among the peasantry (Chapter I).

Roger Mercator.

Marchant, Chapman.

The restored modern spelling merchant has affected the pronunciation of the common noun (Chapter III). The more usual term Chapman is cognate with cheap, chaffer, Chipping, Copenhagen, Ger. kaufen, to buy, etc.

Adam Hoppe.

Hobbs, Hobson, Hopkins.

An example of the interchange of b and P (Chapter III). Hob is usually regarded as one of the rimed forms from Robert (Chapter VI).

Roger Crom.

Crum, Crump.

Lit. crooked, cognate with Ger. krumm. The final -p of Crump is excrescent (Chapter III).

Stephen Cornevaleis

Cornwallis, Cornish.

A name which would begin in Devonshire (Chapter XI).

Hundred Rolls

Modern Form

Walter de Ibernia


A much more common name than Scotland, which has been squeezed out by Scott (Chapter XI).

Matilda filia Matildae

Mawson (for Maud-son), Till, Tilley, Tillett, Tillotson, etc.

One of the favourite girl-names during the surname period (Chapter X).

Ralph Vouler.


A West-country pronunciation; cf. Vowle for Fowell, Vokes for Foakes (Chapter VI), Venn for Fenn, etc.

John filius Thomae.

Thompson, Tompkins, Tomlin, etc.

One of the largest surname families. It includes Toulmin, a metathesis of Tomlin. In Townson and Tonson it coalesces with Tony, Anthony.

Henry Bolle.


In this case evidently a nickname (Chapter I).

Roger Gyle.


For names in Gil- see Chapter VI. The form in the roll may, however, represent an uncomplimentary nickname, "guile."

Walter Molendarius.

Miller, Mellen, Milner.

In Milne, Milner, we have the oldest form, representing Vulgar Lat. molina, mill cf. Kilner, from kiln, Lat. culina, kitchen. Millard (Chapter XIX) is perhaps sometimes the same name with excrescent -d.

Thomas Berker.


A man who stripped bark, also a tanner. But as a surname reinforced by the Norman form of Fr. berger, a shepherd (Chapter XV).

Hundred Rolls

Modern Form

Matthew Hedde.


Sometimes local, at the head, but here a nickname; cf. Tate, Tail, sometimes from Fr. tete (Chapter XIII).

Richard Joyet.

Jowett, Jewett.

A diminutive either of Joy or of Julian, Juliana. But it is possible that Joy itself is not the abstract noun, but a shortened form of Julian.

Adam Kyg.

Ketch, Beach

An obsolete adjective meaning lively (Chapter XXII).

Simon filius Johannis Nigelli.

Johnson, Jones, Jennings, etc.

The derivatives of John are numerous and not to be distinguished from those of Joan, Jane (Chapter X).

The above lists illustrate all the simpler ways in which surnames could be formed. At the time of compilation they were not hereditary. Thus the last man on the list is Simon Johnson, but his father was John Neilson, or Nelson (Chapter X), and his son would be —— Simpson, Sims, etc. This would go on until, at a period varying with the locality, the wealth and importance of the individual, one name in the line would become accidentally petrified and persist to the present day. The chain could, of course, be broken at any time by the assumption of a name from one of the other three classes (Chapter I).


"Do you spell it with a V or a W?" inquired the judge.

"That depends upon the taste and fancy of the speller, my lord," replied Sam. "I never had occasion to spell it more than once or twice in my life, but I spells it with a V."

(Pickwick, ch. xxxiv.)

Many people are particular about the spelling of their names. I am myself, although, as a student of philology, I ought to know better. The greatest of Englishmen was so careless in the matter as to sign himself Shakspe, a fact usually emphasized by Baconian when speaking of the illiterate clown of Stratford-on-Avon. Equally illiterate must have been the learned Dr. Crown, who, in the various books he published in the latter half of the seventeenth century, spelt his name, indifferently Cron, Croon, Croun, Crone, Croone, Croune. The modern spelling of any particular name Is a pure accident. Before the Elementary Education Act of 1870 a considerable proportion of English people did not spell their names at all. They trusted to the parson and the clerk, who did their best with unfamiliar names. Even now old people in rural districts may find half a dozen orthographic variants of their own names among the sparse documentary records of their lives. Dugdale the antiquary is said to have found more than 130 variants of Mainwaring among the parchments of that family. Bardsley quotes, under the name Blenkinsop—

"On April 2 3, 1470, Elizabeth Blynkkynesoppye, of Blynkkynsoppe, widow of Thomas Blynkyensope, of Blynkkensope, received a general pardon"—

four variants in one sentence. In the List of Foreign Protestants and Aliens in England (1618) we have Andrian Medlor and Ellin Medler his wife, Johan Cosen and Abraham Cozen, brethren. The death of Sarah Inward, daughter of Richard Inwood, was registered in 1685.


Medieval spelling was roughly phonetic, i.e. it attempted to reproduce the sound of the period and region, and even men of learning, as late as the eighteenth century, were very uncertain in matters of orthography. The spelling of the language is now practically normalized, although in conformity with no sort of principle; but the family name, as a private possession, has kept its freedom. Thus, if we wish to speak poetically of a meadow, I suppose we should call it a lea, but the same word is represented by the family names Lea, Lee, Ley, Leigh, Legh, Legge, Lay, Lye, perhaps the largest group of local surnames we possess.

In matters of spelling we observe various tendencies. One is the retention of an archaic form, which does not necessarily affect pronunciation. Late Mid. English was fond of y for i, of double consonants, and of final -e. All these appear in the names Thynne (thin) and Wyllie (wily). Therefore we should not deride the man who writes himself Smythe. But in some cases the pronunciation suffers, e.g. the name Fry represents Mid. Eng. fri, one of the forms of the adjective that is now written free. Burt represents Anglo-Sax. beorht, the normal result of which is Bright. We now write subtle and perfect, artificial words, in the second of which the pronunciation has been changed in accordance with the restored spelling; but the older forms survive in the names Suttle and Parfitt—

"He was a verray parfit, gentil knyght."

