This interesting surname has two origins; firstly, it may be of Old Norse origin, from a topographical name for someone who lived in a shallow valley, deriving from the Northern Middle English "slack", a development of the Old Norse "slakki", or it may be a locational name from one of the places named with this term, for example near Stainland and near Hebden Bridge in the West Riding of Yorkshire. Secondly, it may be of Anglo-Saxon origin, from a nickname for an idle or indolent person, deriving from the Middle English "slack", a development of the Olde English pre 7th Century "slaec", meaning lazy, careless.Topographical surnames were among the earliest created, since both natural and man-made features in the landscape provided easily recognisable distinguishing names in the small communities of the Middle Ages. The surname dates back to the late 12th Century (see below), and other early recordings include: Nicholas del Slac (1275) Yorkshire, and Thomas Slak (1359) in the Calendar of Letter Books of the City of London. Recordings from London Church Registers include: the christening of William Slack on October 30th 1550, at St. Mary the Virgin, Aldermanbury, and the christening of William, son of Thomas Slacke, on April 18th 1576, at St. George by St. Paul. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Gerebod le Slac, which was dated 1195, in the "Pipe Rolls of Lincolnshire", during the reign of King Richard 1, known as "The Lionheart", 1189 - 1199. 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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