Where do surnames come from in the UK

When did surnames become common in the UK?

Have you ever pondered where do surnames come from in the UK? Or when individuals first began to use their surnames (also known as their last names), and why?

Where do surnames come from in the UK

Due to the tradition of putting given names first and then the family name or surname as the last component of a person’s name in England, surnames are also widely referred to as last names.

It wasn’t until after the Norman Conquest in 1066 that surnames became common practice. It became vital to differentiate between individuals as the population of the nation increased, and as a result, people’s names started to contain descriptors of who they were. For example, Thomas son of John, Peter the Baker, Richard the Whitehead, Mary Webster, and so on. These descriptors would eventually develop into the surnames that we are familiar with today.

To begin, last names were mutable and could be altered throughout the course of a person’s lifetime or whenever that person changed jobs. As an example, John the Blacksmith may transition into John the Farrier as his craft evolved.

The first parish records were kept in 1538, which was a significant year for the development of the concept of hereditary surnames. However, in certain regions of the nation, it was not uncommon for a person to be baptized under one surname, married under a different name, and then buried under a third name all in the course of their life.

There are an estimated 45,000 distinct English surnames in use today. These names originate from a wide variety of origins, including nicknames, physical characteristics, trades, geographical names, and so on.

Traditional English and lowland Scottish surnames also reflect society as it was in the middle to late Middle Ages. Irish, Welsh, and Highland Scottish names derive from Gaelic personal names the majority of the time, whereas traditional English surnames derive from Gaelic personal names the minority of the time.

Surnames like Smith, Wright, Fletcher, Knight, Cook, Squire, Taylor, and Turner are all derived from medieval crafts or vocations. Other examples are Knight, Cook, and Squire.

Some surnames, such as Armstrong, Swift, Red, and Short, come from a person’s physical characteristics or their appearance. Hill, Dale, Bridge, Forest, and Wood are examples of surnames that might have been derived from a person’s place of residence. Other examples include York, Lancaster, London, and others.

Another popular approach to differentiate between individuals is by using the phrase “son of,” as in “Johnson, son of John,” or “Richardson, son of John,” or “Harrison, son of John,” etc. An’s’ added to the end of a person’s name indicated that they were the son of that person; for example, Richards, Stevens, Williams, etc. This is the basis for a great number of Welsh surnames, the most prevalent of which being Jones, which derives from the phrase “John’s son.”

Sometimes a person’s middle name may end up becoming their last name. For instance, if a kid was born and given the name John Oliver, it’s possible that subsequent generations might choose Oliver as their surname.

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