Recorded as Wise, Wiss, Wyse, Wyss, Wisdom, Wiseman, Wisman, and no doubt others, this is an English surname. It is of pre 7th century Anglo-Saxon origin, and derives from a byname applied to a "learned person". Such a person would have been regarded with mingled fear and respect in medieval days, and would have been regularly consulted on legal and other matters. It was occasionally applied to someone acquainted with the occult arts. The word "wise" derives from the Olde English pre 7th Century "wis", meaning "knowing". As early as the 11th Century there was a recording of the name Johann se Wisa, but its clear emergence as a surname was first noted in the latter part of the 12th Century (see below). Roger le Wis was noted in the Pipe Rolls of Sussex, dated 1203, and Agnes, daughter of William and Jane Wise, was christened at Easton, Wiltshire, on October 3rd 1591. An interesting namebearer, recorded in the "Dictionary of National Biography", was the musician and composer Michael Wise (1646 - 1687). He published and left in manuscript religious and other musical compositions which, with those of Blow and Humphrey, constitute a link between the foreign music encouraged by Charles 11 and the original work of Purcell. The Coat of Arms most associated with the name is a black shield with three ermine chevronels. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Aedwin Wise, 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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