Recorded in many spellings including Eat, Gait, Gaite, Gate, Gater, Gaiter, Gates, Jett, and Yate, this is an English surname of truly ancient origins. It can be either locational or topographical the latter implying residence either by the gate of a medieval town, or curiously from living by a main road. The derivation is either from the Olde English pre 7th century word "geat" meaning a gate, or particularly in those areas of England controlled by the Vikings, the similar word of "gatu" meaning a street. Hence in the city of York streets are called 'gates,' and gates are known as 'bars'. Medieval gates were often arranged in pairs, fastened in the centre, and hence the development of the surname Gates, being the plural. Residential surnames were among the earliest created, since both natural and man-made features in the landscape provided easily recognizable distinguishing names in the small communities of the Middle Ages. In some cases, the name may be locational either from the town of Yate in Somerset, or from places such as Eastergate in West Sussex. This place was recorded as "Gate" in the famous Domesday Book of 1086, and later as "Gates" in the 13th century at a time when many surnames evolved. Early examples of the surname include Ralph de Gates of Oxfordshire in 1206; Gilbert atte Gaite in Cambridgeshire in 1260; and the interesting Richard Overthegate of Derby in 1327. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Ailricus de la Gata. This was dated 1169, in the Pipe Rolls of Devonshire, during the reign of King Henry 11nd, 1154 - 1189. Throughout the centuries, surnames in every country have continued to "develop" often leading to astonishing variants of the original spelling.
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