Recorded in various spellings including Proffet, Profit, Proffitt, and Prophet, this is a 13th century English surname, but one of pre medieval French origins. It was presumably one introduced after the Norman Conquest and Invasion of England in 1066. It has two known possible sources. The first is that it is a metonymic or occupational name for a soothsayer or even a village elder. The derivation being from the pre 7th century Old French word "prophete", meaning one who supposedly speaks with divine knowledge, or one who can predict the future.Secondly it can be a nickname for an actor, one who played the role of a prophet in the famous travelling miracle plays and pageants, so popular in medieval times. An early recording of the surname taken from the ancient charters of England is that of Gunnora Prophete in the Subsidy Tax Rolls of the county of Essex in the year 1327. An example from the many recordings of the surname in the surviving church registers of the diocese of Greater London from medieval times, is that of the christening of Elizabeth Proffitt on October 12th 1617 at St. James's, Clerkenwell. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of William le Profete. This was dated 1220, in the "Curia regis" rolls of the county of Berkshire, during the reign of King Henry 111rd of England, 1216-1272. Surnames became necessary when governments introduced personal taxation. In England this was 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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