Recorded in many forms including Praiser, Prazer, Prazor, Prester, Presser, Priest, Preist, Prest, Prost, and Priestman, this ancient English surname, one of the first ever recorded, has a number of possible origins. It derives from the Olde English word 'preost' or the later French 'prestre' and describes a priest. However as after the 11th century priests were forbidden to marry, the surname presumably could not belong to a member of the church. The most likely option is that it was an occupational, and may have described a person in the service of a priest. This is certainly the case with Priestman. Alternatively it may be a nickname for an actor, one who habitually played the part of a priest in the famous travelling theatres of the medieval period. A priest was not originally a holy order, it described a counsellor or village elder, and later in a transferred sense it developed its religious sense. Early examples of the surname recording include: Asci Preost, in the Domesday Book of Norfolk for the year 1086, Henry le Prestre of Staffordshire in 1148 and Baldwin Prest, in the Pipe Rolls of Lincolnshire in 1176. Robert Prestman in the Hundred Rolls for the county of Yorkshire in the year 1275, Edward Presser at Allhallows, London Wall, on November 11th 1683, and James Prazor at St Lukes Finsbury, city of London, on January 16th 1743. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Aelfsige Preost. This was dated 963, in the English Bynames list for the county of Hertfordshire, during the reign of King Edgar, "King of the Saxons", 959 - 975. Throughout the centuries, surnames in every country have continued to "develop" often leading to astonishing variants of the original spelling.
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