Tag Archives: Names new to me


A name that has been in the news of late, and one I’d never heard before. I thought that it looked similar to the Irish Minogue, but the ending looked too English, very like Pinnock. A search of the literature on English surnames produced nothing. So I turned to Edward MacLysaght’s “Surnames of Ireland”, and there it was. Minnock, according to this source is a variant of Minogue, Irish Ó Muineóg. Minogue is found mainly in its original homeland, East Clare, and in neighbouring Tipperary where there is a townland called Ballyminogue. Minnock belongs to the County of Offaly, with some bearers in neighbouring Leix.
The meaning of the name is unknown, Presumably Muineóg was a male given name.
I would add that, according to George Fraser Black (“Surnames of Scotland”) there is a place in North Ayrshire called Minnock, which I have yet to locate. Black suggests that this is the origin of a Scottish surname, Minnoch. A connection to the Irish Minnock seems unlikely.



SPOWAGE someone of this name was on my TV today, a Scots lady. I’d never heard the name before but I didn’t think it looked Scottish. Still one never knows.
I checked the literature and found an entry in John Titford’s “Penguin Dictionary of British Surnames” (2009). The following words are his.

A distinctive surname, one that has been ignored by compilers of surname dictionaries, and one which seems determined to elude capture. The suffix -age is a familiar enough element in place-names, though no place called Spowedge, Spowich, or the like comes readily to hand. It might alternatively suggest a French origin, but no such name is featured in French surname dictionaries. The existence of an obscure and now obsolete dialect term spouch (used of wood which is sappy), which is confined to Norfolk and Suffolk, may only be of passing interest. One theory has it that the origin may be a topographical term for a man who dwelt in a place where a plant known as spurge (O[ld] F[rench] espurge), characterized by an acrid milk juice possessing medicinal properties grew in abundance. The surname Spurge can be found in parish register entries as early as the sixteenth century in Berks, Essex, London, Leics, Norfolk and Surrey. But Spowage is a different kettle of fish: by the time of the 1881 census it was very much a Notts surname, a concentration reinforced by an examination of parish register entries, where Notts predominates once again, putting a handful of Derbys and Yorks references in the shade.

The fact that five individuals in the 1881 census named Spourge are living in Notts (four) and Derbys (one) might take us back to a Spurge surname after all?
Spowages alive today have the good fortune to be the proud possessors of an intriguing surname, but the bad fortune to be uncertain of its exact origins

Names that catch my attention (2)

BASGALLOP I came across this name in an interview with the actor David Threlfall. The actor’s latest TV appearance is in a series written by one Tony Basgallop.
What sort of a name is this? I wondered.
Dictionaries gave no clue. I could find nothing in the surname websites on line, apart from the fact that the name is concentrated in Somerset.
So a further search combining the surname with the county name was made, which led to this website –
There was a an enquiry about the Italian surname Bacigalupo. The writer tells of his ancestor from Liguria settling in Somerset where his surname became Basgallop. I see no reason to disbelieve this account, and can imagine that the pronunciation of the strange name became bassi-gallop-o, and was eventually shortened and made more manageable for English speakers.

An Italian surname site informs us that Bacigalupo is a surname of Genoa, which is in the Liguria region. The lupo part of the name is the Italian for ‘wolf’, the meaning of baciga is less clear. One possibility is that it is from an old Ligurian dialect word meaning ‘to beat with a club or stick’. So Bacigalupo could be a nickname meaning ‘beat wolf’, perhaps recalling some incident in the original bearer’s life.

Names that catch my attention (1)

Whenever I see a surname that is new to me, and whose meaning is not obvious, I try to find something out about it.
A couple of names that I encountered for the first time recently are Plint and Rudrum.
Although Rudrum looked strange at first it didn’t take long to work out that it was likely to derive from the place name Rotherham.
Sure enough a quick look in Reaney and Wilson’s “Dictionary of English Surnames” listed Rudrum under “Rotheram, et al., though no example of this spelling from the records was cited. Ekwall’s “Dictionary of English Place-Names, lists Roderham as a thirteenth century spelling of the place name. He also points out that Rotherham stands on the River Rother, which lasts he explains as Brythonic and meaning something like “chief river”.

The meaning of Plint is less obvious, but a map showing the distribution of the name showed that, though rare, it was best represented in Cornwall. A search of available literature on Cornish surnames yielded nothing, but a search online for a place of that name gave a clue. There is no Plint, but there is a village called Pelynt, pronounced Plint. Thirteenth century spellings of the name were Plenint and Plenent, and a suggested meaning is “parish of Nent” or Saint Nonna (Ekwall).