History of surnames

Surname Meanings:

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Surname Meanings and Origins

F, G, H, Ho, I, J, K


Farbanks, Fairbank: (English) Dweller on, or near, the ridge where bulls or sheep were confined; or by the beautiful banks or shore.

Fifield: (English) One who came from Fifield (an estate of five hides, i.e., as much land as could be tilled by five plows), the name of several places in England.

FitzGerald (English, French, Irish) The son of Gerald (firm, spear)

FitzMaurice (English, Irish) The son of Maurice (moorish or dark-skinned)

FitzPatrick ( Irish, English) The son of Patrick (noble or patrician)

Folsom, Foulsham: (English) One who came from Foulsham ( Foghel’s homestead), in Norfolk.

Ford (English) Dweller, or worker, at a stream crossing.

Foster/Forester : In the English Middle Ages, the forests and woods were almost always owned or controlled by the lord of the manor -- but people had no reservations about sneaking in and taking firewood, game, or whatever else they might require. To keep the poaching to a minimum, the lord retained a man to watch the forest -- often called a Forester, and sometimes called a Foster. The name stuck as an English Occupation surname when they became adopted.

France and Frank generally described the man whose place of origin was France, although occasionally they are variations of
the name Francis, a popular Middle Ages given name.

Franklin: (English) A freeholder who held substantial land for which he paid only a small rent and who rendered little or no service to the lord.

Fraser, Frazier (Scottish, Irish) One who came from Friesland, the Frisian

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Galloway is a Scottish place name derived from the location in SW Scotland which got its name from Gaelic gall = foreigner + Gaidhel = Gaelic. Before the area was a province of Anglian Northumbria the Gaelic residents there were called "the foreign Gaels" and they tended to side with the Norsemen rather than their fellow Gaels when push came to shove. The Irish name Galway is a derivative of Galloway.

Gardner, Gardiner (English, French) One who tended a garden, cultivating flowers and vegetables.

Gary: (Irish) Grandson of Gadhra (hound or hunting dog).

Gascon is a variation of the French place name Gascoigne, which described the man from the province of Gascony (Old
French Gascogne).

Gates: (English) One who lived in, or near, the gate or gap in a chain of hills.
George: a surname derived from Germanic georgos = farmer, a compound form of ge = earth + ergein = to work, till.

Gatton (English) One who came from Gatton (enclosure where goats were kept), in Surrey

George: (Welsh, French) Descendant of George (farmer); dweller at the sign of St. George.

Gerard, Gerald, Geralds: (English) Descendant of Gerard or Gerald (spear, hard).

Gifford is generally a variation of Giffard, which primarily was a cognate of Gebhardt , a Germanic given name derived of the elements geb = gift + hard = brave, hardy. St. Gebhardt was bishop of Constance during the 10th century and contributed to the popularity of the name through the Middle Ages. Occasionally, Giffard comes as a nickname from Old French giffard = chubby-cheeked; and finally, Gifford is sometimes a place name from the place in Suffolk -- now called Giffords Hall, which was known in Old England as Gyddingford .

Gilman: The servant of Gill, a pet form of Gilbert (pledge, bright) and of Gillian (downy bearded or youthful). “William” or “Guillotine” in Old French.

Gonsales (Spanish) The worker in metals, a smith; the son of Gundisalv (battle, elf)

Goodale: (English) A nickname meaning "good ale," given to a brewer who makes good ale; variant of Goodall

Goodspeed (English) A wish of success, possibly a nuckname for one who frequently voiced it.

Goodwin, Goodwine, Goodwyn: (English) Descendant of Godwin (God's friend)

Gordon: a Scottish place name, from the so-named location in the former county Berwickshire (now part of Borders region) and named for Breton woods that preceded Welsh gor = spacious + din = fort. Occasionally, it is an English place name from Gourdon in Saone-et-loire, from the Roman given name Gordus, or among the Irish is an Anglicized form of the Gaelic Mag Mhuirneachain (son of beloved). When of French origin, it is a nickname for the heavy man, from Old French gort = fat.

Gore: One who lived near, or on, the triangular piece of land; one who tilled such a piece; one who came from Gore (triangular land), in Kent or a French nickname for an idle individual.

Gott: (English) a dweller near a watercourse or channel.

Gove: (Scottish, Irish) a variant of Gow, the worker in metals, a smith; one who came from Govan (small school house; dear rock), in Lanarkshire.

Graham (English, Scottish) Dweller at the gray homestead.

Gray is an English nickname for the man with gray hair, or a gray beard, from Old English grœg = grey. Among the Scottish and Irish it is derived as a translation for several Gaelic names that come from riabhach = brindled, gray. It is occasionally found as a place name, for the English or Scotsman who originated in Graye in Calvados, from Latin gratus = welcome. Grey, Legrey are variations.

Green: (English) Dweller at, or near, the village green, or grassy ground.

Gridley: (English) Dweller in or near, Grida’s wood.

