Last name: Smythe
Recorded in the spellings of Smith, Smithe, Smythe, and the patronymics Smiths, and Smithson, this is an Olde English form of the original pre 7th century German 'smitan'. The meaning of the word 'smitan' and hence of the later surname, the most popular of all British surnames, was almost certainly not 'a worker in iron'. Our researches back to the very beginings of written history, indicate that 'smitan' was a form of nickname for a soldier or warrior, one who smote. The famous Anglo-Saxon Chronicle of the 9th Century uses the expression 'War-Smith' to describe a valiant warrior, whilst the medieval Guild List of specialist trades has Blacksmith, Whitesmith, Tinsmith, Goldsmith etc, amongst its members but no 'Smith'. The trade descriptions of the skilled workers of these ancient times were exact, there was no room for generalisations. It is our opinion that the original 'smiths' were civil guards, the early policemen, and appointed by the local lord of the region. This would account for the singular popularity of the name, much more so than metal workers. As perhaps further proof over five hundred coats of arms have been granted to Smith nameholders, a clear indication of the 'fighting' background. The great family Smith make up one in seventy-five of the British population, and the name is 'first' in all major cities of the English speaking world. Curiously the greatest concentration of Smith's are in Aberdeenshire, Scotland. Why this should be so is far from clear, but it may be that the Highland Scots were better known as warriors than engineers. Not surprisingly the Smith name was one of the very first into the New American colonies. The nameholder was 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.
© Copyright: Name Origin Research www.surnamedb.com 1980 - 2017
Want to dig deeper into your family history? Take a look at our page on building a Family Tree
. Or get scientific and enter the exciting world of Ancestral DNA