Thursday, March 27, 2008

Many Surnames Reflect Old Occupations

I love words. I love their sounds and rhythm -- language is a sort of music, is it not? I also find fascinating how our history survives in our language, such as in our surnames. Some surnames (Archer, Baker, Brewer, Butcher, Cook) have obvious origins, as these words have survived uunchanged over the centuries. But some are not so obvious, as shown in this list which I have gleaned from many sources over the years. And there are many, many more!

One of these names, Hayward, is a name on my mother's side of the family; they emigrated from England many generations ago. Knowing the provenance of this name (a hayward guarded, or warded, fences or enclosures) makes me wonder about the long-ago lives of my ancestors in rural England.

Here are some interesting names:

Alderman An official clerk of the court
Bailey A bailiff
Barber A surgeon
Barker One who worked with bark for the leather trade, or a shepherd (Norman barches, meaning “shepherd”)
Baxter A baker (“bakester”), especially a female
Bekker One who made wooden vessels
Bender One who made casks and barrels
Berger A shepherd (berger is the French word for shepherd)
Bishop One who was in the Bishop’s employ
Black A dyer of black cloth
Blacksmith A metalworker, especially one who worked with iron
Boatwright One who made boats
Boniface An innkeeper or tavern keeper
Bowman An archer
Boyer A bowyer – one who makes bows
Brewster A brewer, especially a female
Butler A wine steward
Campion A professional fighter; a champion
Cantrell A singer in a chantry
Carrier One who carries (transports) goods
Carrin One who made carts
Carter One who transported goods by cart
Cartwright One who made carts
Carver A sculptor; also one who carved the meat at a lord's table
Chafer One who worked in a lime kiln
Chaffer A merchant
Chalker A whitewasher
Challender One who sold blankets
Chamberlain A personal servant. Chamberlains cleaned a lord's chambers.
Chambers A chamberlain
Chancellor A chancellor
Chandler A candle maker
Chaplain or Chaplin A chaplain
Chapman An itinerant peddler
Cheeseman or Cheesewright One who made and sold cheese. Also spelled Chessman.
Cherrier One who worked in a cherry orchard
Clark A clerk or cleric
Cleaver One who worked in a butcher shop or split wood
Coldren One who made large cooking pots (cauldrons)
Coleman One who gathered charcoal
Collier A coal miner or one who sold charcoal
Conner One who inspected for weights and measures (to "con" was to reckon or calculate)
Cooper A barrel maker
Cotter A tenant farmer
Crocker A potter; a maker of crocks
Crowner A coroner, or official in service to the King
Crowther One who played the "crowd," a medieval stringed instrument
Currier A dresser of animal skins
Cutler A maker of knives
Day A worker in a dairy
Deacon A church deacon
Dexter A female dyer
Docker A dock worker or stevedore
Drage A confectioner
Draper A dealer in dry goods
Dresser A surgeon's assistant in a hospital
Duke One who was in the duke's employ
Dyer One who dyed cloth
Dyster A female dyer
Earl One who was in the Earl's employ
Falconer One who kept and trained falcons
Farmer A farmer
Farrar A smith or farrier
Farrier One who shod and cared for horses
Faulkner A falconer; one who kept and trained falcons
Fearson Ironmonger or smith
Ferrier Ironmonger or smith
Fisher A fisherman
Fiske One who sold fish
Flax One who sold or grew flax
Flesher A butcher (German Fleischer)
Fletcher An arrow maker (to fletch is to dress with feathers; cf. fledge, as a bird)
Forester A guardian of the lord's forest; also spelled Forrester, Forster, or Foster
Fowler A keeper or catcher of birds
Frobisher One who polished (“furbished”) swords and armor
Fuller One who fulls cloth. Fulling is the process of shrinking and thickening woolen cloth by moistening, heating, and pressing; the end product is a felt. A fuller is also one who cleans and finishes cloth.
Gage One who inspected for weights and measures
Gardiner A gardener; also spelled Gardner or Gardener
Glover One who made gloves
Goldsmith One who worked with gold
Granger A farmer; also spelled Grainger
Graves A steward
Hammer One who made stone hammers
Hansard A swordmaker (French hansard, a long, pointed sword)
Harper A minstrel; one who played or made harps
Hayward One who guarded fences or enclosures (hay wards)
Heard A shepherd or cowherd
Hillier A roof tiler
Hind A farm laborer
Hinman A keeper of deer on an estate (a contraction of "hind man," a hind being a deer)
Hogg A swine herd
Hooker A reaper (one who used a hooked tool for lifting and carring sheaves)
Hooper One who fitted metal hoops for casks and barrels
Hunter A hunter
Inman An innkeeper
Jagger A fish peddler
