This famous surname is both English and occasionally, Scottish. In the first instance it may have Olde English pre 7th century origins, or it maybe French, and as such was introduced by the Normans after the 1066 Invasion. Taking the latter first as this is the most satisfactory explanation, the derivation is from the French word 'basse' meaning somebody who was both broad and thickset. This word itself is a development of the Latin "bassus", meaning wide, as opposed to tall. As such it was a descriptive nickname, ostensibly for somebody of that description, but given the sardonic humour of the Middle ages, quite possibly the reverse! The second possibility is that the surname is a metonymic occupational name for a fishseller, as with the surname 'Herring'. Medieval job descriptions were generally specific, although it is difficult to imagine that people lived by selling or catching only one type of fish. However if this was the case the derivation is from the Olde English pre 7th Century "baes", meaning bass. Lastly, if Scottish the name may be locational from a place called Bass in the Grampian region of Scotland. In this case the place name derives from the Gaelic word "bathais", meaning front or forehead. Early examples of the name recording include Osbert Bars in the pipe rolls of Gloucester in 1205, whilst Andrew de Bas of Aberdeen was a juror there in the year 1206. A notable namebearer, listed in the "Dictionary of National Biography", was Michael Thomas Bass (1799 - 1884), a brewer, who was an active social reformer, and M.P. for Derby. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Aelizia Bass, which was dated 1180, in the "Pipe Rolls of Warwickshire", during the reign of King Henry 11, known as "The church builder", 1154 - 1189. 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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