This very English surname is from one of the most popular medieval given names, "Watt", a short form of the name "Walter". The latter was introduced into England by the Normans after the Conquest of 1066, in the form "Watt(i)er", or "Waut(i)er", and is composed of the Germanic elements "wald", meaning "rule", and "heri" or "hari", army. The surname could also be of Scottish origin, from the same source, and the earliest recording of the surname in Scotland is of one Walter Wat who held land in Brechin in 1586.The personal name was first recorded as "Wat of Carnegy" in the Episcopal Register of Brechin in 1446. One David Watt, an early settler in the New World, was recorded as having ten acres of land in the parish of Christ Church, in the Barbadoes, in 1680. One of the most famous namebearers was James Watt (1769 - 1848), the engineer; he was a partner in Boulton and Watt, engineers in Birmingham in 1794. In 1817 they fitted the "Caledonia" with engines, and steamed to Holland and up the Rhine, making her the first steamship to leave an English port; he also improved marine engines. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Paganus Wat, which was dated 1176, in the "Pipe Rolls of Devonshire", during the reign of King Henry 11, known as "The Builder of Churches", 1154 - 1189. 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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