Recorded in spellings which include Boat, Boate, Boater, Bote, Booter, Boother, Boatman, Boatwright, Boatswain, and Bowater, this is an early English medieval surname. Its origins of which there are definately two, are confused and in some cases, overlapping. Firstly it is possible that the surname is either topographical for someone who lived at a "both", the Olde English barn or cow shed later called a booth, and found in the popular surname Booth, or may describe a builder of boths, or even a person who lived on a bank or both. In this latter case it is a "fused" form of the pre 7th century "bufan-waeter", meaning "above the water". Secondly and more likely it is again occupational, but this time for a builder of boats as in Boater or Boatwright, or as an operator of boats such as in Boat, Bote, Boatman and Boatswain. The agent suffix "-er" when used means "one who does (or makes)". Both topographical and occupational surnames were among the earliest created, as the activities of man and the natural features in the landscape provided easily recognisable distinguishing names. However occupational surnames did not usually become hereditary until a son of sometimes a grandson, followed the father into the same job. Early examples of recordings include Richard le Boteswayn of Nottinghamshire, in the Hundred Rolls of 1273, Jeffrey Boteman, the rector of Wood Norton, in the county of Norfolk in the year 1320, and John Botewright, master of Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, in 1471. Other early recordings include the marriage of Thomas Bowater and Jane Ley at Tamworth, Staffordshire, on June 15th 1589; the christening of Dorothy Boat at St Mary Whitechapel, Stepney, on March 11th 1670, and the christening of Mary Boater at St. Martins in the Field, Westminster, on April 18th 1784. Throughout the centuries, surnames in every country have continued to "develop", often leading to astonishing variants of the original spelling.
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