(A, 72.)

The usual English pronunciation of names like Mackenzie, Menzies, Dalziel, is due to the substitution by the printer of a z for an obsolete letter that represented a soft palatal sound more like y. [Footnote: This substitution has led one writer on surnames, who apparently confuses bells with beans, to derive the rare surname Billiter, whence Billiter's Lane in the City, from "Belzetter, i.e., the Bell-setter." The Mid. Eng. "bellezeter, campanarius" (Prompt. Parv.), was a bell-founder, from a verb related to geysir, ingot, and Ger. giessen, to pour. Robert le bellegeter was a freeman of York in 1279.]

We have an archaic plural ending in Knollys (Knowles), the plural of knoll, and in Sandys, and an archaic spelling in Sclater for Slater or Slatter, for both slat and slate come from Old Fr. esclat (eclat), a splinter. With Knollys and Sandys we may put Pepys, for the existence of the dims. Pipkin, Peppitt, and Peppiatt points to the medieval name Pipun, corresponding to the royal Pepin. Streatfeild preserves variant spellings of street and field. In Gardiner we have the Old Northern French word which now, as a common noun, gardener, is assimilated to garden, the normal French form of which appears in Jardine.

Such orthographic variants as i and y, Simons, Symons, Ph and f, Jephcott, Jeffcott, s and c, Pearce, Pearce, Rees, Reece, Sellars (cellars), ks and x, Dickson, Dixon, are a matter of taste or accident. Initial letters which became mute often disappeared in spelling, e.g. Wray, a corner (Chapter XIII), has become hopelessly confused with Ray, a roe, Knott, from Cnut, i.e. Canute, or from dialect knot, a hillock, with Noll, crop-haired. Knowlson is the son of Nowell (Chapter IX) or of Noll, i.e. Oliver.

Therefore, when Mr. X. asserts that his name has always been spelt in such and such a way, he is talking nonsense. If his great-grandfather's will is accessible, he will probably find two or three variants in that alone. The great Duke of Wellington, as a younger man, signed himself Arthur Wesley—

"He was colonel of Dad's regiment, the Thirty-third foot, after Dad left the army, and then he changed his name from Wesley to Wellesley, or else the other way about"

(KIPLING, Marklake Witches);

and I know two families the members of which disagree as to the orthography of their names. We have a curious affectation in such spellings as ffrench, ffoulkes, etc., where the ff is merely the method of indicating the capital letter in early documents.

The telescoping of long names is a familiar phenomenon. Well-known examples are Cholmondeley, Chumley, Marjoribanks, Marchbanks, Mainwaring, Mannering. Less familiar are Auchinleck, Affleck, Boutevilain, Butlin, Postlethwaite, Posnett, Sudeley, Sully, Wolstenholme, Woosnam. Ensor is from the local Edensor, Cavendish was regularly Candish for the Elizabethans, while Cavenham in Suffolk has given the surname Canham. Daventry has become Daintree, Dentry, and probably the imitative Dainty, while Stepson is for Stevenson. It is this tendency which makes the connection between surnames and village names so difficult to establish in many cases, for the artificial name as it occurs in the gazetteer often gives little clue to the local pronunciation. It is easy to recognize Bickenhall or Bickenhill in Bicknell and Puttenham in Putnam, but the identity of Wyndham with Wymondham is only clear when we know the local Pronunciation of the latter name. Milton and Melton are often telescoped forms of Middleton.


Dialectic variants must also be taken into account. Briggs and Rigg represent the Northern forms of Bridges and Ridge, and Philbrick is a disguised Fellbrigg. In Egg we have rather the survival of the Mid. English spelling of Edge. Braid, Lang, Strang, are Northern variants of Broad, Long, Strong. Auld is for Old while Tamson is for Thompson and Dabbs for Dobbs (Robert). We have the same change of vowel in Raper, for Roper. Venner generally means hunter, Fr. veneur, but sometimes represents the West-country form of Fenner, the fen-dweller; cf. Vidler for fiddler, and Vanner for Fanner, the winnower.

We all the difficulty we have in catching a new and unfamiliar name, and the subterfuges we employ to find out what it really is. In such cases we do not get the help from association and analogy which serves us in dealing with language in general, but find ourselves in the position of a foreigner or child hearing unfamiliar word for the first time. We realize how many imperceptible shades there are between a short i and a short e, or between a fully voiced g and a voiceless k, examples suggested to me by my having lately understood a Mr. Riggs to be a Mr. Rex.

We find occurring in surnames examples of those consonantal changes which do not violate the great Phonetic law that such changes can only occur regularly within the same group, i.e. that a labial cannot alternate with a palatal, or a dental with either. It is thus that we find b alternating with p, Hobbs and Hopps (Robert), Bollinger and Pullinger, Fr. boulanger; g with k, Cutlack and Goodlake (Anglo-Sax. Guthlac), Diggs and Dix (Richard), Gipps and Kipps (Gilbert), Catlin and Galling (Catherine); j with ch, Jubb or Jupp and Chubb (Job); d with t, Proud and Prout (Chapter XXII), Dyson and Tyson (Dionisia), and also with th, Carrodus and Carruthers (a hamlet in Dumfries). The alternation of c and ch or g and j in names of French origin is dialectic, the c and g representing the Norman-Picard pronunciation, e.g. Campion for Champion, Gosling for Joslin. In some cases we have shown a definite preference for one form, e.g. Chancellor and Chappell, but Carpenter and Camp. In English names c is northern, ch southern, e.g. Carlton, Charlton, Kirk, Church.