Griffeth is a spelling variation of the Welsh patronymic name Gruffydd, which came from Old Welsh griff + udd = chief, lord. The exact meaning of griff in Old Welsh isn't completely understood. Griffin is sometimes a variation of the name Griffeth.

Grosvenor: (English) The chief or royal huntsman.

Gunn: Descendant of Gunn (war).

Gunnarsen (Norwegian) Descendant of Gunnarr (war, battle).

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Hakansson: (Swedish) The son of Hakan, a Swedish form of Haakon (high, kin).

Hall: English/German/Danish/Norwegian/Swedish Place name, derived from various words for "large house" including OE heall, and Old High German halla.

Hankin: (English) The son of little Hane, a pet form of John (gracious gift of Jehovah).

Hanscom: (English) One who came from Hanscomb (witches’ valley), in Surrey.

Hansson: (Swedish) The son of Hans, a pet form of Johannes, Scandinavian form of John (gracious gift of Jehovah).

Hargraves: (English) One who came from Hargrave (hare’s grove), the name of several places in England.

Harriman is an English occupational name for a servant who was in the employ of someone who had the given name - Harry...as in Harry's man.

Harrington: (English, Irish) One who came from Harrington (the heath-dwellers' enclosure), in Northamptonshire; grandson of the tall or powerful man.

Harris: (Welsh, English) The son of Harry, the English version of Henry (home ruler)

Harvey: Descendant of Harvey (bitter; carnage worthy)

Hay is an English and Scottish place name for the man who lived near an enclosure, from Middle English haye > Old English
gehœg = enclosure, which was later confused with Old French haye = hedge, after the Normans invaded. Occasionally, it is a
nickname for a tall man, from Middle English hay = tall, high (from Old English heah = high).

Henley/Hensley : English Place name...Originating in Suffolk and Warwickshire, from Old English heah meaning high + OE
leah meaning wood/clearing. A Henley or Hensley would be one who lived near the high clearing in the woods.

Herbert (Welsh, English) Descendant of Herbert (army, bright).

Heron (English) Dweller at the sign of the heron.

Herring: (German, English, Scottish) Descendant of Hering (son of Here, army); one who fished for, and sold, herring, an important article of food in medieval England; dweller at the sign of the herring.

Heydon (English) One who came from Heydon (hay valley), in Cambridgeshire.

Hill (English) Dweller on, or near, a hill, or on rising ground; one who came from Hill (hill), the name of various places in England.

Holland is an English place name that described the medieval man from any of the eight villages scattered around England at the time, which got their names from Old English hoh = ridge + land = land. A county of the Holy Roman Empire was Holland in the Netherlands, and it has long been used synonymously in English and occurs occasionally in English, German, Jewish, Flemish, and Dutch names to describe the man from that area. Also, less frequently, Holland (when of known Irish origin) is an Anglicized form of the Gaelic surnames Houlihan, Mulholland, or Whelen. Variations are Hollands, Howland, Hoyland.

Holmes: a patronymic variation of the English and Scottish surname Holme, derived from the Middle English word holm, from Old English holegn, which derived eventually into the word ‘holly’ and described the tree. Holme was the man who lived near the holly tree. Occasionally it is derived from Northern Middle English holm from Old Norse holmr = raised land in a fen or partially surrounded by streams, and used to describe the man who lived on a tiny island of raised land. Variations are Hulmes, Home, Hulme, Hume .

Hooke (English) One who lived near the spur, river bend or corner, referring to some natural feature; one who came from Hook (hook, corner, headland or hills), the name of various places in England.

Horne (English) One who lived near the hornlike projection, probably a projecting hill or spur of land; dweller at a nook or corner.

Hough: (English) One who came from Hough (spur of hill), in Cheshire.

Howard (English) Descendant of Howard (keeper of the swords); a corruption of Hayward

Howel (English, Welsh) Descendant of Howell (eminent); descendant of little How, a variant of Hugh (spirit)

Huffman (German) Worker on a hube, a farm of about 120 acres.

Hulse is a Low German cognate of the German place name Hilse, which described the man who lived by a holly tree, and was derived from Middle High German huls = holly. Huls,

Hume (English) Dweller on a river island or plot of land enclosed by a bend in a stream; dweller near a holly tree.

Humphreys (Welsh, English) Descendant of Humphrey (supporter of peace).

Hurlburt (English) Descendant of Hurlbert (army, bright); one proficient with a hurlebatte in the medieval game of hurling; one who used a hurlbat in combat.

Hutchin is an English and Scot patronymic name from the medieval given name Huchin , which is a diminutive form of Hugh Hutcheon is a variation found mainly in Scotland -- other variations are Hutchen, Houchen, Howchin . Hutchins, Hutchings are primarily found in Devon and Somerset as patronymic forms; Scottish patronymic forms include Hutchison, Hutcherson, Hutcheson . Hutchinson is found all over, but is most common in Northern Ireland and Northern England.

