This interesting surname has three origins. Firstly, it may be of English origin being either a topographical name from the Old English pre 7th Century "dun" meaning "down" or "low hill", or a nickname for a man with dark hair or a swarthy complexion, from the Middle English, Old English pre 7th Century "dunn" meaning "dark-coloured". In part it may also derive from an unrecorded Middle English survival of the Old English byname "Dunn(a)" "Dark". It may be of Scottish and Irish origin deriving from the Gaelic Donn, a byname for a person with dark hair or a swarthy complexion, from the Gaelic "donn" meaning "dark" or "brown", or a locational name from Dun in the former county of Angus, deriving from the Gaelic "dun" "fort". The surname dates back to the late 12th Century (see below). Variations in the idiom of the spelling include: Down, Downe, Downes and Downs. The christening was recorded in London of John Downe on August 14th 1540, at St. Mary at Hill. An early settler in the New World Colonies was Robert Downe, aged 35 yrs., who sailed from London aboard the "John", bound for St. Christophers, in October 1635. A Coat of Arms granted to a family of the name is a blue shield with three gold bulls' heads couped, ducally crowned silver, the Crest being a red sea-lion erect guttee d'or. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Thomas de la Duna, Sussex, which was dated circa 1170, in the "Studies on Middle English Local Surnames", during the reign of King Henry 111, known as "The Frenchman", 1116 - 1172. 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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