Last name: Smith
Recorded in the spellings of Smith, Smithe, Smythe, and the patronymics Smiths, and Smithson, this is the most popular surname in the English speaking world by a considerable margin. Of pre 7th century Anglo-Saxon origins, it derives from the word 'smitan' meaning 'to smite' and as such is believed to have described not a worker in iron, but a soldier, one who smote. That he also probably wore armour, which he would have been required to repair, may have lead to the secondary meaning. The famous Anglo-Saxon Chronicles sometimes known as the first newspaper, in the 9th century a.d. uses the expression 'War-Smith' to describe a valiant warrior, whilst the later medieval Guild List of specialist trades has blacksmith, whitesmith, tinsmith, goldsmith and silversmith amongst its many members, but no trade of 'smith'. These descriptions of the skilled workers of the Middle Ages were exact, and it is our opinion after studying many early records that the original smiths were probably the guards of the local lord of the manor. This would account for the singular popularity of the name, as the early social records indicate that the trades of tailor and baker were much more prevalent than that of Smith in any form. What is certain is that over five hundred coats of arms have been granted to Smith nameholders, surely an indication of the soldier background, rather than a humble ironworker. The great family Smith is 'first' in all major cities of the English speaking world, yet curiously the greatest concentration of Smith's are in Aberdeenshire, Scotland! Why this should be so is far from clear. Not surprisingly the Smith name was one of the very first into the New American colonies, being held by the famous John Smith (1580 - 1631), explorer and writer, who helped to found the state of Virginia. He was reputedly saved from execution by Pocahontas, the Indian chief's daughter, who died in England in 1622. The first recorded spelling of the family name, and probably the first surname recorded anywhere in the world, is that of Eceard Smid. This was dated 975 a.d., in the English Surname Register for County Durham, during the reign of King Edward of England, known as "The Martyr", 975 - 979 a.d.
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