This ancient surname belongs to that sizeable group of early European surnames gradually created from the habitual use of nicknames. These nicknames were originally given with reference to a variety of personal characteristics, such as physical attributes or peculiarities, mental and moral characteristics, and 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 pre 7th Century "preost", from the Latin "presbyter", Greek "presbyteros", elder, counsellor), used to denote a non-cleric thought to resemble a priest, or perhaps one who behaved in a pious manner.Occasionally, the surname may have been occupational for 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 first recorded prior to Domesday (see below). One Asci Preost was noted in the Domesday Book of 1086 for Norfolk, and a Baldwin Prest appears in the 1176 Pipe Rolls of Lincolnshire. In the modern idiom the name is variously spelt: Priest, Preist, Prest, Prestt, Press and Prust. In 1580, one Simon Presse, of Staffordshire, was entered in the Oxford University Registers, and on December 7th 1815, William Press and Mary Brooker were married at Framfield, Sussex. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Aelfsige Preost, which was dated 963, in the "Old English Byname Register", Hertfordshire, during the reign of Edgar the Saxon, Ruler 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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