This interesting name has two possible origins, both French, and both introduced by the Normans after the Conquest of 1066. The first of these derives from a nickname or byname bestowed on a light-hearted, joyful or cheerful person, from the Old French word "gai", full of joy, in Middle English "gai(e)". The second possible origin is locational, where the surname derives from any of the places in Normandy called "Gaye", such as that in La Manche, where the placename derives from an early owner bearing a Germanic personal name beginning" Wai" or "Gai".The first recording of the name from this source is Hilda de Gay, in the 1192 Oxfordshire Pipe Rolls. A famous namebearer was John Gay (1685 - 1732), the poet and dramatist, author of "The Beggar's Opera". The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Osward le Gay, which was dated 1176, in the "Surrey Pipe Rolls", during the reign of King Henry 11, known as "The Builder of Churches", 1154 - 1189. Surnames became necessary when governments introduced personal taxation. In England this was known as Poll Tax. Throughout the centuries, surnames in every country have continued to "develop" often leading to astonishing variants of the original spelling.
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