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 sixth installment of a series of posts documenting the etymology of many of our families’ surnames (recent and distant, direct and indirect.)
Now that the E names have been discussed, next up is the letter F:
Fairchild (my brother-in-law’s maternal family)
English—This surname was also one of the very first of all known surnames to be created, and recordings are known to exist which show that the name was in use at least 1,000 years ago. It derives from the pre-7th century Old English phrase faere cild and does actually mean what it says, beautiful child.
Faller (my father’s maternal line)
German—This is either a habitational name for someone from Ober- or Unter- Fall near Triberg in the Black Forest or a topographical name for someone living by a waterfall or the site of a landslide. It is derived from the Middle High German word val, meaning fall, waterfall, or landslide.
Felix (my father’s maternal line)
French/German—Although my family is of German/French origin, this surname is also Spanish, Portuguese, English, and Ashkenazic. Derived from a medieval personal name from the Latin word, felix, genitive felicis, meaning lucky or fortunate.
Ferguson (my father’s paternal line)
Scottish—This surname is of Old Gaelic origin. It is a patronymic form of Fergus, from an Old Gaelic personal name Fearghus, composed of the elements fear, meaning man, and gus, meaning vigor or force, with the patronymic ending son.
Fetterhaff (my stepfather’s maternal family)
German—The word fette is derived from the Middle Low German word vet and Old Saxon word fētid, meaning fat. The word haff is derived from the German Low German and Middle Low German word haf, meaning a bay or lagoon behind a spit.
Fischbach (my spouse’s father’s maternal line)
German—This is a either a habitational surname from a place named Fischbach or a topographic name for someone living by a fish stream. derived from the Middle High German words fisch (fish) and bach (stream).
Fischer (my mother’s paternal line)
German—This is an occupational surname for a fisherman, derived from the German word fisch, plus the agent suffix -er.
Fitch (my brother-in-law’s maternal family)
English—This is a metonymic occupational name for a workman who used an iron pointed implement. It derives from the Old French word fiche, meaning an iron point, which itself comes from the word ficher, meaning to fix or to plant; hence, fitch is an iron pointed implement.
Fleischmann/Fleishmann/Fleshman (my spouse’s father’s maternal line)
German—This possibly is an occupational surname for a butcher, derived from the Middle High German word fleisch, meaning meat or flesh, and from the German word mann, meaning man.
Fleming (my mother’s paternal line, two branches)
Scottish—An English ethnic surname for someone from Flanders. In the Middle Ages, there was considerable commerce between England and the Netherlands, particularly in the wool trade, and many Flemish weavers and dyers settled in the British Isles. The word reflects a Norman French form of Old French word flamenc, from the stem flam-, plus the Germanic suffix -ing. The surname is also common in south and east Scotland and in Ireland.
Fogle (my mother’s paternal line)
German—Recorded originally in Germany as Vogil and Fogel, and in England as Fugel and Foul, this interesting surname is of both Anglo-Saxon and Old English pre-7th Century origins. It derives from the word fugol, meaning bird, and in ancient times this was a personal name of endearment. In medieval times, the word as fugel was also used as a nickname for someone who was in some way believed either to physically resemble a bird or to have the characteristics associated with one.
Fontaine (my mother’s paternal line)
French—This is a topographic surname for someone who lived near a spring or well, Old French word fontane, Late Latin word fontana, and a derivative of classical Latin word fons.
Forman (my brother-in-law’s maternal family)
English—An occupational surname for a keeper of swine, from the Middle English word foreman, derived from the Old English word for, meaning hog or pig, and mann, meaning man. This could also be a status name for a leader or spokesman for a group, from the Old English word fore, meaning before or in front and mann, meaning man.
Forney (my stepfather’s maternal family)
England—Of German origin (also found in Alsace and French Switzerland), this surname is perhaps a variant of Farner or Fahrni. The surname is also found in England and could be a habitational name from a lost or unidentified place.
Forrer/Furry (my father’s paternal line)
Swiss—This is a topographic name from the regional term furre, meaning cleft in the ground.
Forster (my spouse’s mother’s paternal line)
English—This is either an occupational and topographic name for someone who lived or worked in a forest; a Norman French nickname or occupational surname from the Old French word forcetier, meaning cutter—an agent noun from the word forcettes, meaning scissors; or an English occupational name, by metathesis, from the Old French word fust(r)ier, meaning blockmaker—a derivative of the word fustre, meaning block of wood.
Foster (my mother’s maternal line)
English—This medieval surname has at least four possible origins. The first is an occupational name for a saddle tree maker, a very important occupation 700 or more years ago. The derivation is from the Old French word fustier, itself originating from the word fustre, meaning a block of wood. Secondly, the name may describe a maker or user of a forcetier, steel shears widely used in both agriculture and textile production. A third possibility is that Foster is a contracted or dialectal spelling of Forester, a term which described a civil officer in charge of a forest. The last possible origin is a the derivation from a shortened spelling of the Old English pre-7th Century compound cild-fostre, an occupational nickname for a foster parent or possibly a foster child.
Foulke/Fowlk (my spouse’s mother’s maternal line and my spouse’s mother’s paternal line)
Welsh/English—This surname is of Norman origin and is derived from the German word folk, meaning people.
Fourbour (my mother’s paternal line)
French—This surname has its origins in the Old French word fo(u)rbisseor from fourbir, meaning to burnish or furbish and is an occupational surname for someone who worked as a polisher of metal. In particular. this would apply to someone employed by an armorer to put the finishing touches to his armor by rubbing it until it was bright.
Foust (my spouse’s stepmother’s paternal family)
German—An alternate spelling of the Faust surname, it is derived from Middle High German word fust, meaning fist—presumably a nickname for a strong or pugnacious person or for someone with a club hand. This surname is also derived from the Latin word faustus, meaning fortunate or lucky.
Francis (my mother’s paternal line)
English—This is a name of Roman-Latin origins. It derives from Franciscus, originally both an ethnic name used to describe a Fran”, later to be known as a Frenchman, and a personal name from the 5th Century meaning free man. This name was associated with the Knight Templars of the 12th Century.
Fraser (my mother’s paternal line)
Scottish—The earliest recorded spelling forms include de Fresel, de Friselle and de Freseliere, indicating a possible French locational origin; however, there is no place in France answering to that spelling. A more likely explanation is that the name is derived from the French word fraise, meaning strawberry. Early lands of the clan included an area at Neidpath where strawberries grew prolifically. The clan was know as the strawberry bearers, from their heraldic coat of arms which included strawberry blossoms.
Frey (my spouse’s stepmother’s paternal family and my father’s paternal line, two branches)
German—This is a status name for a free man, as opposed to a bondsman or serf, in the feudal system, derived from Middle High German word vri, meaning free or independent.
Fulgham (my mother’s paternal line)
English—The ancient history of the name Fulgham began soon after 1066 when the Norman Conquest of England occurred. It was a name given to a person who had a limp or a malformed leg, derived from the Old French word fol, meaning foolish, and jambe, meaning leg.
Well, that’s it for the F surnames… Stay tuned for the G surnames.