Recorded as Le Compte, Compte, Le Conte, Leconte, Conte, Le Count, Count, and others, this interesting surname is of ancient French origins. It is or was, in most instances a medieval nickname of occupation for an actor, one who played the part of a count or nobleman in the famous travelling theatres of those times, or it may possibly in the first instance have referred to an actual count, as in the first known recording below, or again more likely it was satirical, and given to someone thought to behave in an aristocratic fashion! The derivation is from the pre 7th century Old French word "conte", from the Latin word "comes" meaning comrade. It is an example of that sizeable group of early European surnames that were gradually created from the habitual use of nicknames. The nicknames were given in the first instance with reference to occupation, or to a variety of physical, mental, and moral characteristics. Examples of recordings taken from surviving early church registers include Andrieu, son of Michiel Le Conte, christened on February 25th 1617, at Conde-Sur-L'escaut, departement of Nord, France, and in the city of London the marriage of Andrew Le Conte and Mary Cassy on December 23rd 1694, at St. James church, Duke's Place, Westminster, and the christening of Anne Le Count, the daughter of Lovis Le Count, at St Dunstans in the East, Stepney, on April 24th 1687. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Ralph le Conte. This was dated 1196, in the Pipe Rolls of Durham, during the reign of King Richard 1st of England, known as "The Lionheart", 1189 - 1199. Throughout the centuries, surnames in every country have continued to "develop" often leading to astonishing variants of the original spelling.
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