Recorded in several spellings including Hollies, Hollis, Holley, Holly, Hollins, Holling, Hollings, Hollen, Hollens and possibly others, this is a pre 7th century Northern English, occasionally Scottish, and probably with a Norse-Viking association. It is both locational from any of the places called Hollin, Hollins, or Holly, or it can be topographical, and describe a person who lived by a holegn, a 'hollow eye', - a group of holly trees - in a hollow. The Old Norse word 'holmr' meaning an inland island, one on a lake or river, is closely related, and certainly responsible for some of the modern spellings. There are about 40 places in the British Isles with the prefix Hollin(s)- and over sixty prefixed Holly-, eleven of them being Hollywoods. Locational surnames were amongst the earliest created, being either the name of the owner of the local estate, village or in some cases town, or more usually from the 15th century onwards, the result of a person leaving his or sometimes her, original home, and being named after it, as an easy form of identification. Spelling being at best erratic, and local dialects very thick, lead to the development of 'sounds like' forms. Even high flyers found difficulty with their name spelling, Sir William Holleys or Holles, was lord mayor of London in 1539, during the reign of King Henry V111th (1510 -1547). Some of the earliest recordings include John (de) Holley in the Subsidy Tax Rolls of the county of Cumberland in 1332, and Alicia de Holyns in the poll tax rolls of the county of Yorkshire in 1379.
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