In researching this (by any standards) unusual name, there is a definite feeling of reaching into the unknown. The origin is generally considered to be from the French "Malle Enfant" as shown below in the first recording, and as this recording appears in the Pipe Rolls and is not apparently baptismal, it would seen to be a nickname- "The naughty child". Quite why anybody should accept such a sobriquet is a mystery, as is the fact that the name was relatively widely recorded, particularly in Wales.This suggests that the origination may have been theatrical for one who played the part of a "Malle Enfant" in the travelling theatres, during the three hundred years from 1066, when French was the "official" language of England. However, the "Welsh" connection may have a part to play, "Mal" in medieval Welsh meant a mill, a place of grinding, and this plus the Norse personal name "Oleifr", which by 1317 had transposed to "Olofaunt", may explain the Welsh recordings as "The Mill of Oleifr", a topographical name. The early recordings include William Malefant in the London Patent Rolls of 1448, in the reign of Henry V1 (1422 - 1461); whilst on December 22nd 1781, Charles Maliphant married Mary Williams, at Llamsamlet, Glamorgan. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Geoffrey Malenfant, which was dated 1205, in the "Pipe Rolls of Suffolk" during the reign of King John, known as "Lackland", 1199 - 1216. 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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