Recorded in a wide range of spellings including Spearett, Speariett, Spirett, Spirit, Spiritt, Spirritt, Spurett, and others, this medieval surname is English, but with some French input. It is a diminutive and derives from the pre 7th century Olde English words 'Spir or Spur', meaning a spike, but as a surname it was used in a transferred sense as a nickname for a tall person. To this was 'fused' a short form of the Norman-French word 'petit' meaning small, to imply 'Little Spir' or more likely 'son of Spir'. Throughout Europe surnames from nicknames are one of the largest groupings within the surname list. Indeed some researchers believe that essentially all surnames were originally a form of nickname. In England the name appears to have been first recorded as Spirard as shown below, and in this or similar spellings such as Spirold or even Spirhead, it was widely recorded until about the time of King Henry V111 (1510 - 1547). Why the spelling should then have changed is far from clear. The surname was originally confined to the counties of Norfolk, Suffolk and Yorkshire, with Robert Sperret being recorded in Norfolk in 1447. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Osbert Spirard. This was dated 1206, in the Pipe Rolls of the county of Norfolk, during the reign of King John, 1199 - 1216. Surnames became necessary when governments introduced personal taxation. In England this was sometimes 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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