This ancient surname is of early medieval English origin, and belongs to that sizeable group of European surnames that were gradually created from the habitual use of nicknames. These nicknames were given with reference to a variety of personal characteristics, such as physical attributes or peculiarities, mental and moral characteristics, or to habits of dress and behaviour. The derivation, in this instance, is from the Middle English "pr(i)est", minister of the Church (Olde English "preost", from the Latin "presbyter", Greek "presbyteros", elder, counsellor), used to denote someone thought to bear a fancied resemblance to a priest, or to have priest-like mannerisms. Occasionally, it may have been given as a occupational name to someone in the service of a priest, or used to denote someone suspected of being the son of a priest. This surname has the rare distinction of being recorded prior to Domesday (see below). In 1086, one Asci Preost was noted in the Domesday Book for Norfolk, and in 1176, Baldwin Prest was recorded in the Pipe Rolls of Lincolnshire. In the modern idiom the name is variously spelt: Priest, Preist, Prest, Prestt, Press and Prust. On August 21st 1551, Margaret Preist, an infant, was christened at St. Peter Cornhill, London, and in 1685, one Thomas Preist, aged 20 yrs., sergeweaver, and a Monmouth rebel, was transported to the Barbados, on the ship "Jamaica Merchant". A Coat of Arms granted to the family is a black shield with three red estoils on a silver chief, the Crest being a black martlet. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Aelfsieg Preost, which was dated 963, in the "Old English Byname Register", during the reign of Edgar the Saxon, King of England, 959 - 975. 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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