Recorded in several spellings of which the most usual in the modern idiom are Gerlach, Gerlack and Gerlich, this is German surname of ancient origins. However spelt it was originally a personal name, created by the fusing of two pre 7th century words 'gar' meaning a spear or lance, and 'laeche,' a contest or tournament. Quite why somebody should be known as 'spear contest' is unknown, but it may have been a way of distinguishing a prominent soldier renowned for his prowess with the spear, or perhaps a spear champion, a winner of tournaments. In the early days before surnames which in both Germany and England commenced from about the sametime in the 13th century a.d., the only easy way to identify a person was by some sort of nickname, of which this is a good example. The earliest know public recording of the surname and taken from surviving German records, is believed to be that of Greta Gherlighs of Barth in Pommerania in 1410. However as a personal name of son and father, we have the recording of Gerlach filius Gerlaci, in the rolls of Otigheim in the year 1294.
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