Recorded in several spellings as shown below, this is an English medieval surname. It is locational from a parish called Privett, near the town of Petersfield, in the county of Hampshire. This place was first recorded as "Pryfetes flodan" in the famous Anglo-Saxon Chronicle of the year 775a.d. making it one of the first of all known recordings anywhere in the world. The derivation is from the ancient word "pryfet" meaning privet copse, a privet copse being a dense growth of shrub with oval dark green leaves. This element also occurs in other place names including Privett Farm in Standlynch, Wiltshire, which may also be a partial source of the surname. Locational surnames were developed when former inhabitants of a place moved to another area, usually to seek work, and were best identified by the name of their birthplace. Recordings from surviving church registers include the marriage of Jhon Privett to Sara Grey at St. Mary's, Wilton by Salisbury, Wiltshire, on November 1st 1636, and the christening of Anne, the daughter of Robert Prevett, at Great Barrington, Gloucestershire, on November 18th 1673. In the modern idiom the surname has a number of spellings including Private, Privat, Privit, Privett, Prevot and Prevett. The first recorded spelling of the family name is possibly that of Robert Privet. Thois was dated April 18th 1574, when he was a christening witness at Brighton, Sussex, during the reign of Queen Elizabeth 1st, known as "Good Queen Bess", 1558 - 1603. 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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