Recorded in several spellings including Petit, Pettit, Pettie and Petti, which can be Italian, this most interesting surname is of Old French origin. It was originally a nickname given to a small person or to the younger of two bearers of the same given name. it derives from the pre 7th century Old French word "petit", meaning small. The creation of surnames from nicknames was a common practice in the Middle Ages, and many modern-day surnames, derive from medieval nicknames referring to endearing personal characteristics, as in this instance "the small one", or sometimes the absolute opposite! The surname itself is first recorded in Hampshire, in the Domesday Book of 1086 (see below), and was probably introduced into England in the aftermath of the Norman Conquest of 1066. The Feet of Fines of Essex mention one John Petit in 1228. Agnes Pettyt married Alexander Pyper on September 20th 1566 at St. James', Clerkenwell, London, while at St. Giles', Cripplegate, London, Alice Pettit married William Wells on November 1st 1608. Lewis Des Etans Petit (1665 - 1720), a brigadier general and military engineer, distinguished himself in the war of the Spanish succession (1700 - 1713). The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Aluric Petit, which was dated 1086, in the Domesday Book of Hampshire, during the reign of King William 1, known as "William the Conqueror", 1066 - 1087. Throughout the centuries, surnames in every country have continued to "develop," often leading to astonishing variants of the original spelling.
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