What’s in a Name?

For nearly 23 years I was identified as a Terminella. Eleven days ago, I received a new name. On May 26th, 2011, I became a Doss. In the midst of changing my name on various accounts, the famous words of William Shakespeare rang loudly in my mind.

I never really thought about surnames much until I had to begin thinking about changing my own. This got me wondering about the history of surnames. Have you ever really thought about how they came about? After doing a little research, here is what I found…

According to AAG International Research  “European surnames first occurred between the eleventh and fifteenth centuries, with some patronymic surnames in Scandinavia being acquired as late as the nineteenth century. Prior to this time period, particularly during the ‘Dark Ages’ between the fifth and eleventh centuries, people were largely illiterate, lived in rural areas or small villages, and had little need of distinction beyond their given names. During Biblical times people were often referred to by their given names and the locality in which they resided such as ‘Jesus of Nazareth.’ However, as populations grew, the need to identify individuals by surnames became a necessity. The acquisition of surnames during the past eight hundred years has been affected by many factors, including social class and social structure, cultural tradition, and naming practices in neighboring cultures.”

Kathi Reid of Search for Ancestors tells us that surnames were generally derived from one of four sources:

1) Patronymic (from the first name of father).


Peters – son of Peter (English, German)

Peterson – son of Peter (Swedish)

Petersen – son of Peter (Danish)

O’Reilly – grandson of Reilly (Ireland)

2) Lives near locality or place.


KirkPatrick – Church (kirk) of St. Patrick

Cliff – steep hill

Fairholm – the fair island

Ashley – field surrounded by ash trees

3) Occupation or social status.


Cooper – barrel maker

Wagner or Waggoner – wagon maker

Knight – knighthood conferred by the king

Smith – blacksmith

Powers – poor or taken a vow of poverty

4) Nicknames describing person or personality.


Reid – red, ruddy complexion or red hair

Stout – Body size

Small – Body size

Armstrong – strong arms

Sharpe – sharp, smart

Search for ancestors also informed me that Doss is an old term for a hassock, also known as a firmly padded cushion. Hmm, what a peculiar thing to be named after. Let’s give Family Education a shot…

Doss: German: habitational name for someone from Dosse in Altmark.

That sounds a little better than being named after a cushion.

Just a fun bit of random information for your reading pleasure.

So, what is in my name? What does it mean to be a Doss? Stay plugged in with the Daily Doss to find out!

One Comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s