ABCs & Our Family Trees: The Letter D


I have always been fascinated by language, specifically where it originates and how it adapts, mutates, and relates to other languages. That is why I found the recent series of blogs by Andrew’s Kindred so intriguing. It combined my love of etymology with my love of genealogy.  I was so inspired, in fact, that I decided to try my hand at chronicling the origins of our families’ surnames.

This is the fourth installment of a series of posts documenting the etymology of many of our families’ surnames (recent and distant, direct and indirect.)

Now that the C names have been discussed, next up is the letter D:

Daggett (my mother’s paternal line)
English—This surname is generally accepted as deriving from the Old French word dague, meaning knife or dagger. The name is a medieval metonymic for one who habitually carried a dagger or who was a manufacturer of such weapons. However, the name was originally prominent in Yorkshire, where it has been suggested that it may derive not from French but from the Norse-Viking word dag, meaning day.

0a1a1a_7911c6a997b14975b47df53472e609f9Daley (my mother’s paternal line)
Irish—This surname of Medieval Irish origin is one of the variant forms of (O) Daly, itself an Anglicized form of the Old Gaelic name O Dalaigh. The Gaelic prefix ‘O’ indicates male descendant of, plus the personal nickname dalach from dail, an assembly or meeting place as in Dail Eireann.

Damourvell (my mother’s paternal line)
French—This is one of those surnames whose origins are unknown. However, I can make some educated suppositions on what the meaning/origin of this name might be. Let’s start by dividing this surname into two words. The first part of the surname is damour. In French, d’amour means of love. The second part of the surname is vell. In English, the word vell has two definitions. The first is to cut the turf from, as for burning. The second is a salted calf’s stomach, used in cheese making. Or, perhaps the vell was originally spelt ville, the French word for village, town, or city.

026-eleventh-century-02-d-q90-1534x1356Davies/Davis (my mother’s paternal line and my spouse’s mother’s paternal line)
English/Welsh—Both Davis and Davies are English patronymic surnames, often associated with Wales. These surnames mean the son of David, from the Hebrew male given name translated as beloved.

Dawson (my mother’s paternal line)
English—This surname is a patronymic form of the medieval male given name Daw. Daw is a nickname form of David, adopted from the Hebrew male given name Dodavehu, meaning beloved of Jehovah.

letter-dDebnam/Dedman (my mother’s paternal line)
English—Recorded in several spelling forms including Debnam and Dedman, this is a locational surname deriving from the village of Debenham in the county of Suffolk. This village’s name comes from an Old English pre-7th century river name, deriving from deopa, meaning deep, and ham, meaning farm or homestead.

Dekker/Decker (my spouse’s mother’s maternal line)
Dutch—This is an occupational surname for a roofer—a thatcher, slater, shingler, or tiler), from the Middle Dutch word deck(e)re, an agent derivative of decken, meaning to cover.

letter-d_1544033Delatush/Dilatush (my mother’s maternal line)
French—These are the Americanized versions of De La Touche, a locational surname for someone from the village of La Touche in the Drôme department in the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region of France. La Touche is derived from the Middle French words toucher or touchier and the Old French words tochier, touchier, or tucher, all meaning to touch.

Dent (my spouse’s father’s maternal line)
English—This surname is most likely being a locational surname from either of the places called Dent in West Yorkshire and Cumberland. The placenames derive from the Old Irish word dinn or dind, meaning a hill, and the Old Norse word tindr, meaning point or crag. The second possible origin is a medieval nickname for someone with prominent teeth, derived from the Old French word dent, meaning tooth.

manuscript-letter-d-illuminated-ancient-ornate-irish-manuscripts__54677-1446307942-500-750Desbles (my brother-in-law’s paternal line)
French—In French, des blés means wheat, so one would assume that this surname is an occupational one for a person who grows, harvests, and/or mills wheat.

Desmarais (my brother-in-law’s paternal line)
French—A habitational surname for someone from any of various places named with the Old French word mareis or maresc, meaning marsh—for example Les Marets in Seine-et-Marne, Centre, Nord, and Picardy.

