Recorded as Orpen and Orpin, this is an English medieval surname. It is said that the name has French origins in the sense that it is derived from the French word "orpin", a term for a succulent herbaceous plant used in ancient times for medicinal puposes. It is probable that if this was the case then the first known nameholder one Elyas Orpyn of Northumberland, in the year 1298, was a herbalist or at least a practioner in early medicine. Many early surnames developed from the traditional uses of herbs and spices, although over the centuries the numbers have greatly declined leading in some cases to extinction. Whilst never a popular surname in the sense of Smith and Jones, this one has however survived in some numbers. It is recorded in the earliest directories, and it may be that as the plant itself was known for its long life, the surname may in some cases have been a nickname for a long living person or even a family with such traits. Early examples of recordings include Elizabeth Orpen in the Hearth Tax Returns of the city of Oxford in 1665, and Charles Orpin, who was married to Sarah Watson at St George's Chapel. Hanover Square, Westminster, in 1806.
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