This unusual surname is one of a group of medieval English surnames which commence with the prefix at, att, or the dialectal ad. All derive from the pre 7th century word 'aet' which does mean 'at the'. As such the name can be self explanatory as in Adfield, Atfield, or Attfield, Adhill and Athill, Atmore, Attridge, Attwater, and Attwood, but much less so with the likes of Athersuch (meaning at the ditch), Athoke (at the hook of land), Athorn (at the horn of land), Atley, Atlee (at the enclosure), Attack (at the oak) Adaway, Adway and Attaway (at the road), Attwell, at the spring or stream, Attoe (at the hoh or ridge) Attwick (at the dairy farm), and many others. All are known as topographical in that they describe a dweller who lived by (usually) a natural feature in the countryside. Topographical surnames were among the earliest created, since both natural and man-made features in the landscape provided easily recognisable distinguishing names in the small communities of the Middle Ages. Surnames became necessary when governments introduced personal taxation. In England this was sometimes known as the Poll Tax first introduced in 1379. Throughout the centuries, surnames in every country have continued to "develop" often leading to astonishing variants of the original spelling.
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