This is a surname of ancient origins, pre-dating written British history. It derives from the Olde English pre 7th century 'hwaet' meaning brave or vigourous plus the Anglo-Saxon 'mann', which in this context almost certainly means 'friend'. It was a name given as a baptismal name possibly to commemorate a brave friend, or it was a nickname of endearment. It survives in three surname spellings, Whatman, Watman and Wheatman, although the diminutives Watling, Whatling, and Whatlin, have a similar origin. The Olde English and the later Anglo-Saxons were very keen on providing their offspring with names redolent of courage and bravery, no doubt because such attributes were very necessary to survive in the period of the 'Dark ages'. The name is first recorded in the 1086 Domesday Book, although as a singular non hereditary name only, Watman being so recorded in Dorset and Wetman in Herefordshire. Algar filius Watman is recorded in the pipe rolls of Devon in 1168, whilst the hereditary recordings include Hugo Weteman in the 1279 Hundred Rolls of Oxfordshire in 1279 and Richard Whateman in the Subsidy Rolls of Essex in 1327. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of John Wateman, which was dated 1264, the rolls known as 'Eynsham chartulary' of Oxford, during the reign of King Henry 111, known as 'The Frenchman', 1216 - 1272. 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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