ABCs & Our Family Trees: Letter G

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

Now that the F names have been discussed, next up is the letter G:

Gallion (my mother’s paternal line)
French—A nickname derived from the Old French word galier, meaning a man with a cheerful disposition.  

Gallelli (my spouse’s father’s paternal line)
Italian—This nickname surname derives either from the fact that the original name holders were men who prided themselves on being snappy dressers and leaders of the flock or were known for their sexual prowess. This surname is derived from the Latin word gallus, meaning a cock bird.

Gambon (my mother’s maternal line)
French—This surname is derived from the Anglo-Norman French word gambon, meaning ham, which comes ultimately from a Norman-Picard form of the Old French word jambe, meaning leg.

Garner (my mother’s paternal line)
English—This surname is of early medieval English origin and has three possible sources. First, it might be topographical for someone who lived near a barn or granary or an occupational name for someone who was in charge of the storehouse for corn, the granary,. It is derived from the Anglo-Norman French word gerner and Old French word gernier—both from the Late Latin word granarium or granum, meaning grain or corn. Second, it might be from a central Old French form of a Germanic personal name composed of the elements war(in), meaning guard, and heri or hari, meaning army. The third source is a contracted variant from the English occupational name Gardener, which was normally given to a cultivator of edible produce in an orchard or kitchen garden, rather than to a tender of ornamental lawns and flower beds.

Gay (my mother’s paternal line)
English—There are two possible origins for this surname, both French. The first is a nickname bestowed on a lighthearted, joyful, or cheerful person from the Old French word gai and Middle English word gai(e), meaning full of joy. The second possible origin is locational, where the surname derives from any of the places in Normandy called Gaye, such as that in La Manche, where the name of the place is derived from an early owner bearing a Germanic personal name beginning Wai or Gai.

Geary (my mother’s paternal line)
English—This surname is derived from the pre-7th Century Anglo-Saxon and Olde German word geri or gari, meaning spear. This might have described a soldier who carried such a weapon, or it might simply by a personal name at a time when any name which extolled war and weaponry was greatly treasured. Another possibility is that the name derives from the medieval English word geary, meaning fickle or capricious.

George (my spouse’s stepmother’s family)
English—This notable surname is of Ancient Greek origins. Deriving from the word georgios, meaning farmer, the name was used in Europe throughout the early Christian period, being associated with a martyr killed at Nicomedia in the year 303. The popularity of the name increased during the Crusades, when it became the practice for returning crusaders and pilgrims to name their children after from the Old Testament.

Gibson (my mother’s paternal line)
English—This notable surname is a form of the medieval nickname Gib, a shortened form of the personal name Gilbert, which was introduced into England after the Norman Conquest. The Norman name was originally Gislebert or Gillebert and is composed of the Germanic elements gisil, meaning hostage or noble youth, and berht, meaning bright or famous.

Gifford (my mother’s paternal line)
English—This surname might originate from the Old French word giffard, used as a nickname for someone thought to be chubby-cheeked. This is a derivative of the German word giffel, meaning cheek.

Gillespie (my brother-in-law’s family)
Irish— This surname is of pre-10th Century Gaelic origin. It derives from giolla easpuig, meaning bishop’s servant.

Gillis (my mother’s paternal line)
Scotland—This surname is of pre-Christian, Ancient Greek origin. It is a shortened form of aegidius, meaning a wearer of goatskin—a reference to a holy man or somebody who did good works. St. Giles (originally Aegidius) left Greece to become a hermit in France. It is said that his Greek name was turned into Gidie, then Gide, and finally Gilles. St. Giles is regarded as the patron of beggars and cripples. The name was introduced into England and Scotland by the Normans with the names Gilo and Ghilo appearing in the Domesday Book of 1086.

Gisler (my father’s paternal line)
Swiss—A variant of Geisler surname, this is an occupational name for a goatherd from an agent derivative of the Middle High German word geiz, meaning goat. 

Gingerich (my father’s paternal line)
Swiss—The Americanized form of Swiss German surname Güngerich, derived from a Germanic personal name formed with the word gund, meaning battle, and ric, meaning power(ful).  

Gleason (my spouse’s mother’s paternal line)
English—This developed from the Irish name O’Glasain, which originated in County Cork. Glasain derives from the Gaelic word glas, meaning green as in inexperienced as opposed to the color.

Goble (my brother-in-law’s family)
English—Of medieval origin, this surname is a dialectal variant of Godbold, itself from a Norman personal name Godebald. It is composed of the Germanic elements god, meaning good, or got, meaning god, along with bald, meaning bold or brave.

Goess/Goss (my spouse’s mother’s maternal line)
German—This is derived from the personal name Gozzo, a shortened form of the various compound names with the element god, meaning good, or got, meaning god.

Good (my father’s paternal line)
English—This is medieval surname which seems to originate from the pre-7th Century Old English word god, meaning good. This could be a nickname for a good person—someone who was pious and respected, although given the humor of that time, it could possibly be the opposite.

