Recorded in many forms including Spat, Spath, Spaeth, Spaett, Spatt, Spaten, Spatic, Spatig, Spaten, Spait, Spatu, and no doubt others, this can best be described as being a North European surname of pre 7th century Germanic origins. It apparently originates from the ancient word 'spat' meaning a sparrow. In medieval times this was was often used as a nickname for a person whom his peer group regarded as having the characteristics of the small bird. This may well have been small with thin legs, but given the robust humour of those times, a reverse meaning is quite possible! It is estimated that at least 15% of all European surnames have a nickname background, and some researchers suggest the figure is much higher.In the small communities of the Middle Ages it was easy to identify a person by their physical characteristics, and the sparrow seems to have been a popular choice. However it is not easy to say precisely what the name means without having been there at the time when the name was bestowed, and it may well have had different meanings in different parts of Europe. It may also have been a residential name, and to have described a person who lived at a house with the sign of the sparrow. Such signs being used as house and sometimes business identification, before street numbers or names were adopted in Victorian times. Today only inns display pictorial signs of identity, and not always then. An early example of the surname recording from the German records is that of Appollonia Spat who married Marx Betz at Neckarkreis, in Wuerttemburb, on October 29th 1599.
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