Recorded as Balf, Balfe, Balffye, Belf, Bolf, Bulfoy, and possibly others, this is an Irish surname although probably of Norman or Welsh origin. Although there are quite a lot of spellings all are relatively rare. It is said that an immigrant family from an unknown country settled in County Meath in the 13th century, and the chief of them had a speech defect. This may well be so, the name seems to originate from the Gaelic word 'balbh' meaning to stammer. Anything is possible with surnames, and the vast majority of Irish surnames do originate from a medieval nickname for the original chief. Some of these nicknames were far from complimentary at least to the tender ears of the 21st century with all its political correctness. In medieval times people people were less hypocrytical, they spoke as they saw it, the famous name Kennedy for instance translating as 'ugly head', so 'stammer' is quite mild. The Balf family were leading gentry in Meath for many centuries, with at least two M P's in 1585 and 1613. The earliest recording is that of David Balf, who in 1293 transferred 60 acres of land apparently to his son David.
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