This interesting surname is of early medieval English origin, and is from a nickname for a cunning or crafty individual, derived from the Midland and Southern Middle English (1200 - 1500) "sligh", sly, earlier "slegh", from the Old Norse "slaefr". This is an example of that sizeable group of early European surnames that were gradually created from the habitual use of nicknames. The nicknames were given in the first instance with reference to a variety of characteristics, such as physical attributes or peculiarities, mental and moral characteristics, supposed resemblance to an animal's or bird's appearance or disposition, habits of dress, and occupation. The modern surname can be found as Sly, Sligh, Slyman, Sliman, Slimmon, Slimming, Slee(man) and Slemming, and is mainly found in the West Midlands. Among the recordings in Worcestershire are the christening of Thomas, son of Thomas Sly, on September 17th 1600 at Eastham, and the marriage of John Sly and Mary Brockhurst, on April 26th 1683 at Yardley. The marriage was recorded in Staffordshire of Hames Sly and Sarah Griffin on June 13th 1774 at St. Matthew's, Walsall. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Ralph Sly, which was dated 1273, in the "Hundred Roll of Huntingdonshire", during the reign of King Edward 1st, known as "The Hammer of the Scots", 1272 - 1307. 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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