Mr. Muraskin's list of how surnames were chosen is below, minus his examples (go to the post to read those)
|A peaceful-looking shepherd --|
probably not a Bickerstaff
- patronymics (son of ....)
- matronymics (daughter of ....)
- place names
- occupational names (craftsmen/workers; merchants; related to tailoring; medical; related to liquor trade; religious communal)
- personal traits
- insulting names
- animal names
- Hebrew names
- Hebrew acronyms
- other Hebrew- and Yiddish-derived names
- invented "Fancy Shmancy" Names
While I was reading his list of names associated with personal traits I thought of my most interesting surname among those I've researched:
Now, can't you just imagine my quarrelsome, angry ancestor holding his shepherd's staff high, ready to take a quick swing at another shepherd as they argue over the ownership of a sheep standing between them?
Dictionary.com tells me it also means to run rapidly, move quickly, rush, hurry. Webster's 1828 dictionary echoes these definitions. Could my Bickerstaff ancestor have been a speedy runner in earnest to save his sheep from danger?
Chances are I'll never know, but it sure is fun to imagine the possibilities.
How about you? What's your most interesting ancestor surname and its definition? Do you know how the name was chosen?
Photo Credit: Creative Commons via PhotoPin: Waiting for the Word