Search
  • Vic

What's in a surname?

I recently visited my parents in Switzerland and whilst out there I was still working (some of the time). Here is some of what I got up to .....

Awesome views from the cafe that is my office - sorry couldn't resist.... (def perk of running your own mobile business)


My parents currently have friends staying from Iceland, which has got me thinking about Surnames. In England our last names seem to come from what job our ancestors had or a reference to where they lived. For example, Archer, Hunter, Cooper, Smith. However, its not the same in some other countries. The family from Iceland, like some of the other Scandinavian countries, take their last name from their parents; so our friends all have different surnames.


The parents are named after their parents Ivor Vicktorson and Eva Sarahstochter (they keep their own last names even though they are married.) Their daughter is Maria Evastochter, (Maria 'Eva’s Daughter' translated.)


When we look at UK surname history, we can also see some parallels - particularly in Welsh surnames. Jones, a classic Welsh surname, comes from John's son. Then we have Davidson and Peterson.


My name, Culshaw, as I wrote in a previous post comes from the Celtic Kilsha. Lots of Celtic and Anglo-Saxon surnames developed from place names such as Wykes from the word Wic which roughly translates as farm. Then we have Hollywell a variation of Halliwell which comes from the words 'holy' and 'well' or water.



Throughout the UK people were also referred to by nicknames or descriptive names that picked on an aspect of what they looked like. For example, Redhead, Little, Armstrong. This became a handy way to distinguish between John from the house next door and John from the next village. Further surnames developed from what your profession might have been - Baker, Wood, Fletcher. However, these were interchangeable if you swapped careers! So John Fletcher, could become John Taylor if he switched from making arrows to making clothes.



Some surnames developed from when a child was given two first names, for example, John Gilbert. - Gilbert is now an established British surname. Many of these 'second names' became unpopular as first names - here's a few you may recognise; Lambert, Bennett, Hyde and Everard are all once-popular forenames that now exist predominantly as surnames.


In 1538, due to the introduction of parish registers surnames finally began to become fixed. (Making my job a little easier!)


If you are interested in the history of your surname, please get in touch and I can provide you with lots of information about it's origins.


11 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All