By P. H. Reaney, R. M. Wilson
This vintage dictionary solutions questions equivalent to those and explains the origins of over 16,000 names in present English use. will probably be a resource of fascination to everybody with an curiosity in names and their background.
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Monasteries drew up surveys and extents with details of tenants of all classes and their services. And later the net was thrown wider in the long lists of those assessed in the subsidy rolls. It was the official who required exact identification of the individual. His early efforts often consisted of long-winded descriptions attached to a personal name. Any description which definitely identified the man was satisfactory—his father’s name, the name of his land, or a nickname known to be his. The upper classes—mostly illiterate—were those with whom the officials were chiefly concerned and among them surnames first became numerous and hereditary.
Three are formed from names of women: Arnaldus Mabilie 1185 Templars (Ess), Robertus Margerie 1195 P (Gl). , literal translations of the vernacular, just as the clerk translated ‘Edward of Salisbury’ by Edwardus Saresberiae 1100–35 Rams (Hu). The English forms are early examples of the elliptic genitive, Edricus Keteles ‘Edric Ketel’s (son)’, parallel to Personnes, Prestes above. That this interpretation is correct is proved by the following. In 1281 we have mention of Robert de Rokesle junior who is twice called Robert Dobes in 1305.
Why should one schoolmaster be called ‘Wally’ and another ‘Mike’, names impossible to associate with either christian name or surname? ‘Kip’ had an interesting history. Originally ‘Skipper’—Why, nobody knew—it quickly became ‘Kipper’, later shortened to ‘Kip’. It is not surprising, therefore, if we frequently fail to get behind the mentality of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries and cannot interpret their nicknames. Nicknames are common in medieval records, but comparatively few have given modern surnames.
A Dictionary of English Surnames by P. H. Reaney, R. M. Wilson