Have you ever thought about your surname? Do you know where it comes from, what it means? Many English-language surnames are derived from jobs:
Chandler: dealer in equipment for ships and boats
Cooper: barrel maker
Fletcher: arrow maker
Wright: maker or builder
Cartwright: cart maker
Mason: stone worker
Harper: harp player
Taylor: from tailor
Weaver: fabric worker
Dyer: a person who dyes clothes or other materials
Thatcher: maker of roofs with plant stalks
Slater: maker of roofs with stone slates
Potter: maker of pottery
Skinner: removed and worked with animal skins
And there are many more.
A lot of other surnames were originally patronymics: when one’s surname is derived from one’s father’s first name. Davidson and Johnson are both common examples of this, meaning David’s son and John’s son. Such names are often Nordic in origin, and to this day most Icelandic people gain their surnames from their father, e.g. Olafsson or Olafsdottir. Many Irish and Scottish names were also originally patronymics. Any name with O’ was originally a patrynomic. Ó is the Gaelic word for of, so my own surname O’Donnell, for example, was original Ó’Dónaill or Ó’Domhnaill, meaning son of Dónall (an old Gaelic first name). Similarly, any name beginning with Mac or Mc has the same meaning, coming from the Gaelic word for son, mac. Names beginning with Fitz, e.g. Fitzpatrick, are similar, and are Norman in origin.
And then there are the unusual ones. I always wondered how someone could be given the surname Ramsbottom. I thought maybe it was given as punishment. But it has nothing to do with rams and only a little to do with bottoms. It’s the name of an English town with the name meaning land suitable for agriculture at the bottom of a valley. Having this surname was simply an indicator that one was from this town.
Coward is even more unusual, as it was originally a byword for bravery. Cu-weard in Old English meant cattle guard. At a time when cattle were a sign of wealth, a cattle-guard was a key figure, being constantly vigilant and wary of cattle rustlers.
I like the directness of being named after your job, town, or father’s name. I think I wouldn’t mind Teacher as a surname. Galway or Patrickson would also be pretty good. How would you feel if you got your surname in one of these ways?