There are also a few very common vowel changes. The sound er usually became ar, as in Barclay (Berkeley), Clark, Darby, Garrard (Gerard), Jarrold (Gerald), Harbord (Herbert), Jarvis (Gervase), Marchant, Sargent, etc., while Larned, our great-grandfathers' pronunciation of "learned," corresponds to Fr. Littri. Thus Parkins is the same name as Perkins. (Peter), and these also give Parks and Perks, the former of which is usually not connected with Park. To Peter, or rather to Fr. Pierre, belong also Parr, Parry and Perry, though Parry is generally Welsh (Chapter VI). The dims. Parrott, Perrott, etc., were sometimes nicknames, the etymology being the same, for our word parrot is from Fr. pierrot. To the freedom with which this sound is spelt, e.g. in Herd, Heard, Hird, Hurd, we also owe Purkiss for Perkins; cf. appurtenance for appartenance.

The letter l seems also to exercise a demoralizing influence on the adjacent vowel. Juliana became Gillian, and from this, or from the masculine form Julian, we get Jalland, Jolland, and the shortened Gell, Gill (Chapter VI), and Jull. Gallon, which Bardsley groups with these, is more often a French name, from the Old German Walo, or a corruption of the still commoner French name Galland, likewise of Germanic origin.

We find also such irregular vowel changes as Flinders for Flanders, and conversely Packard for Picard. Pottinger (see below) sometimes becomes Pettinger as Portugal gives Pettingall. The general tendency is towards that thinning of the vowel that we get in mister for master and Miss Miggs's mim for ma'am. Littimer for Lattimer is an example of this. But in Royle for the local Ryle we find the same broadening which has given boil, a swelling, for earlier bile.


Among phonetic changes which occur with more or less regularity are those called aphesis, epenthesis, epithesis, assimilation, dissimilation, and metathesis, convenient terms which are less learned than they appear. Aphesis is the loss of the unaccented first syllable, as in 'baccy and 'later. It occurs almost regularly in words of French origin, e.g. squire and esquire, Prentice and apprentice. When such double forms exist, the surname invariably assumes the popular form, e.g. Prentice, Squire. Other examples are Bonner, i.e. debonair, Jenner, Jenoure, for Mid. Eng. engenour, engineer, Cator, Chaytor, Old Fr. acatour (acheteur), a buyer—

"A gentil maunciple was they of a temple, Of which achatours mighte take exemple" (A. 567),

Spencer, dispenser, a spender, Stacey for Eustace, Vick and Veck for Levick, i.e. l'eveque, the bishop, Pottinger for the obsolete potigar, an apothecary, etc.

The institution now known as the "orspittle" was called by our unlettered forefathers the "spital," hence the names Spittle and Spittlehouse. A well-known amateur goal-keeper has the appropriate name Fender, for defender.

Many names beginning with n are due to aphesis, e.g. Nash for atten ash, Nalder, Nelms, Nock, atten oak, Nokes, Nye, atten ey, at the island, Nangle, atten angle, Nind or Nend, atten ind or end. With these we may compare Twells, at wells, and the numerous cases in which the first part of a personal name is dropped, e.g. Tolley, Bartholomew, Munn, Edmund, Pott, Philpot, dim. of Philip (see p.87), and the less common Facey, from Boniface, and Loney, from Apollonia, the latter of which has also given Applin.

When a name compounded with Saint begins with a vowel, we get such forms as Tedman, St. Edmund, Tobin, St. Aubyn, Toosey, St. Osith, Toomey, St. Omer, Tooley, St. Olave; cf. Tooley St. for St. Olave St. and tawdry from St. Audrey. When the saint's name begins with a consonant, we get, instead of aphesis, a telescoped pronunciation, e.g. Selinger, St. Leger, Seymour, St. Maur, Sinclair, St. Clair, Semark, St. Mark, Semple, St. Paul, Simper, St. Pierre, Sidney, probably for St. Denis, with which we may compare the educated pronunciation of St. John. These names are all of local origin, from chapelries in Normandy or England.

Epenthesis is the insertion of a sound which facilitates pronunciation, such as that of b in Fr. chambre, from Lat. camera. The intrusive sound may be a vowel or a consonant, as in the names Henery, Hendry, perversions of Henry. [Footnote: On the usual fate of this name in English, see below.]

To Hendry we owe the northern Henderson, which has often coalesced with Anderson, from Andrew. These are contracted into Henson and Anson, the latter also from Ann and Agnes (Chapter IX). Intrusion of a vowel is seen in Greenaway, Hathaway, heath way, Treadaway, trade (i.e. trodden) way, etc., also in Horniman, Alabone, Alban, Minister, minster, etc. But epenthesis of a consonant is more common, especially b or p after m, and d after n. Examples are Gamble for the Anglo-Saxon name Gamel, Hamblin for Hamlin, a double diminutive of Hamo, Simpson, Thompson, etc., and Grindrod, green royd (see p. III). There is also the special case of n before g in such names as Firminger (Chapter XV), Massinger (Chapter XX), Pottinger (Chapter XVIII), etc.


Epithesis, or the addition of a final consonant, is common in uneducated speech, e.g. scholard, gownd, garding, etc. I say "uneducated," but many such forms have been adapted by the language, e.g. sound, Fr. son, and we have the name Kitching for kitchen. The usual additions are -d, -t, or -g after n, e.g. Simmonds, Simon, Hammond, Hammant, Fr. Hamon, Hind, a farm labourer, of which the older form is Hine (Chapter XVII), Collings for Collins, Jennings, Fr. Jeannin, dim. of Jean, Aveling from the female name Avelina or Evelyn. Neill is for Neil, Nigel. We have epithetic -b in Plumb, the man who lived by the plum-tree and epithetic -p in Crump (Chapter II).

Assimilation is the tendency of a sound to imitate its neighbour. Thus the d of Hud (Chapter I) sometimes becomes t in contact with the sharp s, hence Hutson; Tomkins tends to become Tonkin, whence Tonks, if the m and k are not separated by the epenthetic p, Tompkins. In Hopps and Hopkins we have the b of Hob assimilated to the sharp s and k, while in Hobbs we pronounce a final -z. It is perhaps under the influence of the initial labial that Milson, son of Miles or Michael, sometimes becomes Milsom, and Branson, son of Brand, appears as Bransom.

