Recorded in the spellings of Preist, Prestt, Prest, Press, Prust, and the popular Priest, this is a surname of English medieval origins. Deriving from the pre 7th century word "preost", there are several possible sources. Firstly the name may have been occupational, and as such used to denote someone in the service to a priest. Secondly it may have been a nickname for a person who was considered to have priestly manners and attitudes, thirdly and most likely it was a nickname for an actor who played the part of a priest in the famous travelling theatres of the Middle Ages. What the name did not describe was a priest, as under Ecclesiastical Law members of the clergy were debarred from marrying, and as such they could not provide hereditary descendants. However it is also possible that the name could on occasion have been given to someone who was suspected of being the son of a Priest! The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Rodbert Prest. This was dated 1176, in the Pipe Rolls of the county of Lincolnshire, during the reign of King Henry IInd of England, 1154 - 1189. Surnames became necessary when governments introduced personal taxation. In England this was sometimes 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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