This early and very interesting surname, popular throughout Europe, is of Ancient Greek, pre Christian, origins. It derives from the word "episkopos", translating as the overseer, from the elements "epi", meaning on or over, plus "skopein", to look. The early Christians adopted the word for the headman of their local communities, and from the 4th century a.d. it was applied to a religious leader. Derivatives of "episkopos" include for example "obispo", in Spanish, and "bischof" in German, and "yepiskop" in Russian..However spelt, and there are over one hundred forms ranging from Bisp, Evesque and Vesque, to Vesco, Bischop, Yepiskopov, and Piscotti, the surname did not refer to a bishop as such. It was either occupational, and described somebody who served in the household of a bishop, or it was a nickname for a person who played the part of a bishop in the travelling theatres of the medieval period. In England there was the strange custom of electing a "boy bishop" on St. Nicholas's Day, the 6th of December, and some nameholders may well derive from that source. The earliest of all surnames and hence their recordings are in England and Germany. These date from the 12th century and examples include Thurstan le Byssop, of the county of Essex in the year 1240, and Berchtoldus Episcopus of Oberweiler, Germany, in 1296, and Haintz der Pischoffer of Tiefenbach, Germany, in 1396. The first recorded spelling of the surname anywhere in the world is believed to be that of Lefwinus Bissop, which was dated 1166, in the Pipe Rolls of the city of Nottingham, England. This was during the reign of King Henry 11, known as "The Builder of Churches", 1154 - 1189.
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