This interesting surname is of early medieval English origin, and is an example of the 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 a variety of features, such as physical attributes or peculiarities, mental and moral characteristics, including supposed resemblance to an animal's or bird's appearance or disposition, or to habits of dress. In this instance the surname has two possible sources, it may derive from the Middle English "grice, gris", grey (from the Old French "gris", grey), and would have been a nickname for a grey-haired person or for someone who wore grey clothes. Secondly, the surname may have been given to someone who beared a fancied resemblance to a pig or as a metonymic occupational name to a swineherd, from the Middle English "grice, grise", pig. Robert le Gris is noted in the 1198 Feet of Fines of Norfolk; Leticia Grise is listed in the 1317 Assize Rolls of Kent; and Richard Grice is noted as a Freeman of York in 1413. In the modern idiom the surname can be found as Grice, Grise, Griss, Le Grice and Le Grys. A Coat of Arms granted to the family depicts a red chevron between three boars heads erased at the neck proper, on a gold shield, the Crest being a blackamoors head couped black, earrings gold, and ducally gorged gold, between two gold wings. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Richard Gris, which was dated 1176, in the "Pipe Rolls of Northumberland", during the reign of King Henry 11, known as "The Builder of Churches", 1154 - 1189. Surnames became necessary when governments introduced personal taxation. In England this was known as Poll Tax. Throughout the centuries, surnames in every country have continued to "develop" often leading to astonishing variants of the original spelling.
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