Recorded as Priest, Preist, Prest, Prost, and Priestman, this ancient English surname, one of the first ever recorded, has a number of possible origins. As priests were unable to marry, the surname presumably could not belong to a member of the church, and must either be from somewhere else, or in some cases relate to a priest who had resigned holy orders. The most likely option is that it was an occupational surname for someone in the service of a priest as Priestman, or as a nickname for an actor, one who played the part of a priest in the famous travelling theatres of the medieval period. The derivation is from the Olde English pre 7th century word "preost" which originally described a counsellor or village elder, and later in a transferred sense it developed its religious sense. Job descriptive surnames only became hereditary when a son followed his father into the same occupation, whilst the creation of surnames from nicknames was a common practice in the Middle Ages. Early examples of the surname recording include: Asci Preost, in the Domesday Book of Norfolk for the year 1086, and Baldwin Prest, in the Pipe Rolls of Lincolnshire in 1176, and Robert Prestman in the Hundred Rolls for the county of Yorkshire in the year 1275. 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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