Recorded in several spellings including Spray, Spraye, Sprey, and Spry, this is an English medieval surname. There are believed to be two possible sources or origins. The first and almost certainly for most nameholders the origination, is that it was a nickname, and subsequently a surname, for a very thin person. If so the derivation is from the ancient pre 7th century word 'spraeg', meaning a slender branch (of a tree) or possibly the branch over a river, and used in the transferred sense to describe somebody who was of slender build.However a second possible option, which also has a similar meaning, is locational, and a derivation or short form of the village name of Spreyton in the county of Devon. This place is first recorded in the famous Domesday Book of 1086 as 'Spreitone', and later in the tax registers known as the Fees in the year 1242 as 'Spreiton'. The derivation again is from the word 'spraeg', in this case meaning brushwood or twigs, with 'tun', a settlement, thus 'an enclosure in brushwood'. The following examples illustrate the name development over the centuries with Geoffray Espray appearing in the Curia Regis rolls of Lincolnshire in 1205, John Spraye in the tax Subsidy Rolls, for the city of London in 1319, and the christening of Gilbert Spry on October 27th 1664, at Alphington, in Devon. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of William de Spray. This was dated 1180, in the Pipe Rolls of Devon, during the reign of King Henry 11nd of England, 1154-1189. Throughout the centuries, surnames in every country have continued to "develop" often leading to astonishing variants of the original spelling.
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