Joiner or Joyner A skilled carpenter
Kantor A singer in a chantry
Keeler A bargeman
Kellogg A slaughterer, esp. a pork butcher (literally, “kill hog”)
Kemp or Kempe A wrestler (Old English cempa, meaning “warrior”)
Key or Keyes One who made keys
Killer A lime kiln worker
King A servant to a king
Kisser An armor maker
Knight A knight; any military servant; a young servant to a knight
Lander or Landry A laundry worker
Lardner A keeper of the cupboard or larder
Latimer An interpreter
Leadbetter A lead worker
Lederer A leather maker
Leech or Leach A doctor (that is, one who uses leeches)
Lister A cloth dyer
Lorimer One who made bridles or spurs (from the Latin lorum, a part of a bridle)
Lush An usher
Machin A mason or stoneworker
Marshall One who was in charge of horses
Mason A mason or stoneworker
Mayor A mayor or one in the mayor's employ
Mercer A merchant, esp. of fine cloths (silk, velvet etc.)
Merchant A merchant
Miller A miller (also spelled Milner, Mills, Mullin, Mullins, Mulliner)
Nader A tailor
Naylor or Nailor One who makes or uses nails
Page A minor male servant; also spelled Paige, Paget
Palmer A pilgrim; one who carries palms on pilgrimage
Parker A park or game keeper; one who watched or guarded estate parks
Parson A parson or rector
Piper One who played or made pipes (musical instruments)
Pitman A miner, especially of coal
Plummer A plumber; a lead worker; one who applied sheet lead for roofing and set lead frames for plain or stained glass windows.
Pope A servant to the Pope (?)
Porter A door keeper
Potter A potter
Priest A servant to a priest (?)
Prince A servant to a prince (?)
Proctor A tax collector; solicitor; steward
Provost A supervisor on a lord's manor
Purcell A swine herd
Redman A roof thatcher [but what of the reddleman in Hardy’s Return of the Native?)
Reeve An official appointed by a lord to supervise manor lands
Rock or Rocker One who spun wool; made distaffs
Roper A maker of rope or nets
Ryder One who delivered messages on horseback
Sadler or Saddler One who made saddles
Salter A salt worker or salt seller
Sargent A military servant
Sawyer One who sawed wood
Schneider A tailor (German)
Schreiber A clerk or scribe (German)
Scrivener, Scribner A scribe; a professional or public copyist or writer; notary public
Scully A town crier
Seal or Seales A maker of seals or saddles
Sexton One who maintained churches; dug graves
Shepherd or Sheperd A shepherd
Shields An armorer
Shrieve A sheriff
Singer A singer
Skinner One who tanned hides
Skipper A ship master ("sh" or "ch"and "sk" were interchangeable in many English words with Norse origins; other examples are "skirt" and "shirt" (both from the same word for garment) and "church" and "kirk")
Slater A roofer
Slaughter One who slaughtered animals
Smith or Smythe A metalworker
Smoker One who made smocks
Snyder A tailor (Dutch)
Soppner A roofing or shingle maker
Spencer One who dispensed lord's provisions
Spicer One who sold spices
Spittle A hospital worker
Stanier or Stonier A stone cutter
Steele A steel worker
Steward A steward; also spelled Stewart, Stuart
Stone A stoneworker
Stringer One who made strings for bows
Sugarman One who made or sold sugar
Sumner A summoner
Swain A swineherd
Tabor or Taber One who played the tabor (a small drum)
Tanner One who tanned hides
Tasker One who did piece work
Taverner A tavern keeper
Taylor or Tailor A tailor
Thatcher One who thatched roofs
Tiller or Tillman A farmer or tile maker
Tinker An itinerant tin pot and pan seller and repairman
Todd A fox hunter (from Gaelic todd, meaning fox; recall Beatrix Potter's Tale of Mr. Tod)
Toller A toll collector
Trainer A trapper
Tranter A waggoner
Trapp A trapper
Travers A tollbridge keeper and collector
Trinder A wheel maker
Trotter A messenger
Tucker A cloth worker, especially one who cleaned cloth goods
Turner One who made small wooden objects by turning them on a lathe
Tyler A tiler
Tyrer A wardrobe master (“attirer”)
Voss A servant
Wagoner A teamster not for hire; also spelled Waggoner
Wainwright A wagon builder
Walker One who shrank woolen cloth
Wall or Waller A mason who specialized in building walls
Ward A watchman or guard
Warf A dock worker
Warner or Warrer One who was in charge of wildlife at a park (estate)
Waterman A boatman who plies his boat for hire
Wayne A wheel maker (“wain”)
Weaver A weaver
Webb or Webster A weaver, especially one who operates a loom, or especially a female weaver Wheeler or Wheelwright One who made or repaired wheels; wheeled carriages, etc.
Woodward A forester
Workman A laborer
Wright A general fabricator

1 comment:

  1. Great list! Thanks for sharing such an extensive collection.


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