The same group of names is affected by dissimilation, i.e. the instinct to avoid the recurrence of the same sound. Thus Ranson, son of Ranolf or Randolf, becomes Ransom [Footnote: So also Fr, rancon gives Eng. ransom. The French surname Rancon is probably aphetic for Laurancon.] by dissimilation of one n, and Hanson, son of Han (Chapter I), becomes Hansom. In Sansom we have Samson assimilated to Samson and then dissimilated. Dissimilation especially affects the sounds l, n, r. Bullivant is found earlier as bon enfaunt (Goodchild), just as a braggart Burgundian was called by Tudor dramatists a burgullian. Bellinger is for Barringer, an Old French name of Teutonic origin. [Footnote: "When was Bobadil here, your captain? that rogue, that foist, that fencing burgullian" (Jonson, Every Man in his Humour, iv. 2).] Those people called Salisbury who do not hail from Salesbury in Lancashire must have had an ancestor de Sares-bury, for such was the earlier name of Salisbury (Sarum). A number of occupative names have lost the last syllable by dissimilation, e.g. Pepper for pepperer, Armour for armourer. For further examples see Chapter XV.

It may be noted here that, apart from dissimilation, the sounds l, n, r, have a general tendency to become confused, e.g. Phillimore is for Finamour (Dearlove), which also appears as Finnemore and Fenimore, the latter also to be explained from fen and moor. Catlin is from Catherine. Balestier, a cross-bow man, gives Bannister, and Hamnet and Hamlet both occur as the name of one of Shakespeare's sons. Janico or Jenico, Fr. Janicot may be the origin of Jellicoe.

We also get the change of r to l in Hal, for Harry, whence Hallett, Hawkins (Halkins), and the Cornish Hockin, Mal or Mol for Mary, whence Malleson, Mollison, etc., and Pell for Peregrine. This confusion is common in infantile speech, e.g. I have heard a small child express great satisfaction at the presence on the table of "blackbelly dam."


Metathesis, or the transposition of sound, chiefly affects l and r, especially the latter. Our word cress is from Mid. Eng. kers, which appears in Karslake, Toulmin is for Tomlin, a double dim., -el-in, of Tom, Grundy is for Gundry, from Anglo-Sax. Gundred, and Joe Gargery descended from a Gregory. Burnell is for Brunel, dim. of Fr. brun, brown, and Thrupp is for Thorp, a village (Chapter XIII). Strickland was formerly Stirkland, Cripps is the same as Crisp, from Mid. Eng. crisp, curly. Prentis Jankin had—

"Crispe here, shynynge as gold so fyn"

(D. 304);

and of Fame we are told that

"Her heer was oundie (wavy) and crips."

(House of Fame, iii. 296.)

Both names may also be short for Crispin, the etymology being the same in any case. Apps is sometimes for asp, the tree now called by the adjectival name aspen (cf. linden). We find Thomas atte apse in the reign of Edward III.

The letters l, n, r also tend to disappear from no other cause than rapid or careless pronunciation.

Hence we get Home for Holme (Chapter XII), Ferris for Ferrers, a French local name, Batt for Bartholomew, Gatty for Gertrude, Dallison for d'Alencon. The loss of r after a vowel is also exemplified by Foster for Forster, Pannell and Pennell for Parnell (sometimes), Gath for Garth (Chapter XIII), and Mash for Marsh. To the loss of n before s we owe such names as Pattison, Paterson, etc., son of Paton, the dim. of Patrick, and Robison for Robinson, and also a whole group of names like Jenks and Jinks for Jenkins (John), Wilkes for Wilkins, Gilkes, Danks, Perks, Hawkes, Jukes for Judkins (Chapter VI), etc. Here I should also include Biggs, which is not always connected with Bigg, for we seldom find adjectival nicknames with -s. It seems to represent Biggins, from obsolete biggin, a building (Chapter XIII).

The French nasal n often disappeared before r. Thus denree, lit. a pennyworth, appears in Anglo-French as darree. Similarly Henry became Harry, except in Scotland, and the English Kings of that name were always called Harry by their subjects. It is to this pronunciation that we owe the popularity of Harris and Harrison, and the frequency of Welsh Parry, ap, Harry, as compared with Penry. A compromise between Henry and Harry is seen in Hanrott, from the French dim. Henriot.

The initial h-, which we regard with such veneration, is treated quite arbitrarily in surnames. We find a well-known medieval poet called indifferently Occleve and Hoccleve. Harnett is the same as Arnett, for Arnold, Ewens and Heavens are both from Ewan, and Heaven is an imitative form of Evan. In Hoskins, from the medieval Osekin, a dim. of some Anglo-Saxon name such as Oswald (Chapter VII), the aspirate has definitely prevailed. The Devonshire name Hexter is for Exeter, Arbuckle is a corruption of Harbottle, in Northumberland. The Old French name Ancel appears as both Ansell and Hansell, and Earnshaw exists side by side with Hearnshaw (Chapter XII).

The loss of h is especially common when it is the initial letter of a suffix, e.g. Barnum for Barnham, Haslam, (hazel), Blenkinsop for Blenkin's hope (see hope, Chapter XII), Newall for Newhall, Windle for Wind Hill, Tickell for Tick Hill, in Yorkshire, etc. But Barnum and Haslam may also represent the Anglo-Saxon dative plural of the words barn and hazel. A man who minded sheep was once called a Shepard, or Sheppard, as he still is, though we spell it shepherd. The letter w disappears in the same way; thus Greenish is for Greenwich, Horridge for Horwich, Aspinall for Aspinwall, Millard for Millward, the mill-keeper, Boxall for Boxwell, Caudle for Cauldwell (cold); and the Anglo-Saxon names in -win are often confused with those in -ing, e.g. Gooding, Goodwin; Golding, Goldwin; Gunning, Gunwin, etc. In this way Harding has prevailed over the once equally common Hardwin.


