Recorded in the spellings of Scarce and occasionally Scarse, this is an English surname. It probably owes something to the pre 8th century Norse-Viking word 'scarfs', meaning a vicious sea bird, and specifically a cormorant! Quite why anybody should be named after a cormorant is unclear, but it is true that the Vikings, as brave and agressive seafarers, would certainly have recognized and rewarded similar traits in others. Our view is that the name was a nickname of honour, given to a renowned sailor,and that it was complimentary. The medieval period was time before surnames when nicknames were all the rage. It was also a time of robust humour, as can be shown by a brief study of the works of Geoffrey Chaucer. Another possible origin for the name is that it is locational and if so possibly from a small group of islands in the Solway Firth known as 'The Scares'. However we have no evidence in any record of these islands producinga surname, but it is possible. The last possibility is that the surname originated from a now 'lost' medieval village. Some five thousand British surnames do have this source, so whilst unusual it is by no means unique. Examples of the surname recordings taken from surviving church registers of the diocese of Greater London include: Mary Scarce at St Johns Clerkenwell, on August 4th 1622, and Henry Willam Scarce, the son of John and Matilda Scarce, christened at St Thomas's Finsbury, on June 7th 1863.
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