Hutton: (English) One who came from Hutton (village on the spur of a hill), the name of many places in England.

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Illyngworth, Illingworth: (English) One who came from Illingworth (homestead of Illa’s people), in Yorkshire.

Ingalls: (English) Descendant of Ingeld (Ing’s tribute); one who came from Ingol (Inga’s valley), in Lancashire.

Ingersoll, Ingersall, Inkersall: (English) a habitation name from a place in Derbyshire, recorded in the 13th century as Hinkershil(l) and Hinkreshill. The final element is Old English hyll = Hill; the first may be the Old Norse name Ingvarr/Ingvair or an Old English byname meaning ‘Limper’. It may represent a contracted version of Old English hingna aecer = monks’ field.

Ireland: (English) One who came to England from Ireland.

Isaac (English) The son of Isaac (he who laughs).

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Jackson : is an English Patronymic name from the Old French given name Jacque, which was the French form of Jacob ( Yaakov in Hebrew, meaning heel -- it's a long story...)

Jacobs is a patronymic form of Jacob, an English, Jewish, and Portuguese surname from Latin Jacobus < Hebrew Yaakov. Jacob, James , and Jack are all derived from this source. Numerous patronymic versions are found such as Jacobs, Jacobson (English); Jakobsen, Jakobs (Low German); Jacobsen, Jakobsen (Danish, Norwegian).

James is an English patronymic name derived from Hebrew Y aakov > Latin Jacobus > Late Latin Jacmus -- and believed originating in the Hebrew term akev = heel. A biblical story contains the mention of a heel in the birth of Jacob. In English, Jacob and James are distinctly separate names, but throughout the rest of the world, the two are considered the same name in cognate form. Patronymic forms include Jameson, Jamisom, Jamieson.

Janse (Dutch, Danish, Norwegian, Swedish) The son of Jan, Dutch and Scandinavian form of John (gracious gift of Jehovah).

Jasper:  (English) Descendant of Jasper (master of the treasure)

Jensdatter (Danish, Norwegian) The daughter of Jens, a variant of John (gracious gift of Jehovah).

Johansson: (Swedish) The son of Johan (gracious gift of Jehovah).

Johnson : English Patronymic Name: One of the earliest first names was John (gift of God), which in the 17th century replaced William as the most popular name for a male. As a patronymic name, Johnson from England and Scandinavia became the most widely found name in America, and its Welsh version Jones the fifth most prolific.

Johnston, Johnstone (Scottish) The man from Johnston (John's manor), in Dumfriesshire; also confuced with Johnson.

Jones : English Patronymic Name: One of the earliest first names was John (gift of God), which in the 17th century replaced William as the most popular name for a male. As a patronymic name, Johnson from England and Scandinavia became the most widely found name in America, and its Welsh version Jones the fifth most prolific.

Jonsdatter: The daughter of Jon (gracious gift of Jehovah).

Jonsson: The son of Jon (gracious gift of Jehovah).

Jordan (British). "Flowing Down" . From the Hebrew, the river of Judgement. The name is derived from its two sprinheads Jor and Dan. The family was seated at Dorsetshire, England as early as 140.

Jorgensdatter (Danish, Norwegian) The daughter of Jorgen (farmer).

Joy (English, Irish) Descendant of Joy (joyful); one given to exhibitions of happiness.

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Keith (Scottish) One who lived on the lands of Keith (wood), in East Lothian.

Kemp (English) the occupational name for the man who was a champion at jousting or wrestling. It is derived from the Middle English word kempe, which came from Old English cempa = warrior, champion, which itself came from Latin campus = field, plain of battle.

Kenyon (English, Irish) One who came from Kenyon (Einion's mound), in Lancashire; the son of Coinin (rabbit), or of Finghin (fair offspring).

Kilborn, Kilbourn, Kilbourne, Kilburn, Kilborne: (English) One who came from Kilbourne or Kilburn (stream by a kiln), the name of several places in England.

King is an English nickname, derived from Old English cyning, originally meaning tribal leader, but it evolved to modern vocabulary as king. The name was already in use before the Norman conquest, and was a common nickname for the man who carried himself like royalty, or to the man who had played the part of the king in a medieval pageant (several surnames were derived from medieval pageants and the players must have been celebrities of sorts, as a result). Rarely, the name was given to the man who worked for royalty as a footman or servant. Kinge is a variation of the English nickname.

Knapp : As an English place name, Knapp was the man who lived at the top of the hill.

Knight : English Status Name from the Old English cniht which referred to a boy or serving lad. During the Middle Ages, Knight was used as a given name before the Norman conquest, after which it became a term for a tenant farmer who defended his lord on horseback. As only those men of some stature owned horses, it became a term for a man of prominence, and later, was converted to an honorary title.

Knutson, Knutesen is found in Sweden and Norway and a patronymic name meaning "son of Knut" or "son of Canute" -- given names that meant "hill" or "white-haired."

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