Recorded as Dart, Darte, Darth, Darthe, Death, Dearth and possibly others, this is an English surname of two possible origins. The most likely is French as shown below, but recent research has also strongly indicated an English source which may have been overlooked in the past possibly because of its rather mordid conclusions. We believe that for many name holders it is of early medieval English origin, and one of a sizeable group of modern surnames that were created from a theatrical nickname. In this case it was for a person who played the part of a figurative representation of "Death" in the popular medieval mystery plays. Other such names that survive today are Angel and Life. The source is the Middle English word "deeth", meaning death. A second origin is French and locational from the place in Flanders called "Ath", with the fused preposition "de". The surname from this source has a variety of forms not just in England including D'Eath, D'Eathe, De Ath, D'Aeth, De Att and De Atta. Early examples of the surname recording include the marriage of Alicia d'Atte and John Marshall at St. Andrew's, Enfield, Middlesex, on September 9th 1562, Henry D'arthe was a witness at St Botolphs Bishopgate, in the city of London, on January 6th 1608, and Willam Dart, a witness at St Dunstans in the East, Stepney, on September 6th 1626. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Gerardus de Athia. This was dated 1208, in the "Curia Regis" rolls of Gloucestershire. Throughout the centuries, surnames in every country have continued to "develop" often leading to astonishing variants of the original spelling.
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