Finally, we have to consider what may be called baby phonetics, the sound-changes which seem rather to transgress general phonetic laws. Young children habitually confuse dentals and palatals, thus a child may be heard to say that he has "dot a told." This tendency is, however, not confined to children. My own name, which is a very uncommon one, is a stumbling-block to most people, and when I give it in a shop the scribe has generally got as far as Wheat- before he can be stopped.

We find both Estill and Askell for the medieval Asketil, and Thurtle alternating with Thurkle, originally Thurketil (Chapter VII). Bertenshave is found for Birkenshaw, birch wood, Bartley, sometimes from Bartholomew, is more often for Berkeley, and both Lord Bacon and Horace Walpole wrote Twitnam for Twickenham. Jeffcock, dim. of Geoffrey, becomes Jeffcott, while Glascock is for the local Glascott. Here the palatal takes the place of the dental, as in Brangwin for Anglo-Sax. Brandwine. Middleman is a dialect form of Michaelmas (Chapter IX). We have the same change in tiddlebat for stickleback, a word which exemplifies another point in baby phonetics, viz. the loss of initial s-, as in the classic instance tummy. To this loss of s- we owe Pick for Spick (Chapter XXIII), Pink for Spink, a dialect word for the chaffinch, and, I think, Tout for Stout. The name Stacey is found as Tacey in old Notts registers. On the other hand, an inorganic s- is sometimes prefixed, as in Sturgess for the older Turgis. For the loss of s- we may compare Shakespeare's parmaceti (1 Henry IV. i. 3), and for its addition the adjective spruce, from Pruce, i.e. Prussia.

We also find the infantile confusion between th and f e.g. in Selfe, which appears to represent a personal name Seleth, probably from Anglo-Sax, saelth, bliss. Perhaps also in Fripp for Thripp, a variant of Thrupp, for Thorp. Bickerstaffe is the name of a place in Lancashire, of which the older form appears in Bickersteth, and the local name Throgmorton is spelt by Camden Frogmorton, just as Pepys invariably writes Queenhive for Queenhythe.

Such are some of the commoner phenomena to be noticed in connection with the spelling and sound of our names. The student must always bear in mind that our surnames date from a period when nearly the whole population was uneducated. Their modern forms depend on all sorts of circumstances, such as local dialect, time of adoption, successive fashions in pronunciation and the taste and fancy of the speller. They form part of our language, that is, of a living and ever-changing organism. Some of us are old enough to remember the confusion between initial v and w which prompted the judge's question to Mr. Weller. The vulgar i for a, as in "tike the kike," has been evolved within comparatively recent times, as well as the loss of final -g, "shootin and huntin," in sporting circles. In the word warmint—

"What were you brought up to be?"

"A warmint, dear boy"

(Great Expectations, ch. xl.),

we have three phonetic phenomena, all of which have influenced the form and sound of modern surnames, e.g. in Winter, sometimes for Vinter, i.e. vintner, Clark for Clerk, and Bryant for Bryan; and similar changes have been in progress all through the history of our language.

In conclusion it may be remarked that the personal and accidental element, which has so much to do with the development of surnames, releases this branch of philology to some extent from the iron rule of the phonetician. Of this the preceding pages give examples. The name, not being subject as other words are to a normalizing influence, is easily affected by the traditional or accidental spelling. Otherwise Fry would be pronounced Free. The o is short in Robin and long in Probyn, and yet the names are the same (Chapter VI). Sloper and Smoker mean a maker of slops and smocks respectively, and Smale is an archaic spelling of Small, the modern vowel being in each case lengthened by the retention of an archaic spelling. The late Professor Skeat rejects Bardsley's identification of Waring with Old Fr. Garin or Warin, because the original vowel and the suffix are both different. But Mainwaring, which is undoubtedly from mesnil-Warin (Chapter XIV), shows Bardsley to be right.


"Talbots and Stanleys, St. Maurs and such-like folk, have led armies and made laws time out of mind; but those noble families would be somewhat astonished-if the accounts ever came to be fairly taken-to find how small their work for England has been by the side of that of the Browns." (Tom Brown's Schooldays, ch. i.)

Brown, Jones, and Robinson have usurped in popular speech positions properly belonging to Smith, Jones and Williams. But the high position of Jones and Williams is due to the Welsh, who, replacing a string of Aps by a simple genitive at a comparatively recent date, have given undue prominence to a few very common names; cf. Davies, Evans, etc. If we consider only purely English names, the triumvirate would be Smith, Taylor, and Brown. Thus, of our three commonest names, the first two are occupative and the third is a nickname. French has no regular equivalent, though Dupont and Durand are sometimes used in this way—

"Si Chateaubriand avait eu nom Durand ou Dupont, qui sait si son Genie du Christianisme n'eut point passe pour une capucinade?"

(F. Brunetiere.)

The Germans speak of Mueller, Meyer and Schulze, all rural names, and it is perhaps characteristic that two of them are official. Meyer is an early loan from Lat. major, and appears to have originally meant something like overseer. Later on it acquired the meaning of farmer, in its proper sense of one who farms, i.e. manages on a profit-sharing system, the property of another. It is etymologically the same as our Mayor, Mair, etc. Schulze, a village magistrate, is cognate with Ger. Schuld, debt, and our verb shall.


Taking the different classes of surnames separately, the six commonest occupative names are Smith, Taylor, Clark, Wright, Walker, Turner. If we exclude Clark, as being more often a nickname for the man who could read and write, the sixth will be Cooper, sometimes spelt Cowper.

The commanding position of Smith is due to the fact that it was applied to all workers in every kind of metal. The modern Smiths no doubt include descendants of medieval blacksmiths, whitesmiths, bladesmiths, locksmiths, and many others, but the compounds are not common as surnames. We find, however, Shoosmith, Shearsmith, and Nasmyth, the last being more probably for earlier Knysmith, i.e. knife-smith, than for nail-smith, which was supplanted by Naylor. Grossmith I guess to be an accommodated form of the Ger. Grobschmied, blacksmith, lit. rough smith, and Goldsmith is very often a Jewish name for Ger. Goldschmid.

