Last name: Abbess

This most interesting and unusual surname is usually English. It is a variant of "Abbs", a patronymic form of "Abel", and not as it may seem, a female form of the popular surname and job description - "Abbot", i.e. The abbess. Abel derives from the Hebrew given name "Hevel", and translates as breath or vigour. It is said that in its original pre-christian spelling, it was also used in the figurative sense of "vanity", and therefore presumably a nickname. The personal name "Abel" was borne by the son of Adam, who was murdered by his brother Cain. It was very popular as a given name in Christendom during the Middle Ages, when there was a cult of "suffering innocence" which Abel represented. The surname is widespread in the British Isles, and is recorded in the modern idiom as Abbs, Abbis, Abbiss, Ab(b)ys(s), Abbes(s), Abbes, Abson and Abbison. Early examples of the surname include the marriage of Jane Abbis and Robert Lawter, at Covehithe in Suffolk, on October 28th 1611, Mary Abbeyes, who married John James at the famous church of St Giles Cripplegate, London, on October 14th 1640, and Mary Abbess, daughter of James Abbess, christened at St Martins in the Field, Trafalgar Square, Westminster, on October 19th 1706. The coat of arms most associated with the name has the blazon of a red field, a gold bend engrailed, between six lions rampant in silver. The crest is a sun in splendour, and the motto "Noli irritare leonem". The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of John Abbys, which was dated 1480, in the land charters of the county of Norfolk, during the reign of King Edward 1V, known as "The Self Proclaimed King", 1461 - 1483. Surnames became necessary when governments introduced personal taxation. In England this was known as Poll Tax. Throughout the centuries, surnames in every country have continued to "develop" often leading to astonishing variants of the original spelling.

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