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A Dictionary of English Surnames [Paperback]

P. H. Reaney , R. M. Wilson
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)

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Paperback, April 1 1997 --  
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Book Description

April 1 1997 0198600925 978-0198600923 Revised Third Edition
For anyone interested in tracing a family name or family history in England, this is the standard guide. It covers the origin and meaning of over 16,000 surnames, giving detailed information on early name-forms and how names have changed over the centuries. Alternative forms of names are cross-referenced to make it easy to find variants. An authoritative introduction sets in context the popular topic of name-studies, and guides the reader through the history and linguistic background of English surnames. In a new appendix for this revised edition, the distinguished family historian, Professor David Hey (author of the new Oxford Companion to Local and Family History), gives guidelines on how to go about the business of tracing the history of a name, to give you practical advice about sources of information.

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About the Author

David Hey is Professor of Local and Family History and Dean of the Faculty of Educational Studies at the University of Sheffield.

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1.0 out of 5 stars Another English Chap May 24 2004
By A Customer
After buying this book with great expectations I was very disappointed. Out of curiosity I thought I would check the reviews which may have been left for it. I was astonished to see how highly others had rated it. (They can't all be related to the author or the publisher!). I don't normally feel inclined to criticise other people's work but this book left me feeling very disatisfied. I know it is a dictionary but I wanted more plain language explanation not just a string of technical jargon after each entry.
I found the introduction especially tedious and difficult to make sense of. Apart from the fairly obvious divisions (local, occupational etc.) the rest of it is also very technical and really not readily understood by a layman. Even the explanations of the abbreviations were obtuse. It seemed that some discussion of the source material would have been informative. As it was I was left feeling totally in the dark.
It is clearly a scholarly work and probably useful to academia but I doubt that the average man on the street would get much use out of it. Sorry!
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5.0 out of 5 stars Indispensable if needed for research Sept. 30 2001
Obviously someone who wishes to give a first name to a child is not the most likely person to consult this very learned tome: for those people P. Hanks and F. Hodges's *Dictionary of First Names* (also published by Oxford) is the appropriate book (though David Pickering's *Penguin Dictionary of First Names* is also very good). Obviously, if the first name you have in mind is also a surname, then this reference tool, too, is likely to be useful.
The amount of work that has gone into this volume is daunting, particularly when it comes to the mention of early sources in which names have been found. Some of that material is perhaps more of interest to the specialist than the general user, but in any case it is valuable. The Introduction, on names generally, is extremely informative and interesting.
For myself, I most often need to know what a surname might mean (most of them do have meaning), and I suspect that this is what others, too, frequently want to know. For example, are those many Australians who have the surname *Smyth* in effect carrying the surname *Smith*? Yes, indeed: the *y* is merely a spelling variant, which many welcome because it suggests a name other than *Smith* (though quite a few people called *Smyth* don't themselves know that *Smyth*= *Smith*!).
Does this dictionary reveal what one wants to know? It does, but not always in the handiest way possible. It has an entry *Smye, Smythe*, but not one for *Smyth*: one needs to know something about the early stages of the language to realise that if *Smythe* is an early form of *Smith*, then so is *Smyth* likely to be, and if one then turns to *Smith* one will find *Smyth* there. So not everyone will necessarily immediately discover the material searched for - but most people are likely to do so eventually. All in all , I recommend the book heartily, and use it often. - Joost Daalder, Professor of English, Flinders University (South Australia)
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5.0 out of 5 stars The standard work on the subject June 8 2000
The introduction alone is worth the price of the book through its clear explanations of the four main groups of surnames: local surnames; surnames of relationships; occupational surnames; and nicknames. Brief pages about regional surname patterns are also enlightening.
The meat of the book is the alphabetical listing of some 16,000 English surnames, their variations, probable origins, and notes on early occurrences in the written records.
The cross-referencing between variant spellings is excellent and makes for easy navigation between variants.
A first rate resource for English genealogy and local history.
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