This uncommon name is of Old French origin, and is a patronymic form of the surname Saint, with an elided preposition "de" implying "of the Saint (family)". The surname derives from the Old French "saint, seint", from the Latin "sanctus", blameless, holy, which was used sometimes as a nickname for a notably pious individual. The vocabulary word was also occasionally bestowed as a given name during the Middle Ages, especially on the Continent; some bearers of the surname may therefore derive their name from this source. The surname is thought to have been introduced into England by French Huguenot refugees during the late 17th and 18th Centuries. The usual French form of the surname is Dessaint, and it has been adopted and Anglicized in a variety of forms, ranging from Des(s)ant and Des(s)ent to Decent and Descent. Recordings of the name are found in places as far apart as Suffolk and Canada; examples from Church Registers include: the christening of Frances Dessant at Christchurch Greyfriars, London, on December 24th 1682; the christening of William Desent at St. Mary Whitechapel, London, on January 19th 1723; the marriage of Raphael Dessent and Anne Boursier on February 23rd 1699, in Montreal, Canada; and the marriage of James Dessent and Frances Crossby at Bures St. Mary, Suffolk, on March 6th 1814. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Benony Desent, which was dated May 20th 1678, witness to the christening of his daughter, Mary, in Moreton, Hampstead, Devonshire, during the reign of King Charles 11, known as "The Merry Monarch", 1660 - 1685. 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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