Sunday, 25 June 2017


From time to time I define surnames, this as I'm intrigued to know whether anyone with a particular surname is suited to their name. Now I'm not big on poetry but a did enter a recent competition, this simply to show support for a local event. Probably because very few entered I was told the other week I had been lucky enough to be among the winning entries. Now I know the origin of my surname - a combination of 'the farmstead by a pool' and the trade of 'metalworker', neither of which have the slightest connection with writing and certainly not poetry. Hence I thought it worthwhile to see if any poet has a name suggesting he or she was born to the task.

Arnold - obviously began as a personal name, one which can be traced to Proto-Indo-European or wal which literally meant 'large bird' and 'power' respectively but understood as 'the strength of an eagle'.

Beaumont - is of French derivation and simply means 'beautiful hill'.

Beddoes - is from a Welsh diminutive of Meredydd which is the same as the modern 'Meredith'. The name means as 'lord of splendour'

Benet - shares a root with the name 'Benedict' meaning 'blessed'.

Betjeman - shares an orign with the above as a corruption of 'Benedict' meaning 'blessed'.

Blake - another corruption, this simply began as 'black' although as a name it could not only refer to one with dark hair or skin but as a nickname meaning someone with quite the opposite features.

Bridges - does indeed mean 'bridge' but is taken from the Belgian place name of Bruges, which does mean 'bridge'. As a surname it is derived from the place name, a reference to someone from Bruges.

Bronte - an Anglicised form of the Gaelic O Proinntigh or 'descendant of Proinnteach' where proinn 'banquet' and teach 'hall, house' and suggesting a generous person.

Brooks - no doubt this began as 'small stream'.

Brown - as with Blake a name drescribing one's colour, be it hair or skin.

Browning - is exactly the same as 'Brown' above.

Bryant - is from Old Breton-Irish and is identical to the name 'Brian' in coming from either 'hill' or 'strong'.

Burns - is the same as 'Brooks' above 'a stream'.

Byron - is a place name, now seen as Byram and meaning 'place of the cattlesheds'.

Campion - is from the French for 'champion'.

Carew - is of Welsh and/or Cornish origins where caer rhiw 'fort on a slope'.

Carroll - is thought to come from the Irish cearbh 'hacking' and a nickname for a butcher or warrior.

Chatterton - is another place name where Celtic cadeir 'chair' precedes Old English tun 'farmstead'.

Chaucer - is from the French for 'hosier'.

Chesterton - an Old English place name where caester tun refers to 'the farmstead at the former Roman stronghold'.

Clare - a Celtic river name meaning 'bright, gentle'.

Coleridge - another place name and probably referring to 'the ridge of land where charcoal was obtained'.

Collins - is from the name 'Colin', itself of Irish origin where cuilein meant 'darling' and used as a term of endearment for a young animal.

Cowper - is a trade name, one who produced a barrel or rub for German kup was 'a container'.

Cummings - is from a Breton personal name meaning 'bent' or 'crooked' and likely refers more to posture than honesty.

Dante - from the Latin verb durare 'to endure'.

Davidson - obviously 'son of David', a personal name meaning 'beloved friend'.

Davies - is exactly the same as the above, from 'son of David'.

De la Mare - from the French for 'of the sea'.

Dickinson - obviously 'son of Dick' or Richard, itself meaning 'powerful, strong'.

Dryden - a place name meaning 'the dry valley'.

Eliot - is ultimately from 'Elijah' or 'Jehovah is God'.

Emerson - comes from 'son of Amery', the personal name meaning 'bravery, vigour'.

Flecker - is a variation of 'Fletcher' or 'one who made arrows'.

Fletcher - is, as mentioned above, 'a maker of arrows'.

Goethe - a German variation on Gottfried, itself meaning 'God's protection'.

Gordon - is a Olde Gaelic personal name from gor dun 'a large fort', where 'large' is used more in the sense of 'spacious' than referring to armament.

Graves - nothing to do with burials, this comes from Old English graefe meaning 'grove (of trees)'.

Gray - has two origins, either as a nickname for one with grey hair or from the commune in the Calvados department of Normandy of Graye-sur-Mer, itself named for the owner Anchetil de Greye, whose surname probably refers to his mixed Scandinavian-Frankish ancestry. Note the change in spelling, where the North American preference for 'gray' the color represents the earlier and thus traditional form; while we Brits have gone for the colour as 'grey'. Yet another example of a difference which we on the eastern side of the Atlantic blame on our English-speaking friends to the west, when the error (if it is indeed an error) came from the mother country.

Gunn - comes from the Old Scandinavian name Gunnr meaning 'battle'.

Hardy - from the French hardi meaning 'bold, courageous'.

Henley - is another place name, one meaning 'the high (as in chief) woodland clearing'.

Herbert - from the personal name it is Germanic in origin from hari 'host' and beraht 'bright'.

Herrick - is derived from the Old Scandinavian personal name Eirikr from eir 'mercy' and rik 'power'.

Homer - a trade name, he being 'one who made helmets'.

Hood - is derived from the same source as 'hat' in Proto-Indo-European kadh meaning 'cover, protect' and it is in this sense it more likely became a surname.

Hopkins - this the 'son of Hob', a personal name from Germanic Hrodbert, this translating as 'renowned fame', and the basis for the French name 'Robert'.