Goodman (my mother’s paternal line)
English—First, this surname might be a status name to describe the head of a household. As such, it derives from the Old English word god, meaning good, and -man, indicating head of. In Scotland, the name described a landowner. Finally, it might be of pre-7th Century Anglo-Saxon origin. If so, it is derived from the personal name Guethmund, which is composed of the elements gueth, meaning battle, and mund, meaning protection.

Goodspeed (my brother-in-law’s family)
English—This surname derives from the Medieval English phrase God spede, meaning may god prosper [you]—a wish for success said to one setting out on an excursion or enterprise.

Gordon/Gordun (my mother’s paternal line and my brother-in-law’s family)
Scottish—This surname is of locational origin. It is Scottish from Gordon in Berwickshire and is derived from the Old Gaelic word gor, meaning large or spacious, plus the word dun, meaning fort.

Gorham (my mother’s paternal line)
English—This is a very old locational surname might have originated from the lost village of Gorehambury, near the town of St. Albans in Hertfordshire. The derivation is from the pre-7th Century Old English word gor, meaning muddy, and ham, meaning farm or homestead.

Graf/Groff (my father’s paternal line)
German—This Middle High German surname comes from the word grave or grabe, a title for aristocratic dignitaries and officials. In later times, it became established as a title of nobility equivalent to count. It also denoted minor local functionaries in different parts of Germany. Third, it might be an occupational name for a servant or retainer of a count,. Finally, it could be a nickname for someone who puts on airs.

Gowdy (my mother’s paternal line)
Scottish—This surname is one of the variant forms of the surname Goldie and reflects the phonetic spelling of the popular pronunciation of that name. Goldie is itself a diminutive form of the surname Gold, which is derived from the Old English pre-7th Century personal name Gold(a) or Golde, from gold, the metal.

Graham (my mother’s paternal line)
Scottish—Although now widely associated with Scotland, this distinguished surname is of Anglo-Saxon origins. It was a locational name originally from the town of Grantham in Lincolnshire and as such recorded in the Domesday Book of 1086 as both Graham and Grandham. The translation might be the combination of the word ham, meaning homestead, and the Old English pre-7th Century word grand, meaning gravel.

Graves (my brother-in-law’s family)
English—This is an occupational name for a steward, from the Middle English word greyve, itself derived from the Old Norse word greifi and the Low German word greve.

Gray/Grey (my mother’s paternal line—four different branches—and my mother’s maternal line)
English—This ancient name has two possible origins, the first of which is an Anglo-Saxon nickname for someone with grey hair or a grey beard, derived from the Old English pre-7th Century word graeg, meaning grey. The second origin is locational from a place called Graye in Calvados, Normandy, derived from the Old Gallo-Roman word gratus, meaning welcome or pleasing.

Grimes (my spouse’s stepfather’s family)
English—This surname has Norse-Viking pre-7th Century origins and is probably from the personal name Grimr, which appears in the Old Danish and Old Swedish name, Grim. It was very popular in those areas of England influenced by Scandinavian settlements. The Norse word was equivalent to the Old English word grima, meaning mask, It was one of the names given to the god Woden. As such, it might mean masked person or shape-changer, and the name was given to boys to encourage the god’s protection.

Günthardt (my father’s paternal line)
Swiss—This surname was found in the canton of Zürich prior to the 1800s. It might be derived from the German word gund, meaning battle, and hardt, a topographic name for someone who lived by woods or pasture, or from the Middle High German words hart or hard, meaning hardy/brave/strong.

Guiscard (my mother’s paternal line)
English—This surname is a variation of the Norman French name Wischard, formed of the Old Norse elements viskr, meaning wise, and hórðr, meaning brave or hardy.

Gullett (my brother-in-law’s family)
English— It is thought that this surname might have also been originally spelled as Gullick. The Gullick surname originated from the pre-7th Century compound personal name Gotlac—derived from the word god, meaning good, and the suffix -lac, meaning mean play or sport (or possibly lake).

Well, that’s it for the G surnames… Next up are the H surnames.

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: Caimi-Culatina Line, Cole-Marriner Line, Extended Families, Harwick-Bush Line, Surnames from A to Z, Taylor-Thomas Line, Watts-Stark Line, Williams-Stott Line | Tags: , , , , | 5 Comments

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5 thoughts on “ABCs & Our Family Trees: Letter G

  1. If you loved this topic, then check out Amanda Bradburn’s post about her family G surnames:


  2. Pingback: Amanda Bradburn

  3. I would definitely love to in the future 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Thank you, Meggan! I am so glad you appreciate the idea of juxtaposing etymology with family history. I find it a valuable way to “trace” family roots and gain a greater understanding of why and how our family surnames came to be. If you decide to research your own family surnames, I would love to hear about your findings.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. What a wonderful idea. Would be a great addition to any family tree!

    Liked by 1 person

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