Social mobility & names (plus how to figure out what Irish, Scottish, English & such names mean)

Atthill, Bunduck, Balfour, Bramston, Cheslyn, and Conyngham.

Those are a few of the 181 unique last names of well-off attendees of Oxford and Cambridge universities between 1170 and 2012 researchers studied to trace social mobility in the UK.

If you have one of the rare surnames studied, chances are you already know your family is doing okay. The study found that people with one of those 181 last names “were more than three times as wealthy as the average person” (at least for those who died between 1999 and 2012).

Read more about the aristocratic last names study at ancestry.com’s blog.

If you were wondering, here’s what the names above mean:

Atthill comes from the name Atwell, which means person/people that live by the well. It is an old Anglo-Saxon tribal last name. Read more.

Bunduck is an Old English name meaning person who lives at the farm. Read more, it has quite a few variations.

Balfour is much more common of a name, meaning from the grazing land. It has Gaelic origins and is often used as a first name, as well as a last name.

Bramston comes from the name Abraham and has English roots. Read more.

Cheslyn comes from the English word “chess,” meaning camp of the soldiers or fortress (like the names Chester and Cheshire) and “lyn,” meaning lake.

Conyngham is an ancient Scottish name from the Dalriadan kingdom. This clan name is more commonly known as Cunningham, all of which mean village that has a milk pail, believe it or not. Read more.

Interestingly, you can find out what most old names mean by looking at the meanings of its parts. Check out this chart for common name parts for Irish, English and other UK originating names. You’ll see, for instance, that “ham” comes from farm or homestead, “ton” means estate or homestead, “wick” means bay, and so on and so forth. Take the name Dalkirk. It comes from “dal” meaning meadow and “kirk” meaning church. So church in the meadow. Let’s say it was Dalingkirk, “ing” generally means “people of the” or “small stream” so it could mean people of the church in the meadow or the small meadow stream. Like knowing Latin helps with vocabulary, knowing these old basic parts of Irish, Scottish, English and other related regional names can help you learn the stories behind their names.

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