This interesting Scottish surname has two possible origins. The first being a locational name from a place thus called in the parish of Detting, Shetland, so named from the Old Norse "flotr" meaning "a piece of arable land". The second distinct possibility (and that favoured by J.S. Clouston in his work, "the Peoples and Surnames of Orkney"), is that the name derives from the Old Norse byname Fljotr meaning "Speedy" and originally given as a nickname to one subject of foot. The surname is first recorded in Scotland in the early 15th Century (see below). One, Mawnus Flet appears on record in Kirkwall in 1480 and a George Flett "retoured heir of Robert Flett' is recorded there in 1665. An interesting namebearer was Sir John S. Flett, director of the Geological Survey. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Kolbein Flaet, which was dated 1427 "Oppressions of the 16th Century in the islands of Orkney and Zetland" by David Balfour, during the reign of King James 1 of Scotland, 1406-1437. 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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