Recorded as Reuter, Root, Roote, Rote, Roth, Rothe, Rother, Rothert, Roiter, Roter, Rotter, Rotheman, Rothman, Rothmann, Rottmann, Roitman, Reitman, Rutter, and others, this is a surname of Dutch, English, French, German or Jewish origins, from which were created at least seven possibilities as to the original meaning! The first is from the pre 7th century word "rot" meaning red, and hence probably an ethnic name for an Anglo-Saxon, people who were often red haired. The second is topographical and like the surname Rhode, Rhodes or Rodes, a development of the early word "rod" meaning a wood, and hence a dweller at such a place. The third is from the Germanic word "hrod" meaning renown, and often used as a prefix of other personal names (and later) surnames such as Hrodger (Rodger or Roger) and Hrobert (Robert). The fourth is occupational and as Rote, Roter and Rotter, described a musician, one who played a rote, an early stringed instrument. The fifth is again is topographical and also occupational for a person who lived by or worked at a rot or root. This was a place where in ancient times flax was taken to be rotted down to release the linen fibres. The sixth is locational from living by the River Rother in Yorkshire, whilst the seventh is perhaps the most interesting. It was in a broad sense occupational, deriving from the ancient French word "routier." As such it described a man of the road, in medieval times a bandit or robber, but later and more romantically known as a highway man! It is unclear when the surname was first recorded, but as Rote it appears in Germany in 1138, whilst in England John Rotheman appears in the tax rolls of the county of Essex in 1327, and Adam Roth in records of the city of Colchester, also in Essex, in 1346.
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