Recorded in several forms including Praetor, Praetorius, Pratorius, Pretorius, (German), and in English Preater, Preter and Pretor, this is a surname of Germanic origins although the ultimate origin is the Roman (Latin) word "praetor". This literally meant leader, but was used in Imperial Rome to describe officials who lead processions, as well as the Praetorian Guard who provided the security for the Senate and the Royal Family. Although apparently first recorded in England several centuries before Germany, which is probably because of lost medieval records, it is rare in England, although now found in some numbers in Austria, Switzerland and South Africa, and more recently the USA. It is interesting that in defeating the Roman Empire in the 5th century a.d., the victorius Gauls and Vizigoths from what is now Germany, could not wait to absorb the various status and social behaviour of the defeated Romans. Early examples of surname recordings taken from surviving medieval charters and registers include Willemus Pretor in the Danelaw rolls of England in the year 1150, Robertus Preter in the Curia Regis rolls of Gloucestershire in 1208, and in Germany Wolfgang Pratorius of Thamm in 1580.
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