Recorded in a wide range of spellings, including Holman, Holtman, Holloman, Holyman, and the dialectals Olman and Oloman, this is an English surname. It has at least four known origins, and there may well be others. The first was a nickname either for a priest, or much more likely for somebody who had "priestly" manners or appearance, possibly an actor, one who played the part of a holyman in the famous travelling theatres of the Middle Ages. The second and third possible origins are habitational or topographical and describe either a person who lived in or by a hollow, or who lived at a "holm", an island of dry ground usually in a fen or marsh. Both are from Old English pre 7th century words 'hoh' meaning hollow plus 'man' which can simply mean a male person, but is more likely to imply a person who worked at such a place, or 'holm', an island. 'Holm' could also mean a holly tree, from the Old English word 'holegn'. Early examples of the surname recording include William Holyman of Lincoln in 1276, and much later Elizabeth Olman, christened at St Dunstans in the East, Stepney, on December 1st 1706. The first recorded spelling of the family name in any form is believed to be that of John Holman. This was dated 1273, in the Hundred Rolls of Kent, during the reign of King Edward 1st of England, 1272-1307. Throughout the centuries, surnames in every country have continued to "develop" often leading to astonishing variants of the original spelling.
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