By P. H. Reaney, R. M. Wilson
This vintage dictionary solutions questions comparable to those and explains the origins of over 16,000 names in present English use. it will likely be a resource of fascination to each person with an curiosity in names and their background.
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Extra info for A Dictionary of English Surnames
In the seventeenth century an Act was passed forbidding any except noblemen and clerics of high office so to sign themselves but such estate-names long persisted in speech. In the Highlands, hereditary surnames developed late. The clan system resulted in large numbers of people with the same name, but no specific surname of their own. The desire for protection in unsettled times caused men to attach themselves to a powerful clan and to assume its name. Chiefs of clans and heads of landed families increased the number of their followers by conciliation or coercion, and all took the name of the clan.
In addition, some classical names were also the names of saints, and probably owe their use in medieval times to this fact: Agatha, Anastasia, Helen, Juliana, Katherine, Margaret, Euphemia, etc. In the Middle Ages there was a fashion for fanciful feminine names, few of which have survived, or given rise to surnames: Admiranda 1231–2 FFK; Amicabilis 1232–3 FFWa; Argentina 1204 FFO; Bonajoia 1319 LLB E; Clariandra 1248 AssBerks; Damisona a1290 CartNat;Desiderata 1385 AD iv; Diamanda 1221 Cur (Mx); Eglentina 1213 Cur (Sx); Epicelena 1208 Cur; Estrangia 1202–3 FFK; Finepopla 1203 Cur (Sf); Fousafia 1218 AssL; Imagantia 1219 Cur (Sf); Ynstauncia Lyoun 1327 SRY; Joya 1195 FFEss; Jolicia 1219 Cur (K); Melodia 1212 Cur (Sf); Modesty 1269 FFY; Orabilia 1221 Cur (K); Plesantia West 1274 RH (Nf); Popelina 1212 Cur (L); Preciosa 1203 Cur (Herts); Primaveira 1226 FFWa; Splendora 1213 Cur (D); Topacia 1243 Glast (So).
There are two origins: (i) Alicia le Parsones 1327 SRWo, Margery le Vikers 1332 SRWa, Ralph le Prestes 1327 SRWo, where we have an elliptic genitive, ‘the parson’s (servant)’, etc. cf. Henricus homo Vicarii 1297 SRY. Malyna la Roperes (1311 ColchCt), described as a servant, was either the servant of the roper or of a man named Roper. , are not uncommon, so that, whilst Gilbert le Potteres, Richard le Cokes (1327 SRWo) may mean ‘son of the potter or of the cook’, they might also denote his servant.
A Dictionary of English Surnames by P. H. Reaney, R. M. Wilson