109 surnames derived from trades and occupations

How do you find exactly the right names for your characters? Choosing a name derived from old English occupations, trades or professions could net you an unusual name – but it could also give you an extra dimension for your character’s background.

Maybe there’s something in their family history that has a bearing on the plot, or could provide a catalyst with some ancient heirloom that has come down through the centuries; an arkwright’s mallet would make an excellent murder weapon; an object made by a Horner ancestor could be a wonderful romantic gift…

109 names

ACKERMAN – ploughman, oxherder

ALDERMAN – senior councillor on a local council

AMBLER – officer of the Royal Stable who broke in horses

ARKWRIGHT – skilled craftsman who made arks – wooden chests or coffers

ASHMAN – dustman

BAXTER – baker

BAILIE  – officer of the sheriff; land steward acting on behalf of the landowner; in Scotland a magistrate of the burgh; also looked after the fishing rights on certain rivers

BARKER – tanner

BAUER – farmer

BELLMAN – employed as a watchman or town crier by walking the streets and ringing a bell

BLOOMER – produced iron from ore, a bloom smith

BOARDMAN – truant officer who checked school attendance

BOLTER – sifted meal

BOOKMAN – student

BOWDLER – worked with iron ore

BOWKER – one who bleached yarn.

BOWLER – made bowls and dishes and also a term used for those who made the rounded part of spoons before casting

BOWYER – made bows used in archery

BRABENER – weaver

BREWSTER – female brewer or brewer

BUCKLER – made buckles

BUNTER – female rag & bone collector

BURGESS – represented a borough at official levels

CAIRD – another term for a tinker

CANER – one who made the seats for chairs out of woven cane

CAPPER – made caps usually worn by the working class

CARTWRIGHT – maker of carts and wagons

CATCHPOLE- sheriff’s assistance or bailiff

CHALONER – dealer in shalloon, a material made in Chalons

CHANDLER – candle seller, grocer, provisioner, usually provisioning ships

CHAPMAN – dealer or peddler of goods going from village to village.

COOPER – maker of barrels

English: a shoe maker - Pakistan Français : Un...
Cordwainer – shoe maker (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

CORDWAINER – originally term used for one who worked with Cordovan (a special leather from Spain) but later a shoemaker

COURTIER – member of royal court

CROZIER – man who carries cross in front of the clergy procession

CULVER – pigeon-keeper

CUTLER – knife seller or sharpener

DEMPSTER – judge, usually in the Channel Isles or Isle of Man

DEXTER – dyer

DRAPER – dealer in fabrics and sewing needs

DROVER – sheep or cattle driver

DYER – employed in the textile mills to color fabric prior to weaving

ELLERMAN – who sold oil for lamps; oilman

FABER – artisan or workman

FAULKNER – trainer of falcons

FLETCHER – arrowsmith (from French fleche).

FROBISHER – remover of rust, a polisher of metal, eg. armour

FULLER – cloth worker who shrinks, beats and presses the cloth

GELDER – castrator of animals, especially horses

GRAINER – painted wood to make it look like great and exotic woods

GRANGER – farmer

GREAVE – bailiff, foreman, sheriff

GUMMER – one who improved old saws by deepening the cuts

HACKER – maker of hoes

HAYWARD – fence viewer

HILLIARD – tiler or slater

HOOPER – makes hoops for casks (supplying a cooper)

HORNER – worker in horn making spoons, combs, or musical horns

JAGGER – carrier, carter, pedlar or hawker of fish; 19th century, young boy in charge of ‘jags’ or train of trucks in coal mine; man in charge of pack horse carrying iron ore

JOBLING – one employed on a casual basis

KNELLER – chimney sweep who solicited custom by knocking on doors

LEECH – physician

LISTER – dyer

LORIMER – maker of horse harness (Norman version of Sadler)

MARSHALL – horse doctor or shoesmith

MERCER – cloth seller

MILLINER – maker of womens’ hats

NAILOR – maintained the teeth (nails) on the carding machine used for preparing wool and cotton for weaving

NAPIER – naperer; supply of linen tableware; official in charge of banqueting in a noble household

PARGETER – applied ornamental plaster to buildings

PAVER – laid paving stones, setts and cobbles

PINNER – pin maker

PLOWRIGHT – maker or repairer of plows

POINTER – sharpened needles or pins or lace maker

PRENTIS – apprentice

PROCTOR – official of a university

REEVE – church warden

RIPPER – one who sold fresh water fish at the markets or maker and seller of baskets

RODMAN – surveyor’s assistant

SADDLER – one who made saddles, harnesses, horse collars, bridles

SAWYER – saws timber to boards

SCRIVENER – clerk, notary

SKINNER – dealer in hides, mule driver

SOPER – soap maker

SOUTER – shoe maker

SPENCER – a dispenser of medicines, groceries; second to the steward in a big household, monastery, etc

SPICER – grocer or dealer in spices

SPOONER – made spoons

STRINGER – made the strings for bows

SUMNER – summoner or apparitor

SUMPTER – porter

TASKER – reaper

TAVERNER – innkeeper

THACKER – thatcher

THRESHER – one who separated the grain from the husks and straw

TODHUNTER – employed by the parish to hunt foxes

TOPMAN – sailor who works in the ship’s rigging

TOZER – worked in the wool mills employed to tose or tease the cloth

A tranter or peddler

TRANTER – peddler

TRIMMER – trims a ship by re-arranging its cargo

TROTMAN – messenger

TUCKER – cleaner of cloth goods

WAINWRIGHT – builder or repairer of wagons

WALKER – cloth worker

WATERMAN – worked with or on boats usually on rivers

WHEELER – wheel maker; attended to the spinning wheel in the textile industry; one who led the pit ponies in mines

YARDMAN – rail road yard worker

YEOMAN – farmer who owns his own land


6 thoughts on “109 surnames derived from trades and occupations”

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