Recorded as De Wit, De Witt, De Witte, Dewett and Dewitt, this is a surname of Flemish or Dutch origins. Derived from the German and Anglo-Saxon word "hwita", it is one of the many spellings of the popular surname 'White' which exists in every Northern European county. There are several possible reasons for its development. The most popular option is claimed to be a nickname, from the popular medieval practice of creating a surname from a physical characteristic of a person, in this case somebody with fair hair, or pale complexion. Recent research suggests that this was probably nationalistic, and may even have been a derogatory description of the pre 7th century Norse and Danish Viking invaders who poured down through Northern Europe in the period of history known paradoxically as "The Dark Ages." This was roughly the 5th to the 10th century a.d. However it is also true to say that "Hwita" was also used as a baptismal name, which implied something pure and unsullied. In the Netherlands of the 17th century the name was the most well known in the land. It came to be synonymous with power struggles between the civil authorities represented by Jan De Witt (1625 - 1672) and his brother Cornelius, who each held the rank of Grand Pensionaries in the then republic of the states of Holland, and William 11nd, prince of Orange, the hereditary stadtholder or president. William was successful and the De Witt brothers paid with their lives. The name has been recorded in England for many centuries, reflecting the ties between the countries, examples of the recordings being that of Richard Dewit, a witness at the church of St Margarets Lothbury, in the city of London, on May 7th 1564, and the marriage of Guilbert De Witt to Katharine Chaplain, at the church of St. Katherine's by the Tower (of London), on October 10th 1686. Throughout the centuries, surnames in every country have continued to "develop" often leading to astonishing variants of the original spelling.
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