Wright, obsolete perhaps as a trade name, has given many compounds, including Arkwright, a maker of bins, or arks as they were once called, Tellwright, a tile maker, and many others which need no interpretation. The high position of Taylor is curious, for there were other names for the trade, such as Seamen, Shapster, Parmenter (Chapter XVIII), and neither Tailleur nor Letailleur are particularly common in French. The explanation is that this name has absorbed the medieval Teler and Teller, weaver, ultimately belonging to Lat. tela, a web;—cf. the very common Fr. Tellier and Letellier. In some cases also the Mid. Eng. teygheler, Tyler, has been swallowed up. Walker, i.e. trampler, meant a cloth fuller, but another origin has helped to swell the numbers of the clan—

"Walkers are such as are otherwise called foresters. They are foresters assigned by the King, who are walkers within a certain space of ground assigned to their care" (Cowel's Interpreter).

Cooper, a derivative of Lat. cupa or cuppa, a vessel, is cognate with the famous French name Cuvier, which has given our Cover, though this may also be for coverer, i.e. tiler (Chapter XV).

Of occupative names which have also an official meaning, the three commonest are Ward, Bailey, and Marshall. Ward, originally abstract, is the same word as Fr. garde. Bailey, Old Fr. bailif (bailli), ranges from a Scottish magistrate to a man in possession. It is related to bail and to bailey, a ward in a fortress, as in Old Bailey. Bayliss may come from the Old French nominative bailis (Chapter I), or may be formed like Parsons, etc. (Chapter XV). Marshall (Chapter XX) may stand for a great commander or a shoeing-smith, still called farrier-marshal in the army. The first syllable is cognate with mare and the second means servant. Constable, Lat. comes stabuli, stableman, has a similar history.


The commonest local names naturally include none taken from particular places. The three commonest are Hall, Wood and Green, from residence by the great house, the wood, and the village green. Cf. the French names Lasalle, Dubois, Dupre. Hall is sometimes for Hale (Chapter II), and its Old French translation is one source of Sale. Next to these come Hill, Moore, and Shaw (Chapter XII); but Lee would probably come among the first if all its variants were taken into account (Chapter III).

Of baptismal names used unaltered as surnames the six commonest are Thomas, Lewis, Martin, James, Morris, Morgan. Here again the Welsh element is strong, and four of these names, ending in -s, belong also to the next group, i.e. the class of surnames formed from the genitive of baptismal names. The frequent occurrence of Lewis is partly due to its being adopted as a kind of translation of the Welsh Llewellyn, but the name is often a disguised Jewish Levi, and has nearly absorbed the local Lewes. Next to the above come Allen, Bennett, Mitchell, all of French introduction. Mitchell may have been reinforced by Mickle, the northern for Bigg. It is curious that these particularly common names, Martin, Allen, Bennett (Benedict), Mitchell (Michael), have formed comparatively few derivatives and are generally found in their unaltered form. Three of them are from famous saints' names, while Allen, a Breton name which came in with the Conquest, has probably absorbed to some extent the Anglo-Saxon name Alwin (Chapter VII). Martin is in some cases an animal nickname, the marten. Among the genitives Jones, Williams, and Davi(e)s lead easily, followed by Evans, Roberts, and Hughes, all Welsh in the main. Among the twelve commonest names of this class those that are not preponderantly Welsh are Roberts, Edwards, Harris, Phillips, and Rogers. Another Welsh patronymic, Price (Chapter VI), is among the fifty commonest English names.

The classification of names in -son raises the difficult question as to whether Jack represents Fr. Jacques, or whether it comes from Jankin, Jenkin, dim. of John. [Footnote: See E. B. Nicholson, The Pedigree of Jack.]

Taking Johnson and Jackson as separate names, we get the order Johnson, Robinson, Wilson, Thompson, Jackson, Harrison. The variants of Thompson might put it a place or two higher. Names in -kins (Distribution of names, Chapter IV), though very numerous in some regions, are not so common as those in the above classes. It would be hard to say which English font-name has given the largest number of family names. In Chapter V. will be found some idea of the bewildering and multitudinous forms they assume. It has been calculated, I need hardly say by a German professor, that the possible number of derivatives from one given name is 6, 000, but fortunately most of the seeds are abortive.

Of nicknames Brown, Clark, and White are by far the commonest. Then comes King, followed by the two adjectival nicknames Sharp and Young.

The growth of towns and facility of communication are now bringing about such a general movement that most regions would accept Brown, Jones and Robinson as fairly typical names. But this was not always so. Brown is still much commoner in the north than in the south, and at one time the northern Johnson and Robinson contrasted with the southern Jones and Roberts, the latter being of comparatively modern origin in Wales (Chapter IV). Even now, if we take the farmer class, our nomenclature is largely regional, and the directories even of our great manufacturing towns represent to a great extent the medieval population of the rural district around them. [Footnote: See Guppy, Homes of Family Names.] The names Daft and Turney, well known in Nottingham, appear in the county in the Hundred Rolls. Cheetham, the name of a place now absorbed in Manchester, is as a surname ten times more numerous there than in London, and the same is true of many characteristic north-country names, such as the Barraclough, Murgatroyd, and Sugden of Charlotte Bronte's Shirley. The transference of Murgatroyd (Chapter XII) to Cornwall, in Gilbert and Sullivan's Ruddigore, must have been part of the intentional topsy-turvydom in which those two bright spirits delighted.

