Last name: Oliphant

This famous and intriguing name has been the subject of much controversy regarding its origins; however, the accepted explanation is that the name is of Old French origin, introduced into England, and later, Scotland, after the Norman Conquest of 1066. The early forms of the name, Olifard and Oliphard, clearly suggest a derivation from the Old French "olif", olive-branch, with the intensive suffix "-ard", used as a nickname or byname for a peace-loving, gentle person. The development of the surname in England and Scotland, from Olifard (1107), Oliphard 91148) and Olyfat (1296) to Olifaunt (1317) and Oliphand, Olyfant (1326), shows the gradual change to the Middle English vocabulary word "olifa(u)nt", elephant. This change was probably due to the influence of folk etymology, and the popularity of the word as the name of the animal described by homecoming Crusaders as "a huge earth-shaking beast". The name was established early in Scotland, by a family of Norman origin who settled first in Northamptonshire and Hampshire, David Olifard, godson of David 1 of Scotland, being the first recorded namebearer; he was granted lands in Roxburghshire. A Coat of Arms granted to the family depicts on a red shield, three silver crescents, the Crest being a unicorn's head couped argent. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Roger Olifard, which was dated circa 1107, a charter witness in Northamptonshire, during the reign of King Henry 1, known as "The Lion of Justice", 1100 - 1135. 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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