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The origin of the name Mead

The surname Mead and its variants Meade and Mede first appear in the mid 13th century when John ate Mede is mentioned in the Essex fine court rolls. It is possible that the name existed before then, but very few records survive from that time.

Surnames did not become hereditary for all levels of society until the early 14th century. Before then Mede was just a descriptive name indicating someone who lived by a meadow or mead. At the same time in the early records there were people called de prato (Norman French) or ad Pratum (Latin), the equivalent of atte Mede. These descriptive names are similar in usage to faber (the Latin for a smith) or filio Ricardi (Richard's son). Faber, Smith and Richardson, like Mead and Meade have survived to the present day.

From around 1300 there are indications that Mede was being used as a surname in the sense we know today and had become hereditary. The name was becoming established in Somerset and the counties around London, especially Essex, Hertfordshire and Buckinghamshire. This pattern remained little changed until the late 19th century.

Some families can be traced for several generations to the 14th and 15th centuries, but are not necessarily related to each other. The name has also been adopted as an anglicised form of some foreign surnames. The surname Mead has therefore originated independently in different locations producing several unrelated families with the same or similar surnames.

The Meads of Essex can be traced back to a number of different origins outside the county. The earliest recorded influx came from Bristol in the late 15th century, but there are other later moves into the county from Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire.

Charlie Mead, 2009.
(origin: Local) A meadow, a tract of low land; the sense is, extended or flat, depressed land.

Source: An Etymological Dictionary of Family and Christian Names With an Essay on their Derivation and Import, 1857.

1.  topographic name for someone who lived by a meadow, from Middle English mede meadow (Old English m?d).
2.  metonymic occupational name for a brewer or seller of mead (Old English meodu), an alcoholic beverage made by fermenting honey.
Source: Dictionary of American Family Names, Oxford University Press, 2003

This interesting name, with variant spellings Meade, Mead, Meads and Mede, has two distinct possible origins, the first and most likely being an English topographical name from residence, in or by a meadow. the derivation in this case is from the old English pre 7th Century “moed”, (Medieval English “mede”), a meadow and John Atemede, witness - the 1248 “Fine Court Rolls of Essex” is the earliest recorded namebearer. Other early recordings include: Nicholas atte Mede, (Somerset 1307); Richard in the Mede (Surrey, 1332); Willelmus del Mede, (Yorkshire, 1379) and John Mede, (Kent, 1454). The second possibility is that the name originated as a metonymic occupational name for a brewer or seller of “Mead”, a fermented beverage made from honey and water, often with spices added, the derivation being from the old English “meodu”, mead. A famous namebearer was Richard Mead (1673–1754), physician to Sir Isaac Newton and Sir Robert Walpole as well as King George 1st and King George II. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Richard Mede, which was dated 1190, “The Pipe Rolls of Warwickshire”, during the reign of King Richard 1st, “Richard of Bordeaux”, 1189–1199. 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

Source: Name Origin Research,