Name meanings and origins

All definitions taken from the Dictionary of American Family Names (Oxford University Press, ISBN 0-19-508137-4)

Last Names

Bartholomew English: from a medieval personal name, Latin Bart(h)olomaeus, from the Aramaic patronymic bar-Talmay ‘son of Talmay’, meaning ‘having many furrows’, i.e. rich in land. This was an extremely popular personal name in Christian Europe, with innumerable vernacular derivatives. It derived its popularity from the apostle St. Bartholomew (Matthew 10:3), the patron saint of tanners, vintners, and butlers. As an Irish name, it has been used as an Americanized form of Mac Pharthaláin (see McFarlane).

Bartlett English: from the Middle English personal name Bartlet, a pet form of Bartholomew.

Bayer German, Scandinavian, and Jewish (Ashkenazic): regional name for someone from Bavaria (German Bayern). This region of southern Germany derives its name from that of the Celtic tribe of the Boii who once inhabited this area. They were displaced in the 6th century AD by a Germanic people, the Boioarii or Baiuarii, whose name is derived from that of their Celtic predecessors.

Beyer German, Dutch, Scandinavian, and Jewish (Ashkenazic): variant of Bayer.

Cole English: from a Middle English pet form of Nicholas. English: from a Middle English personal name derived from the Old English byname Cola (from col ‘(char)coal’, presumably denoting someone of swarthy appearance), or the Old Norse cognate Koli. Scottish and Irish: when not of English origin, this is a reduced and altered form of McCool. In some cases, particularly in New England, Cole is a translation of the French surname Charbonneau. Probably an Americanized spelling of German Kohl.

McMillan Scottish: Anglicized form of Gaelic Mac Maoláin, a patronymic from the byname Maolán, a diminutive of maol ‘bald’, ‘tonsured’. In Scotland the usual spelling is Macmillan. Compare Mullen.

McMullin Irish form of McMillan.

Mullen Irish: Anglicized form of the common and widespread Gaelic name Ó Maoláin ‘descendant of Maolán’, a byname meaning ‘tonsured one’, ‘devotee’ (from a diminutive of maol ‘bald’).

Pearson English: patronymic from the Middle English personal name Piers (see Pierce). The surname is also quite common in Ireland, where it has been established for many centuries. Americanized form of one or more like-sounding Ashkenazic Jewish surnames.

Reilly Irish: reduced form of O’Reilly, an Anglicized form of Gaelic Ó Raghailligh ‘descendant of Raghailleach’, Old Irish Roghallach, of unexplained origin.

Remer North German and Dutch: occupational name for a maker of leather reins and similar articles, from Middle Low German remer ‘leather worker’ (compare Riemer). North German: from a Germanic personal name composed of the elements ragin ‘counsel’ + mari, m{e__}ri ‘fame’, as in Reimer. Jewish (Ashkenazic): ornamental name from German Römer ‘Roman’.

Riley Irish: variant spelling of Reilly. English: habitational name from Ryley in Lancashire, so named from Old English ryge ‘rye’ + leah ‘wood’, ‘clearing’. There is a Riley with the same meaning in Devon, but it does not seem to have contributed to the surname, which is more common in northern England.

Riemer German and Jewish (Ashkenazic): occupational name for a maker of leather reins and similar articles, Middle High German riemære, German Riemer, Yiddish rimer. Compare Riemenschneider. Altered spelling of German Reimer.

Riemenschneider German: occupational name for a maker of leather straps, belts, and reins (later a saddler), Middle High German riemensnider, Middle Low German remensnider.

Roach English: topographic name for someone who lived by a rocky crag or outcrop, from Old French roche (later replaced in England by rock, from the Norman byform rocque), or a habitational name from any of the places named with this word, such as Roach in Devon, or Roche in Cornwall and South Yorkshire. English and Irish (of Norman origin): habitational name from any of various places in Normandy, as for example Les Roches in Seine-Maritime, named with Old French roche, or from Roche Castle in Wales.

Roache Irish: variant spelling of Roach.

Roche Irish (of Norman origin): see Roache. This is the name of various important families in Munster (counties Cork, Wexford, and Limerick).

