Recorded in many forms including Sleath, Sleth, Sleigh, Sleygh, Slegg, Slegh, and Sleh, this is an Anglo-Scottish surname, but one of pre 7th century Norse-Viking origins. As such it was originally a nickname for a dealer or merchant, deriving from the word "slegh" meaning crafty or cunning. Nickname surnames form probably the largest grouping within the surname categories, indeed some researchers have long suggested that all surnames are a sort of nickname. In this case early examples of the recordings from both England and Scotland include: Thomas Sleh of Lincolnshire, in the year 1219; Robert Sley of Warwickshire in 1221; John Sleth, named as being a burgess or freeman of the city of Aberdeen, Scotland, in 1271; and Andrew Slegh, given as being the naster of the ship 'Le Andrewe of Scotland', in 1451. Later examples taken from the surviving church registers of England include those of Elizabeth Slegg who married Jonathon Lane in London (the church is not recorded), on May 22nd 1579, and John Sleath and Anne Rowe who were married at Northwich, Cheshire, on May 5th 1770. A coat of arms associated with the surname has the blazon of a gold field, charged with three red escallops in chief. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Walter Sleh. This was dated 1219, in the rolls known as the "Feet of Fines of Essex", during the reign of King Henry 111rd of England, 1216 - 1272. Throughout the centuries, surnames in every country have continued to "develop" often leading to astonishing variants of the original spelling.
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