This is a German surname, although arguably one of Crusader 12th century origins. It is one of a large group which include Barabisch, Barabich, Barbisch (German), Barbara, Barbarey (English), Barbarin, Barbaroux (Provencal), Barbara, Varvara, Varveri, Barbarelli, Barbarino, Barabarotto (Italian), and Varvarin and Varvarinsky (Russian). It derives from an ancient saint Barbara, who was highly popular in the 5th century, at the beginings of modern Christianity. The claim has been that she was imprisioned in a tower by her father, and it would seem starved to death for refusing to recant her Christian beliefs. A very nice story of martyrdom so beloved by the early church, and almost certainly without proof and probably wholly fictious. However the church has never been one for allowing truth to get in the way of a good fable,and so this one was allowed to run and run. Curiously the personal name is a female spelling which derives from the Ancient Greek word 'barbaros'. This has the actual meaning of stranger or foreigner, but was applied to mean a barbarian, or anybody who was not Greek! Many early surnames do originate from female rather than male names, and this is a good example. Early recordings include Cunrad Barrabish of Rheinfelden, Germany, in 1306, whilst in England Henrie Barbery was a witness at St James Clerkenwell, in the city of London, in 1606.
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