This very unusual name is of Old French and early medieval English origin, derived from the Old French "terrier", Middle English "terrere, taryer", terrier, hunting dog. As a surname, this would have been acquired either as an occupational name for someone employed to take care of his lord's hunting dogs, or as a nickname for someone thought to be terrier-like in some way, perhaps unusually tenacious and courageous. Many early English and Continental surnames were gradually created from the habitual use of nicknames, given in the first instance with reference to a person's physical attributes or peculiarities, mental and moral characteristics, or supposed resemblance to an animal's or bird's appearance or disposition, as here, in "Terrier".Recordings of the name from Church Registers include: the marriage of Mary Tarrier and Alexander Legrand at St. Dunstan's, Stepney, in London, on December 8th 1695; and the marriage of Gabriel Tarrier and Anne Paqueton at Amboise, Indre-et-Loire, France, in April 1728. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Geoffrey le Terrier, which was dated 1193, in the "Pipe Rolls of Essex", during the reign of King Richard 1, known as "Richard The Lionheart", 1189 - 1199. 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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