This famous Cornish surname, found also as Oppy, Oppie and Opy, is of Norse-Viking pre 10th Century origins. It derives principally from the personal name "Asbjorn", which itself is comprised of the elements "As" meaning God, and "bjorn", the bear. Curiously the English surname Godbear or Godber does not derive from this source, but from "Good beer", a reference to a keeper of a fine inn. The "link" between Asbjorn and Opie is through a developing system of dialectal nicknames, for instance, Asbjorn to Asbie to Obby to Oppy or Opie . In effect these are all diminutive forms translating as Little Asbjorn or son of Asbjorn, although by medieval times the original meaning was totally lost. A Coat of Arms was granted to Opie of Pawton in St. Breock, circa 1600, whilst John Opie, known as "the Cornish Wonder" (1761 - 1807), was a court painter to King George 111. His second wife Amelia (1769 - 1853) was equally famous as an author. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Harrie Opie, which was dated January 27th 1546, marriage to Alice Oppy, at St. Columb Major, Cornwall, during the reign of King Henry V111, known as "Bluff King Hal", 1509 - 1547. 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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