Horace - another personal name and one with a surprising origin for this represents the Saxon version of Rabin or Robin, itself a pet form of Robert (see Hopkins).

Housman - speaks for itself, this 'man' worked in the 'house' and was really a servant.

Hughes - comes from the personal name 'Hugh', brought to England by the French and loaned from the German 'Hugo' meaning 'bright in mind and spirit'.

Hunt - a trade name, it is a shortened version of 'hunter'.

Jonson - 'son of John', a personal name thought to have its beginnings in the Hebrew 'Jehovah has favoured'.

Keats - comes from the Old English cyta 'a herdsman'.

Kipling - a place name meaning 'the place of the people of Cyppel'.

Landor - is easy to understand when the meaning of 'washerman' or 'launderer' is seen.

Larkin - a diminutive of 'Laurence', itself meaning 'victory'.

Longfellow - a nickname used to describe someone tall or used ironically for one who was lacking in stature.

Lovelace - is a nickname and not for one who likes lace but actually a corruption for a miserable beggar as it began as 'loveless'.

Lowell - is from the French 'Lou', itself from lupus 'wolf'.

Macaulay - from an Old Gaelic Mac-Amhalghaidh. The 'mac' is, of course, 'son' - while the personal name means 'like the willow twig'.

Macbeth - another Gaelic name, this meaning 'son of life'.

Marvell - came to English from French and thought to mean 'a marvel, wonder'.

Masefield - certainly a place name and likely meaning 'great field'.

Meredith - as seen above, this is 'lord of splendour'.

Milton - a place name and as simple a name as they come for this is 'the middle farmstead'.

Moore - another simplistic place name, this is 'moor' or 'uncultivated land'.

Morris - from the personal name but nearly always with the original spelling of 'Maurice' or 'inhabitant of Mauretania'

Nashe - is a place name, one where the original atten asc has seen a migration of the last letter of the previous word to the beginning of the following one. Thus this place name meant 'at the ash trees'.

Ovid - simply means 'gentle'.

Plath - this is undoubtedly Germanic but could be either 'a maker of breast plates' or topographical in 'the plateau'.

Poe - a variation on 'Peacock', a nickname for anyone considered vain.

Pope - if of English origin it comes from the office of the Roman Catholic church, however if of Scottish beginnings then this is a pointer to a possible Pictish ancestry.

Pound - a 'pound' was an area in which animals were held, but as a surname is more likely to have become Pinder. Thus 'Pound' is from the same as 'pond'.

Prior - is unlikely to be derived from the religious root, here the name is probably a nickname describing someone who appeared to give off a 'superior' air.

Pushkin - derived from the Russian personal name Pushka meaning 'cannon', this began as a nickname for someone who was loud and overly outgoing.

Raleigh - is a place name meaning 'woodland clearing where roe deer are seen'.

Rossetti - is derived from the Italian word for 'red'.

Schiller - is of southern Ashkenazic and became a German nickname for someone with a squint.

Shelley - a place name meaning 'a woodland clearing on or near the shelf of land'.

Sidney - is from a place name meaning 'at the wide island or watermeadow'.

Skelton - a place name meaning 'a farmstead on or near a shelf of land'.

Smart - comes from Old English smeart 'quick' and used as a nickname for one who was overly brisk or active.

Smith - simple 'a worker in metal'.

Southey - another place name, this meaning 'the southern island'.

Spenser - is derived from Old English spens 'a larder', thus this referred to someone in a large house working in a job akin to a butler or steward.

Swinburne - a place name meaning 'the river where swine are seen'.

Tasso - is derived from a Germanic word tat meaning 'deed'.

Teasdale - another place name, one referring to 'the valley of the Tees' where the river name can be defined as 'surging river'.

Tennyson - is actually 'the son of Dennis', the personal name from the Greek Dionysos the god of wine and revelry.

Thompson - 'son of Thomas' with the personal name meaning 'a twin'.

Virgil - a Latin name thought to mean 'vigil'.

Wain - derived from the Germanic for 'cart'.

Watson - 'son of Walter', the personal name meaning 'the ruler of the army'.

Whitman - 'the friend or servant of a man called Hwit', the personal name probably beginning as a reference to one having fair or white hair.

Whittier - two possible origins here: either 'one who made cases' or an abbreviated place name telling of 'the dweller at' and found originally with a second and now lost element.

Wilde - was probably a nickname for it really does mean 'wild man, savage'.

Wolfe - clear enough, this is indeed 'wolf'.

Wordsworth - an excellent name for any writer but actually a corruption of the place name Wadworth, itself referring to 'the enclosure of a man called Wada'.

Wotton - another place name, this meaning 'the farmstead where woad grows'.

Wyatt - from the Old English personal name Wigheard meaning 'hardy, brave, strong'.

Yeats - from early Germanic which we would read as 'gate' but which referred to the 'way' rather than the gate across same.

So really none of the poets have a name particularly suited to their apparent talents. Not even the Bard himself, for Shakespeare does indeed refer to a person who shakes a spear. However don't take this literally for this should be seen as a nickname for an argumentative or confrontational individual. Perhaps old Bill's ancestors would agree with me when I maintain it ain't poetry unless it rhymes, it's just overly-flowery writing with excessive use of 'enter'.

Thus perhaps I should change my name to Shakespeare. Not that I would ever write anything akin to the man himself, but when it comes to being confrontational..... and it would certainly raise my profile on search engines.

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