Recorded in many forms including Gate, Jate, Yate, Gait, and the patronymics Gates, Jates, Yates and Gaits, this is an English surname. It is topographical from residence by the gates of a medieval town, deriving from the Olde English pre 7th century "gatu", plural of "geat", meaning gate. Since medieval gates were usually arranged in pairs, fastened in the centre, the Olde English plural came to function as a singular, and a new plural ending "-s" was added to the Middle English gate", giving "gates". Topographical 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 specifically locational from the village of Eastergate in West Sussex, recorded as "Gate" in the Domesday Book, and as "Gates" in the 13th century, when many surnames evolved. Early examples of the surname include: Ralph de Gates of Oxfordshire; Richard Overthegate of Derbyshire in 1327; and Custancia del Gates of Yorkshire, in 1379. Sir Thomas Gates, who sailed for Virginia as lieutenant-general of the Colonisation Company in 1609, and became governor of Virginia in 1611. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Ailricus de la Gata, which was dated 1169, in the "Pipe Rolls of Devonshire", during the reign of King Henry 11nd of England, 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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