Diminutives in -kin, from the Old Dutch suffix -ken, are still found in greatest number on the east coast that faces Holland, or in Wales, where they were introduced by the Flemish weavers who settled in Pembrokeshire in the reign of Henry I. It is in the border counties, Cheshire, Shropshire, Hereford, and Monmouth, that we find the old Welsh names such as Gough, Lloyd, Onion (Enion), Vaughan (Chapter XXII). The local Gape, an opening in the cliffs, is pretty well confined to Norfolk, and Puddifoot belongs to Bucks and the adjacent counties as it did in 1273. The hall changes hands as one conquering race succeeds another—

"Where is Bohun? Where is de Vere? The lawyer, the farmer, the silk mercer, lies perdu under the coronet, and winks to the antiquary to say nothing" (Emerson, English Traits),

but the hut keeps its ancient inhabitants. The descendant of the Anglo-Saxon serf who cringed to Front de Boeuf now makes way respectfully for Isaac of York's motor, perhaps on the very spot where his own fierce ancestor first exchanged the sword for the ploughshare long before Alfred's day.


"I was born in the year 1632, in the city of York, of a good family, though not of that country, my father being a foreigner of Bremen, who settled first at Hull. He got a good estate by merchandize, and leaving off his trade, lived afterwards at York, from whence he married my mother, whose relations were named Robinson, a very good family in that country, and from whom I was called Robinson Kreutznaer; but by the usual corruption of words in English, we are now called—nay, we call ourselves and write our name—Crusoe" (Robinson Crusoe, ch. i.).

Any student of our family nomenclature must be struck by the fact that the number of foreign names now recognizable in England is out of all proportion to the immense number which must have been introduced at various periods of our history. Even the expert, who is often able to detect the foreign name in its apparently English garb, cannot rectify this disproportion for us. The number of names of which the present form can be traced back to a foreign origin is inconsiderable when compared with the much larger number assimilated and absorbed by the Anglo-Saxon.


The great mass of those names of French or Flemish origin which do not date back to the Conquest or to medieval times are due to the immigration of Protestant refugees in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. It is true that many names for which Huguenot ancestry is claimed were known in England long before the Reformation. Thus, Bulteel is the name of a refugee family which came from Tournay about the year 1600, but the same name is found in the Hundred Rolls Of 1273. The Grubbe family, according to Burke, came from Germany about 1450, after the Hussite persecution; but we find the name in England two centuries earlier, "without the assistance of a foreign persecution to make it respectable" (Bardsley, Dictionary of English Surnames). The Minet family is known to be of Huguenot origin, but the same name also figures in the medieval Rolls. The fact is that there was all through the Middle Ages a steady immigration of foreigners, whether artisans, tradesmen, or adventurers, some of whose names naturally reappear among the Huguenots. On several occasions large bodies of Continental workmen, skilled in special trades, were brought into the country by the wise policy of the Government. Like the Huguenots later on, they were protected by the State and persecuted by the populace, who resented their habits of industry and sobriety.

During the whole period of the religious troubles in France and Flanders, starting from the middle of the sixteenth century, refugees were reaching this country in a steady stream; but after the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes (1685) they arrived in thousands, and the task of providing for them and helping on their absorption into the population became a serious problem. Among the better class of these immigrants was to be found the flower of French intellect and enterprise, and one has only to look through an Army or Navy list, or to notice the names which are prominent in the Church, at the Bar, and in the higher walks of industry and commerce, to realize the madness of Louis XIV. and the wisdom of the English Government.

Here are a few taken at random from Smiles's History of the Huguenots—Bosanquet, Casaubon, Chenevix Trench, Champion de Crespigny, Dalbiac, Delane, Dollond, Durand, Fonblanque, Gambier, Garrick, Layard, Lefanu, Lefroy, Ligonier, Luard, Martineau, Palairet, Perowne, Plimsoll, Riou, Romilly—all respectable and many distinguished, even cricket being represented. These more educated foreigners usually kept their names, sometimes with slight modifications which do not make them unrecognizable. Thus, Bouverie, literally "ox-farm," is generally found in its unaltered form, though the London Directory has also examples of the perverted Buffery. But the majority of the immigrants were of the artisan class and illiterate. This explains the extraordinary disappearance, in the course of two centuries, of the thousands of French names which were introduced between 1550 and 1700.

We have many official lists of these foreigners, and in these lists we catch the foreign name in the very act of transforming itself into English. This happens sometimes by translation, e.g. Poulain became Colt, Poisson was reincarnated as Fish, and a refugee bearing the somewhat uncommon name Petitoeil transformed himself into Little-eye, which became in a few generations Lidley. But comparatively few surnames were susceptible of such simple treatment, and in the great majority of cases the name underwent a more or less arbitrary perversion which gave it a more English physiognomy. Especially interesting from this point of view is the list of—"Straungers residing and dwellinge within the city of London and the liberties thereof," drawn up in 1618. The names were probably taken down by the officials of the different wards, who, differing themselves in intelligence and orthography, produced very curious results.

As a rule the Christian name is translated, while the surname is either assimilated to some English form or perverted according to the taste and fancy of the individual constable. Thus, John Garret, a Dutchman, is probably Jan Gerard, and James Flower, a milliner, born in Rouen, is certainly Jaques Fleur, or Lafleur. John de Cane and Peter le Cane are Jean Duquesne and Pierre Lequesne (Norman quene, oak), though the former may also have come from Caen. John Buck, from Rouen, is Jean Bouc, and Abraham Bushell, from Rochelle, was probably a Roussel or Boissel. James King and John Hill, both Dutchmen, are obvious translations of common Dutch names, while Henry Powell, a German, is Heinrich Paul. Mary Peacock, from Dunkirk, and John Bonner, a Frenchman, I take to be Marie Picot and Jean Bonheur, while Nicholas Bellow is surely Nicolas Belleau. Michael Leman, born in Brussels, may be French Leman or Lemoine, or perhaps German Lehmann.

To each alien's name is appended that of the monarch whose subject he calls himself, but a republic is outside the experience of one constable, who leaves an interrogative blank after Cristofer Switcher, born at Swerick (Zuerich) in Switcherland. The surname so ingeniously created appears to have left no pedagogic descendants. In some cases the harassed Bumble has lost patience, and substituted a plain English name for foreign absurdity. To the brain which christened Oliver Twist we owe Henry Price, a subject of the King of Poland, Lewis Jackson, a "Portingall," and Alexander Faith, a steward to the Venice Ambassador, born in the dukedom of Florence.


