Recorded in the the modern spellings of Willoughby and Willowby, and the dialectals Willoughey, Willoughley, and Willoughway, this surname is English. It is of locational origin from any of the places called Willoughby in the counties of Lincolnshire, Leicestershire, Nottinghamshire and Warwickshire. The place name in all cases derives from the Olde English pre 7th Century 'wilig', meaning a willow wood, plus the Olde Norse 'bi', meaning a farm settlement, hence, 'settlement amongst the willows'. The surname is ancient being one of the earliest on record, and is first recorded in the latter half of the 12th Century, (see below). Other early examples of the surname recording taken from medieval scrolls and charters include: Robert de Wylugheby in the 'Hundred Rolls' of Lincolnshire, and Robert de Willughby in the 'Hundred Rolls of Derbyshire', both being dated 1272. Other recordings include those of Thomas Willoughby in the Fines Court rolls of Colchester, Essex in 1447, whilst Edward Willoughbey was a student at Oxford University in 1582. The first recorded spelling of the family name is believed to be that of Robert de Wilgebi. This was dated 1175 in the register known as the 'Early Yorkshire Charters'. This was during the reign of King Henry IInd 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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