Lesson 3: British Surnames Derived from Occupations or Professions

Another common type of medieval byname derived from how a man spent his time. Every farming village had a blacksmith to forge iron tools, a miller to grind wheat, a carpenter to craft furniture, and many other specialists. Some "job descriptions" had meanings different from what we might expect. For example, a farmer did not farm, he collected taxes; and a banker was a "dweller on a hillside or bank," not someone who dealt with money!

Guiding Questions

What can we learn about medieval occupations through British surnames?

Learning Objectives

Students will be able to explain how certain British surnames derive from people's occupations, and recognize some of the more common names still prevalent.