This interesting and unusual name has a number of possible origins. Firstly, it can be of early medieval English origin, and one of a sizeable group of modern surnames that were created from nicknames given to someone who played the part of a personified figure - in this case, the figure of Death - in a pageant or medieval mystery play. Other such names surviving today are King, Knight and Angel. The derivation of the modern surname 'Death' from this source is from the Middle English 'de(e)th', death, from the Old English pre 7th Century 'death'. Secondly, the surname may be a medieval metonymic occupational name for a gatherer or seller of kindling wood, tinder, derived from the Middle English 'dethe', fuel, tinder, from the Old English 'dyth'. Lastly, but unlikely to be the source for many modern bearers of the name, it may be of Belgian locational origin, with the fused preposition 'de', from 'Ath'. The name can be found as Death, Deeth, Dearth, D'Eath, D'Eathe, De'Ath and D'Aeth. The Coat of Arms most associated with the name is black, a gold griffin passant red armed between three silver crescents. The Crest is a griffin's gold head, holding in the beak a green trefoil. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Robert Deth, which was dated 1196, The Bedfordshire Pipe Rolls, during the reign of King Richard 1st, 'The Lionheart', 1189-1199. Surnames became necessary when governments introduced personal taxation. In England this was known as Poll Tax. Throughout the centuries, surnames in every country have continued to "develop" often leading to astonishing variants of the original spelling.
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