This very unusual and interesting surname is of Anglo-Saxon origin, and has two possible sources. Firstly, it may be derived from a metonymic occupational name for an otter hunter, or from a nickname for someone supposedly resembling an otter, from the Middle English (1200 - 1500) "oter", from the Olde English pre 7th Century "otor", an otter. Job descriptive surnames originally denoted the actual occupation of the namebearer, and later became hereditary. Secondly, the surname may be derived from the late Olde English personal name "Ohthere", which was borrowed from the Old Norse "Ottar", which is itself composed of the elements "otti", fear, dread, and "herr", army. The personal name was first recorded as "Otre" in the Domesday Book of 1086, and the surname was first recorded in the late 12th Century (see below). Recordings from London Church Registers include the marriages of John Otter and Katherin Hunt on March 12th 1631, at Katherine by the Tower, and of Leonard Otter and Elizabeth Thompson on October 15th 1640, at St. Mary Somerset. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Roger Oter, which was dated 1185, in the "Pipe Rolls of Cambridgeshire", 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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