English: 1: from a Germanic personal name introduced into England by the Normans. 2: nickname for a quarrelsome or deceitful person, from Middle English bar(r)et(t)e, bar(r)at trouble, strife, deception, cheating (Old French barat commerce, dealings, a derivative of barater to barter, haggle, Late Latin prattare, from Greek prattein to do, practise). It is possible that the original sense of barat survived unrecorded into Middle English as a word for a market trader; the Italian cognates have this sense. 3: nickname or metonymic occupational name from Old French barette cap, bonnet (Late Latin birrum hood, cowl, of Celtic origin).
Variants: Barrat, Barratt, Barret, Barritt.
Augmentative (of 2): Barattoni.
Cognates (of 2): French: Bara, Barat, Baratte; Baratier. Italian: Barat, Baratta; Barateri, Baratieri. Portuguese: Barata.
Diminutives (of 2): French: Barateau, Baratin, Baraton. Provençal: Baratoux. Italian: Barattini, Barattucci.
ENGLISH SURNAMES C. M. Matthews (1966)
A fairly common name that has puzzled many writers and is almost certainly a nickname is Barratt or Barrett. It has over 500 examples in the London directory and can be found frequently in medieval documents. The earliest example on record is that of Gamel Baret (or Bared), a Yorkshire landowner in the Domesday Book. Gamel is a Norse word meaning old which was often used as a personal name (surviving as Gammell, Gamble or Gamlin), and if this man's nickname was also Scandinavian it may have come from the Norse barthr meaning beard. However there is little sign of this word recurring in this two-syllable form, either as a common noun or name. Some other origin must be responsible for the crop of Barats (often spelt Barate) that appears in several southern counties in the twelfth century. The only word that can account for them is the Old French barat which signified cunning, trickery and fraud, and is now obsolete except in the legal term Barratry. This is a curious meaning for so common a name; however, there are grounds for believing that its earlier significance was of a better nature, in fact something like business efficiency, but a deceitful note crept into it, causing it to fall into disfavour and become obsolete, though not before it had given rise to many nicknames.
The great majority of Barratts or Barretts belong to this type of meaning. Some few may go back to the bearded Viking from Yorkshire, some very few may be descended from the Norman Christian named Beraud (there is no real evidence of this), but most were examples of this colloquial word for a sharp dealer, which came into fashion just at the right time to make surnames and then it disappeared again from use.
In a letter from Mrs. Matthews she writes; As to the nickname Barat or Barate which appears quite often in England in the 12th century and which I still believe is the principal origin of this name, it seems to have been one of those vogue words, popular for a short time and then forgotten. Its period of being "in" just happened to coincide with the most fortunate period of surnames, among the better class. This was a French word and so the name would be found first among Normans whether they went to Ireland or stayed in England. The same goes for the Christian names Beraud or Berard.
In England, of course, they became completely anglicised and the name was spelt in many ways in the middle ages.
As to "alias" you must think of the period when surnames were being formed and used, but not yet completely fixed. Up to - say 1400 many people would be called sometimes by one name and sometimes by another. Names have never been regulated by law. By about 1500 the custom of everyone having one surname only and keeping it was generally established, but for a long time there were exceptions. When a man bought land or had his name on a legal deed the lawyer would be sure to put down any alternative name that he might possibly be known by somewhere.
Barrett in my family tree
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