Surname derivations?

+9 votes
Hi, Cousins. So generally, off the top of my head, I can think of a few surname derivations:

1) patronymic (Macneil)

2) occupation (Fletcher)

3) place name (Galloway)

4) personal physical characteristic (Small)

5) personal psychological characteristic (Nutt... ok, I know that’s not right!)

Can anyone else thing of other surname derivations?
in The Tree House by Pip Sheppard G2G Astronaut (2.4m points)

3 Answers

+5 votes
Best answer

Kinda love this topic.  smiley  Another take is that a whole ton of names are dithematic, two words or roots combined. While these names may fit into the list already begun, they'll be hybrids. Dithematic names typically concatenate two words that represent different categories of things: two things that may otherwise be unrelated get slapped together. Well...sometimes there's a relationship that makes sense. You see this a lot in names with Germanic, Scandinavian, and Central European origins, among some others.

Two ready examples come from my two one-name studies. Threlkeld is a dithematic consisting of two Old Norse words: þrǽll, "thraell"; from the Proto-Germanic þrāhilaR; from an Old Teutonic root þreh–, to run. Meaning: serfdom, a serf, or slave. Appended to that is kelda; cognate with Middle High German qual (German Quelle); Danish kilde. Meaning: a spring, wellspring, or fountain. It's a surname that dates back to at least the 13th century in northern England.

The other is Pollard, and there are a few different stabs at etymology here, some seemingly with no linguistic grounding. The one that makes the most sense to me is that the "Poll" is derived from Middle English pol, polle (head, or pate); either directly from or at least cognate with Middle Dutch pol, pōle, polle (top, top of, or summit), from Proto-Germanic pullaz (round object, head, top). "Hard" is seen as the second form in a lot of dithematic names, like Ballard, Bernhard, Eberhard, Eckhard, Rikhard/Richard, Willard, etc. It's from Middle English hard, from Old English heard, from Proto-Germanic harduz; cognate with Old Dutch hart. Means what you think: and adjective denoting something unyielding, strong.

We see a lot more Norse influence in the English language and in English names than may be readily apparent. Many of these words originated in the period of the Danelaw, 886 AD through 1066. In fact, the word "law" itself. And sale, cut, anger, die, loose, bag, bait, meek, sister, weak, and on and on. Old Norse even gave us the whole class of third-person pronouns: they, their, and them.

The Old Norse stem -by (meaning a village or township) is all over the pun intended (well, maybe not). Think Ashby, Grimsby, Selby, Whitby. There are 210 -by place names in Yorkshire alone. And there were a lot of dithematic names born in England that melded both Old Norse and Anglo-Saxon. For example, the Anglo-Saxon stem -ton is one we're pretty familiar with; means essentially the same thing as the Norse -by. So we have names like Anniston, Ashton, Bolton, Braxton, Clifton, Dayton, Eaton, Hamilton and, again, on and on and on.

Oh...and don't forget matronymics. Less common, but let's give the matrilineal line its least include them in with "patronymic" as a class.  yes

by Edison Williams G2G6 Pilot (351k points)
selected by Pip Sheppard
Excellent answer, Edison. I read somewhere that -ton could also mean -tun,  something to do with an amount of taxable land. Something like that.

Thanks for giving one of my typically rambling answers a best-answer star, Pip. And you did notice that I started it with "...a whole ton of names." 'Cause if no one else can appreciate one's twisted sense of humor, one must entertain oneself.  angel

Found this nerdishly interesting blog post from a couple of years ago mentioning -ton, -tun, and -dun That would indicate they're somewhat synonymous...which would also make sense from the taxation angle. My copy of the OED has a full page on tun. Who'd a thought? It shows etymology as: "OE. tunne, wk. fem., ME. tunne, later tonne; cogn. with OFris. tunne, tonne." It mostly sorta agrees in definition with that blog post, showing the primary definition as a noun meaning a large cask, barrel, or vat...which then morphed into "what you put things in to protect them, preserve them," and then becoming "a place containing, harboring, protecting"...ergo, "enclosed land, farmstead, town." The blog post speculates, "The Old English word 'tun' is said to come from a proposed Proto-Germanic root '-tūną' meaning 'fence.'"

I've found many of the "buy your coat of arms" websites to be woefully misleading about surname origins and correlations. And I've even found a couple of head-tilters among the various Oxford Dictionaries of names, which relies upon. Most surnames are pretty interesting when you dive into the deep linguistic origins. Operative being "most." And the dithematic names double your research fun!

+5 votes
Some developed out of nicknames, most of which probably fall into the list you have. Then, if the stories about the Dutch surnames that came about under Napolean are true, some of them were thought to be jokes at the time but now they still exist.
by Doug McCallum G2G6 Pilot (449k points)
Doug, I’d love to see some examples you are talking about, the Dutch surnames.
+5 votes
How about  

Clan name -- McReynolds  (OK maybe that's too close to patronymic)

Topographical -  Dale,  Ford

I need to stop, or I'll think about this all evening.
by Peggy McReynolds G2G6 Pilot (448k points)
Haha! Come on, now. You were just starting to roll, Peggy!

Botanical..... Wood  (My moms' maiden name), Flowers, Iris, Shrub
Botanical. That’s a new one.

Related questions

+1 vote
1 answer
+2 votes
0 answers
+4 votes
1 answer
+14 votes
2 answers
+2 votes
2 answers
124 views asked Sep 22, 2018 in The Tree House by Jo Gill G2G6 Pilot (123k points)
+5 votes
0 answers
+8 votes
4 answers
358 views asked Dec 10, 2017 in Genealogy Help by Betty Tindle G2G6 Mach 8 (81.6k points)

WikiTree  ~  About  ~  Help Help  ~  Search Person Search  ~  Surname:

disclaimer - terms - copyright