Meanings of the name


Meanings of the name

           Registration No 4602


Home ] [ Meanings of the name ] Attwood Heraldry ] Attwood Family Photo Album ] Guest Book ] Attwood Notables ]


Search this site or the web powered by FreeFind

Site search Web search


Meanings of the name

The surname, Attwood is derived from a locative mediaeval bye-name, i.e. originating from a place name, such as -hill, -ford, -brook -well and of course -wood. The name would therefore appear to mean, "dweller at or near a wood". The Oxford Dictionary of English Surnames (Oxford University Press, 1997) gives the following definition: "Attwood, Atwood: Attewode 1243...Robert Atwode 1457...'Dweller by the wood' OE wudu." The name is made up of the most common preposition at, (Old English ǽt) which coalesced with the definite article the, to form the obsolete preposition atte, (Middle English) together with the Old English wudu, wiodu, wudu, wude, wode, wodd, woode, uud etc. (Oxford English Dictionary, 1989 Clarendon Press). Some documented variations in spelling are Attwood, Atte-Wode, Atwood, Atwode, Attewode Attwode, Attewoode, Atwod, Atwud, Atud , Attwool,  de Bois, deBoys, (French) and  de Bosco (Latin) and many more!

A bye-name is a non-hereditary surname given to an individual in order to describe him in some way. Over the course of the Middle Ages, depending upon location, individual bye-names gave way to inherited surnames, so that a man's surname was no longer a literal description except by coincidence. The Oxford Dictionary of English Surnames, states that "throughout the Middle Ages surnames were constantly changing", it also suggests that "only very occasionally can an early mediaeval surname be proved to be hereditary". Further confusion may arise as a result of the medieval practice of using either Latin or Norman French in official documentation. Thus atte Wood may be transcribed as de Bois (or de Boys) or de Bosco. There is therefore scope for further variation resulting from abbreviation, misspelling or an imprecise understanding of the language by the scribe, e.g. Joh Boys, 1357 (quoted in Nash's Worcestershire, 1799) and the Abbot of Evesham Abbey. William de Boys, 1345-1367.From: 'Houses of Benedictine monks: Abbey of Evesham', A History of the County of Worcester: Volume 2 (1971), pp. 112-27. 

Bosworth-Toller Anglo Saxon Dictionary.  

Distribution of Attwood/Atwood in 1881 in England


The chart to the right shows the  ten Counties of England with the most Attwoods and Atwoods in 1881 Census

In 1881 the enumerators recorded that there were 3588 individuals with the name Attwood/Atwood living in the UK in 45 Counties. As can be seen the most populated counties appear to be located predominantly in the English Midlands and Home Counties. This may to some extent add weight to the assertion that the name has its origins in Old English or Anglo-Saxon rather than as many believe an Anglicised form of the Norman French de Bois. (when attempting to prove a link to the Knights of William The Conqueror). I am in the process of compiling similar data for other census years in UK and worldwide.
























Copyright 2000-8 Christopher Attwood  

Last updated 03/07/2008 11:07