This is an English surname which is mostly associated with the Midland counties of the country. It derives from the Olde English word of the pre 7th century "gedaeft" meaning meek or mild, and as such it was a pre Medieval personal name of some popularity. In the Middle Ages in the form of "daffte" it became a surname which in most cases originated from the personal name but may also have been a nickname for a gentle person or given the robust humour of the Chuacerian period, the complete reverse! An interesting and well known example of reversal from the same time in history is that of Little John, the largest man in the famous band of outlaws from Sherwood Forest, Nottinghamshire, and lead by Robin Hood. Curiously Daft is also a surname from Nottinghamshire and from much the same period with John Daft appearing in the records of the borough of Nottingham in the year 1230, whilst Robert Daft is recorded in the tax registers known as the Feet of Fines, also for Nottingham, in 1242. The modern meaning of a simpleton or clown is according to the famous Collins English Dictionary, 19th century. This is at least five centuries too late to have any bearing on the origin of the surname.
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