This ancient and interesting surname with the various spellings of May, Le May, Maye, Mayes, Mays, Mayze, Mayzes, Mey, Meys, Lemay and no doubt others as well, is of early medieval English origins, but probably from a Norman French introduction. It derives from a term of endearment or greeting (mai) given to a young person, or somebody of close friend or kinship. Similar expressions in the twentieth century are 'lad(die)' or 'man' or even 'guy' which is now applied to both males and females. The surname it is claimed can also be a hypocoristic or shortened form of "Matthew", and when with a plural ending implies a patronymic 'Son of May'. Matthew itself derives from a Middle English given name "Matthew", of biblical origin, from the Hebrew male given name "Matityahu", gift of God, recorded in the Greek New Testament in the form "Matthaias". Lastly there is no doubt that some children were christened 'May' and that like most othger baptismal names, it eventually became a surname. However as the baptismal name was, as far as it sknown, only given to female babies, surnames from this source are rare. The surname first appears in the mid 12th Century (see below)and early examples include William le Mai in the Pipe Rolls of Norfolk in 1177, Thomas le Mey and Goscelin Mey, in the Book of Ely Abbey, Suffolk in 1221, and John Meys, in the Hundred Rolls of Gloucestershire in 1275. Other examples are those of Stephen Mayes, in the Warwickshire Subsidy Rolls in 1332, and Ann Mays, the daughter of Thomas Mays, who was christened in 1596, at the church of St. Mary the Virgin, Aldermanbury, in London. Probably the earliest coat of arms was that granted in Sussex in circa 1422. This has the blazon of a red field charged with a fess between eight gold billets, and the crest of a leopards head. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of William Mai, which was dated 1167, in the "Pipe Rolls of Norfolk", 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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