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A Dictionary of English Surnames [Paperback]

by P. H. Reaney, R. M. Wilson, David Hey
3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)

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Book Description

August 21, 1997 0198600925 978-0198600923 3 Rev Sub
A Dictionary of English Surnames is an authoritative and enlightening guide to the origins of English surnames and how they developed over the centuries. A comprehensive survey of this popular subject, it provides useful information on 16,000 surnames, giving full sources and dates. Different forms of names are also cross-referenced for ease of use. A valuable historical and linguistic introduction to the subject is included, along with a new appendix on how to trace the origin of a family name.

Editorial Reviews

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.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 592 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA; 3 Rev Sub edition (August 21, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0198600925
  • ISBN-13: 978-0198600923
  • Product Dimensions: 7.7 x 5.1 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.7 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,329,400 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars
3.8 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
20 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The standard work on the subject June 8, 2000
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
The introduction alone outstanding 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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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Goes far beyond Smith! September 2, 1999
By A Customer
This book is so detailed in the origion of English Surnames, I never feel lost when I'm trying to place a character in a certain time period. Also, to call it only English Surnames is a bit misleading since England is made of of those who conquered and invaded it or that they conquered themselves. There are Surnames that decend from Norway (Vikings), Germany, France, not to mention Ireland, Wales, Scotland and the Isle of Man.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating and well-documented June 22, 2001
The Dictionary of English Surnames is wonderful -- tons of information about surnames both common and rare, with many dated examples of early spellings. Sources are always given. This is an excellent resource for anyone interested in the origin of English surnames, especially re-enactors and others interested in names that would have existed in the late medieval/Renaissance period. Since the examples are dated, it is easy to find names from a particular time.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Indispensable if needed for research September 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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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
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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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Marvelous Source! January 5, 2001
Dictionary of English Surnames is a very complete book that lists many many English Surnames, and it tells of certain ancestors of the name and where they came from, and what the surname means. It is a very helpful resource for amateur geneologists, or just someone fascinated by the Last Name. THe beginning of the books tells about Surnames and how they came to be etc etc. It is very fascinating and the authors do a very good job at explaining things. Great source...get it!
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