Recorded in many spellings including Bow, Bowe, Bough and Buff, this is usually a surname of English origins. There are at least three possible sources. The first is that it is a metonymic occupational name for a maker or seller of bows, a vital trade in medieval times before the invention of gunpowder. If so the derivation is from the Old English pre 7th century word 'boga', meaning a bow, and ultimately from 'bugan' meaning to bend. The surname may also be topographical for someone living near a bridge, the word 'boga' in this case having acquired the meaning of an arch, as in the supposed resemblance of the arch to a drawn bow or locational for somebody who lived at a place called Bow, Bowe, or Bough, or at a house which had as its sign a bough from a tree. An early examples of the name recording is that of Richard atte Bowe in the registers known as the Calender of Letter Books of the City of London in the year 1306, Nicholas atte Boughe in the county of Somerset in 1327, and Elizabeth Buff, christened at St Mary Lothbury, in the city of London in 1597. Lastly as Bowe and when recorded in Ireland, this is sometimes an anglicized form of the ancient Gaelic O' Buadhaigh, meaning a descendant of Buadhach, this being a personal name meaning "victorious". The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Henry atte Bowe, in the county of Devon in the year 1298. This was during the reign of King Edward Ist of England, 1272 - 1307. Throughout the centuries, surnames in every country have continued to "develop" often leading to astonishing variants of the original spelling.
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