Recorded in a number of forms including Play, Pley, Ple, Ply and the genitives Player and Pleyer, this unusual surname is of pre 7th century Olde English origins, or which it has two. Firstly, it is possible that it is an occupational surname for an actor or a musician, deriving from the Olde English pre 7th Century "pleg", meaning to play. However, a second and more probable explanation is that it is a nickname surname for a successful competitor who took part in contests of athletic or sporting prowess on the 'plai-stow'.Job-descriptive surnames originally denoted the actual occupation of the namebearer, and later became hereditary, whereas nicknames were given in the first instance with reference to occupation, or to a variety of characteristics, such as physical attributes or peculiarities, or even supposed resemblance to an animal's or bird's appearance or disposition. Early examples of the surname recording taken from surviving church registers in the diocese of Greater London include John Play at St Botolphs Bishopgate on May 2nd 1549, and Margarett Ply who married Robert Barwell at St Giles Cripplegate on November 26th 1587. Two notable namebearers listed in the "Dictionary of National Biography", were Thomas Player (1608 - 1672), and Thomas Player (junior) who died 1686. Both were knighted, and both were elected chamberlain of the city of London, the younger succeeding the elder. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of John le Pleyer. This was dated 1296, in the pipe rolls of the county of Hertfordshire, during the reign of King Edward 1st of England, 1272 - 1307. Throughout the centuries, surnames in every country have continued to "develop" often leading to astonishing variants of the original spelling.
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