Recorded in the spellings of Smith, Smithe, Smythe, the patronymics Smiths and Smithson and the midlands dialectal Smissen, this is an Olde English form of the original pre 7th century German 'smitan'. The original meaning of the word 'smitan' and hence of the later surname, the most popular of all British surnames, was almost certainly not 'a worker in iron'. Our researches back to the very beginings of written history, indicate that 'smitan' was a description for a soldier, one who smote, and who probably wore armour, which he had to repair.The famous Anglo-Saxon Chronicle of the 9th Century uses the expression 'War-Smith' to describe a valiant warrior, whilst the later medieval Guild List of specialist trades has blacksmith, whitesmith, tinsmith, goldsmith and silversmith amongst its members, but no 'smith'. The trade descriptions of the skilled workers of these ancient times were exact, there was no room for generalisations. It is our opinion that the original 'smiths' were the guards of the local lord of the region. This would account for the singular popularity of the name, much more so than metal workers. Over five hundred coats of arms have been granted to Smith nameholders, surely an indication of the soldier background, rather than a humble ironworker. The great family Smith is 'first' in all major cities of the English speaking world, yet curiously the greatest concentration of Smith's are in Aberdeenshire, Scotland! Why this should be so is far from clear. Not surprisingly the Smith name was one of the very first into the New American colonies, being the famous John Smith (1580 - 1631), explorer and writer, who helped to found the state of Virginia. He was reputedly saved from execution by Pocahontas, the Indian chief's daughter, who died in England in 1622. The first recorded spelling of the family name, and probably the first surname recorded anywhere in the world, is that of Eceard Smid. This was dated 975 a.d., in the English Surname Register for County Durham, during the reign of King Edward of England, known as "The Martyr", 975 - 979 a.d.
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