One Name - Olde English Style

Surnames-wheelwrightNearly an 800 to 1000 years ago in England, most people simply used one name, not a given or names and a surname. Today we find a surname even made up of a person’s father and mother’s surname. However, back in olde England with much lower population, people managed with one name. Generally, the name was based on a person’s occupation.

So what were some of those early names and what did they mean?

There was Baxter – it may surprise some hipsters to learn that in Old English the “-ster” suffix was used to form feminine agent nouns. A man who baked was a Baker; a woman who baked was a Baxter. Later, Baxter was used for either sex.

Chapman – is an Old English word for merchant. The root “chap-“ is related to “cheap,” an obsolete verb meaning to barter, buy, and sell; to trade, deal, bargain.surnames chapman-merchant

Fletcher – with the French influence with William the Conqueror in 1066, Fletcher comes from Old French ‘flecher’ or ‘flechierand it means an arrow maker.

Fuller, Walker and Tucker – Three three related names: A fuller, known in some regions as a walker or tucker, trampled on cloth in water to clean and thicken it.

Kellogg – in America one remembers W. K. Kellogg, as a vegetarian who developed corn flakes as a healthful alternative to the traditional ham-and-egg breakfast. However, that surname derived from “kill hog” and referred to a butcher.

surname-palmerPalmer – it referred to those who had made a pilgrimage to the Holy Land wearing a token representing a palm branch and were known as ‘palmers’.

Reader – referred to a ‘reeder’, one who knew how to use reeds to thatch roofs. surname-reefer-thatch

Spittle – This was someone who worked in a “spittle” (from Old French term for hospital). A spittle was a charitable house for the indigent or diseased.

Travers – the name meant a toll collector on a road, gate or bridge.

Wright – this was a builder or craftsman. One could make wheels, carts, barrel, wagon, and be a ‘Wright’.

Woodward – From the Old English words ‘wudu’, wood, and ‘weard’, guardian, so a woodward was a forester – caretaker of a forest.

Photos: A wheelwright, a chapman-merchant, palmer-traveling to the Holy Lands and a reeder-thatching roofs.

Related genealogy blogs:

Common Surnames

Hundreds of Surnames and their meanings

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