Dieb (my spouse’s father’s maternal line)
German—Hopefully, this surname is not occupational in nature, as dieb is the German word for thief!

0127-historiatedalphabet-letter-d-q75-814x750Digel (my spouse’s mother’s maternal line)
German—This surname comes from the Old High German word tigel, a cognate of tiegel, meaning crucible.

Dill (my father’s paternal line)
Swiss—A metonymic occupational name for a sawyer (a person who saws timber for a living) derived from the Middle High German word dill(e), meaning (floor)board.

Dinkel (my spouse’s father’s maternal line)
German—A metonymic occupational name for a grain farmer, from the Middle High German word dinkel, meaning spelt or wheat.

ornate_d_24371_lgDircks (my spouse’s mother’s maternal line)
Dutch—A variant spelling of the Diercks surname, which is derived from the nickname Dirk, a reduced form of the personal name Diederik.

Dodson (my mother’s paternal line)
English—This surname is a variant of the Middle English given name Dodde or Dudde from the Old English pre-7th Century personal byname Dodda or Dudda. It was derive from a Germanic root dudd or dodd, meaning something rounded; it was used to denote a short, rotund man or possibly a bald one, from the word dod, meaning to make bare, cut off.

zentangle-letter-d-monogram-in-black-and-white-nan-wrightDouglas (my mother’s paternal line)
Scottish—This surname is of territorial origin from the lands of Douglas, south of Glasgow, in Lanarkshire, situated on the Douglas Water. These waters were so named from the Old Gaelic words dubh, meaning dark or black, and glas, meaning a rivulet or stream.

Douwes (my spouse’s mother’s maternal line)
Dutch—This surname might be the singular present subjunctive of douwen, derived from Middle Dutch word duwen or douwen and from Old Dutch word thuwen, meaning to push.

letterDowning (my mother’s paternal line)
English—This name of Anglo-Saxon origin is from a nickname for a man with particularly dark hair or a swarthy complexion, meaning the son of Dunn. The derivation is from the Old English pre-7th century word dunn, meaning dark-colored.

Drummond (my mother’s paternal line)
Scottish—This surname is of territorial origin from any of the various places, including Drymen near Stirling that get their names from the Gaelic word dromainn, a derivative of druim, meaning a ridge.

Duff (my brother-in-law’s paternal line)
Scottish—This surname is the Anglicized form of the Gaelic word dubh, meaning dark or black. This word was frequently used as a personal name, by itself or as a shortened form of a longer double-stemmed name, and as a nickname for a swarthy man or someone of a dark temperament.

william-morris-letter-d-by-kuba-witpj5-clipartDunn (my mother’s maternal line)
English/Irish/Scottish—This name of Anglo-Saxon origin is from a nickname for a man with particularly dark hair or a swarthy complexion, from the Old English pre-7th century word dunn, meaning dark-colored.

Durant (my mother’s paternal line)
English—This surname is of Norman origin, derived from the Old French word durant,  meaning enduring, from the word durer, meaning to endure or last. This French word itself comes from the Latin word durus, meaning hard, firm.

Dürr (my spouse’s father’s maternal line, two branches—probably sisters)
German—This surname originated as a nickname from Middle High German word dürre, meaning thin, gaunt, dry.

Dutton (my mother’s maternal line)
English—This is a locational name from places in Cheshire or Lancashire. They share the same meaning, which is Dudda’s village or settlement, derived from the Old English pre-7th Century personal name Dudd(a) with tun, an enclosure, settlement, village, town.

All done with the Ds! Stay tuned for the E surnames in our families…

For more information on the origins of many surnames, check out Almwch Data, Behind the Name, Irish Origenes, Surname Database, Surname Meanings and Origins, Surname Web, and Wiktionary.

#etymology     #familytree     #surnames

Categories: Cole-Marriner Line, Extended Families, Harwick-Bush Line, Spangler-Kenney Line, Surnames from A to Z, Taylor-Thomas Line, Watts-Stark Line, Williams-Stott Line | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

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One thought on “ABCs & Our Family Trees: The Letter D

  1. For another blogger’s D surnames, check out these Amanda Bradburn posts: and


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