In the returns made outside the bounds of the city proper the aliens have added their own signatures, or in some cases made their marks. Jacob Alburtt signs himself as Jacob Elbers, and Croft Castell as Kraft Kassels. Harman James is the official translation of Hermann Jacobs, Mary Miller of Marija Moliner, and John Young of Jan le Jeune. Gyllyam Spease, for Wilbert Spirs, seems to be due to a Welsh constable, and Chrystyan Wyhelhames, for Cristian Welselm, looks like a conscientious attempt at Williams. One registrar, with a phonetic system of his own, has transformed the Dutch Moll into the more familiar Maule, and has enriched his list with Jannacay Yacopes for Jantje Jacobs. Lowe Luddow, who signs himself Louij Ledou, seems to be Louis Ledoux. An alien who writes himself Jann Eisankraott (Ger. Eisenkraut? ) cannot reasonably complain plain at being transformed into John Isacrocke, but the substitution of John Johnson for Jansen Vandrusen suggests that this individual's case was taken at the end of a long day's work.

These examples, taken at random, show how the French and Flemish names of the humbler refugees lost their foreign appearance. In many cases the transformation was etymologically justified. Thus, some of our Druitts and Drewetts may be descended from Martin Druett, the first name on the list. But this is probably the common French name Drouet or Drouot, assimilated to the English Druitt, which we find in 1273. And both are diminutives of Drogo, which occurs in Domesday Book, and is, through Old French, the origin of our Drew. But in many cases the name has been so deformed that one can only guess at the continental original. I should conjecture, for instance, that the curious name Shoppee is a corruption of Chappuis, the Old French for a carpenter, and that

Jacob Shophousey, registered as a German cutler, came from Schaffhausen. In this particular region of English nomenclature a little guessing is almost excusable. The law of probabilities makes it mathematically certain that the horde of immigrants included representatives of all the very common French family names, and it would be strange if Chappuis were absent.

This process of transformation is still going on in a small way, especially in our provincial manufacturing towns, in which most large commercial undertakings have slipped from the nerveless grasp of the Anglo-Saxon into the more capable and prehensile fingers of the foreigner—

"Hilda then learnt that Mrs. Gailey had married a French modeller named Canonges. . . and that in course of time the modeller had informally changed the name to Cannon, because no one in the five towns could pronounce the true name rightly."

(Arnold Bennett, Hilda Lessways, i. 5.)

This occurs most frequently in the case of Jewish names of German origin. Thus, Loewe becomes Lowe or Lyons, Meyer is transformed into Myers, Goldschmid into Goldsmith, Kohn into Cowan, Levy into Lee or Lewis, Salamon into Salmon, Hirsch or Hertz into Hart, and so on. Sometimes a bolder flight is attempted—

"Leopold Norfolk Gordon had a house in Park Lane, and ever so many people's money to keep it up with. As may be guessed from his name, he was a Jew."

(Morley Roberts, Lady Penelope, ch. ii.)


The Jewish names of German origin which are now so common in England mostly date from the beginning of the nineteenth century, when laws were passed in Austria, Prussia and Bavaria to compel all Jewish families to adopt a fixed surname. Many of them chose personal names, e.g. Jakobs, Levy, Moses, for this purpose, while others named themselves from their place of residence, e.g. Cassel, Speyer (Spires), Hamburg, often with the addition of the syllable -er, e.g. Darmesteter, Homburger. Some families preferred descriptive names such as Selig (Chapter XXII), Sonnenschein, Goldmann, or invented poetic and gorgeous place-names such as Rosenberg, Blumenthal, Goldberg, Lilienfeld. The oriental fancy also showed itself in such names as Edelstein, jewel, Glueckstein, luck stone, Rubinstein, ruby, Goldenkranz, golden wreath, etc. [Footnote: Our Touchstone would seem also to be a nickname. The obituary of a Mr. Touchstone appeared in the Manchester Guardian, December 12, 1912.] It is owing to the existence of the last two groups that our fashionable intelligence is now often so suggestive of a wine-list. Among animal names adopted the favourites were Adler, eagle, Hirsch, hart, Loewe, lion, and Wolf, each of which is used with symbolic significance in the Old Testament.


"Watte vocat, cui Thomme venit, neque Symme retardat, Betteque, Gibbe simul, Hykke venire jubent; Colle furit, quem Geffe juvat nocumenta parantes, Cum quibus ad dampnum Wille coire vovet. Grigge rapit, dum Dawe strepit, comes est quibus Hobbe, Lorkyn et in medio non minor esse putat: Hudde ferit, quem Judde terit, dum Tebbe minatur, Jakke domosque viros vellit et ense necat."

(GOWER, On Wat Tyler's Rebellion.)

Gower's lines on the peasant rebels give us some idea of the names which were most popular in the fourteenth century, and which have consequently impressed themselves most strongly on our modern surnames. It will be noticed that one member of the modern triumvirate, Harry, or Hal, is absent. [Footnote: The three names were not definitely established till the nineteenth century. Before that period they had rivals. French says Pierre et Paul, and German Heinz and Kunz, i.e. Heinrich and Conrad.] The great popularity of this name probably dates from a rather later period and is connected with the exploits of Henry V. Moreover, all the names, with the possible exception of Hud, are of French introduction and occur rarely before the Conquest. The old Anglo-Saxon names did survive, especially in the remoter parts of the country, and have given us many surnames (see ch. vii.), but even in the Middle Ages people had a preference for anything that came over with the Conqueror. French names are nearly all of German origin, the Celtic names and the Latin names which encroached on them having been swept away by the Frankish invasion, a parallel to the wholesale adoption of Norman names in England. Thus our name Harvey, no longer usual as a font-name, is Fr. Herod, which represents the heroic German name Herewig, to the second syllable of which belongs such an apparently insignificant name as Wigg.

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