This long-establishes surname is of early medieval English origin, and belongs to that sizeable group of early European surnames that were gradually created from the habitual use of nicknames. These nicknames were originally given with reference to a variety of personal characteristics, such as physical attributes or peculiarities, and to mental and moral characteristics. In northern English counties, and in Scotland, the derivation is from the Northern Middle English "sleght, slyght", smooth, slender, slim, ultimately from the Old Norse, and in the Midlands and Southern English counties, the name derives from the Middle English "slegh, sleghth", craft, cunning, dexterity, adopted from the Old Norse "slaegr, slaegth", clever, skilful. One Thomas Sleh, Slei or Slegh, witness, was noted in the Assize Court Rolls of Lincolnshire, dated 1219, and John called Sleth was burgess of Aberdeen in 1271. John Sleigh appears as a guild brother in Aberdeen circa 1438, and Ric' Sleyght de Culeyq was present at the perambulation of the marches between Brokhole and Butterden in 1431. In the modern idiom the surname is variously spelt: Slee, Sly, Sleigh, Sleith, Sleath, Sligh and Slight. Recordings of the last mentioned from English Church Registers include: the marriage of Benet Slight to Elsabeth Waker at All Saints and St. John, Hertford, Hertfordshire, on February 24th 1594, and the christening of Martha, daughter of Soloman Slight, at St. Martin in the Fields, Westminster, London, on May 11th 1679. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Walter Sleh, which was dated 1219, in the "Feet of Fines of Essex", during the reign of King Henry 111, known as "The Frenchman", 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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