Schultz German: status name for a village headman, from a contracted form of Middle High German schultheize. The term originally denoted a man responsible for collecting dues and paying them to the lord of the manor; it is a compound of sculd(a) ‘debt’, ‘due’ + a derivative of heiz(z)an ‘to command’. The surname is also established in Scandinavia. Jewish (Ashkenazic): from German Schulze. The reason for adoption are uncertain, but may perhaps have referred to a rabbi, seen as the head of a Jewish community, or to a trustee of a synagogue.

Schulz German and Jewish (Ashkenazic): variant spelling of Schultz. In this spelling, it is also found as a surname in Slovenia and elsewhere.

Walsh Irish: Anglicized form (translation) of Breathnach ‘Briton’. It was used in particular to denote the Welshmen who arrived in Ireland in the wake of Strongbow’s Anglo-Norman invasion of 1170.

First Names

Cecilia English: from the Latin name Caecilia, feminine of Caecilius (see Cecil). This was a good deal more common than the masculine form, largely due to the fame of the 2nd- or 3rd-century virgin martyr whose name is still mentioned daily in the Roman Catholic Canon of the Mass. She is regarded as the patron saint of music and has inspired works such as Purcell's “Ode on St Cecilia”s Day', although the reasons for this association are not clear. Variants: Cecilia, Cicely. Cognates: Irish Gaelic: Síle. Scottish Gaelic: Sìle, Sìleas. French: Cécile (sometimes also used in the English-speaking world). German: Cäcilie. Finnish: Silja. Pet forms: English: Sessy, Sissy. Low German, Frisian: Silke.

Effie (f.) English: pet form of Euphemia, now as rarely used as the full form, but popular in the 19th century. (f.) Scottish: Anglicized form of the Gaelic name Oighrig. (m.) Jewish: pet form of Ephraim.

Euphemia Latin form of a Late Greek name composed of the elements eu well, good + phemi I speak. This is the name of various early saints, most notably a virgin martyr supposedly burnt at the stake at Chalcedon in 307. It was particularly popular in England in the Victorian period, especially in the pet form Effie. See also Oighrig. Derivatives: French: Euphémie. Italian, Spanish, Portuguese: Eufemia.

English: Anglicized form of French Henriette, a feminine diminutive of Henry (French Henri) coined in the 17th century. It was quite common in England in the 18th and early 19th centuries. In Scotland it has been used as an Anglicized form of Oighrig. Pet form: Hattie.

Leopold English: of Germanic origin, composed of the elements liut people + bold bold, brave. The first element was altered by association with Latin leo lion. A name of this origin may have been introduced into Britain by the Normans, but if so it did not survive long. It was reintroduced from the Continent towards the end of the 19th century, partly in honour of King Leopold of the Belgians (1790-1865), the uncle of Queen Victoria, who was an influential adviser to her in her youth, and after whom she named one of her sons. In the 17th and 18th centuries it was also the name of two Austro-Hungarian emperors, who were also kings of Bohemia. Cognates: French: Léopold. Italian, Spanish, Portuguese: Leopoldo. German: Luitpold.

Marcel French: from the Latin name Marcellus, originally a diminutive of Marcus. The name has always been popular in France as it was borne by a 3rd-century missionary to Gaul, martyred at Bourges with his companion Anastasius. Cognates: Italian: Marcello. Spanish, Portuguese: Marcelo.

Marian (f.) English: originally a medieval variant spelling of Marion. However, in the 18th century, when combined names began to come into fashion, it was sometimes understood as a combination of Mary and Ann.

Martha New Testament name, of Aramaic rather than Hebrew origin, meaning “lady”. It was borne by the sister of Lazarus and Mary of Bethany (John 11: 1). According to Luke 10: 38, when Jesus visited the house of Mary and Martha, Mary sat at his feet, listening to him, while Martha “was cumbered about much serving”, so that she complained to Jesus, “Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone?” For this reason, the name Martha has always been associated with hard domestic work, as opposed to the contemplative life. Other forms: French, German: Marthe. Scandinavian: Mart(h)a, Mart(h)e. Spanish, Italian, Polish, and Czech: Marta. Hungarian: Márta. Pet form: Spanish: Martita.

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