This is surely one of the most famous of all English surnames, being associated with the outlaw Robin Hood. It is however one of a quite large group of medieval surnames which include the prefix 'Little' as a means of endearment or explanation. These include the spellings as Littleboy, Littlechild, Littlefair, Littlejohn, the patronymic Littlejohns, Littlepage, and Littleproud, and all use the prefix to suggest a younger son or perhaps a daughter, who was much loved. However in the case of Littlejohn, also spelt Litteljohn and Littlejohns, and given the robust humour of those Chaucerian times, it may also have the alternative meaning of a very large man, as in the case of the famous Little John, also known as John Little, the second in command to the famous Robin Hood, and his band of outlaws in Sherwood Forest. There the reference is clearly sardonic, which seems to apply to many medieval nicknames, in effect being the opposite of what they seem to means. About fifteen percent of all surnames from the medieval period, when surnames were first created, are essentially nicknames, and these names shown above are good examples of the genre. Early recordings taken from the surviving rolls and registers of the Middle Ages include: Robert Littelboie in the Friary Rolls of Leicester in the year 1206, Ralph Litechild in the Pipe Rolls of Leicester in 1209, Agnes Lutfair of Stafford in 1381, Litel jon of Colchester in 1350, Ralph Litelpage of Durham in 1314, and Goderun Litteprot of Hampshire in the Winton Rolls of 1066.
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