What’s In A Name?

I’ve always been fascinated by names. I’m curious about where names come from and what they mean. Being an amateur student of history, it’s interesting to know how names became. Take my own name for instance, Marshall Armstrong. Let’s dissect it and see what we come up with!

“Armstrong” as a surname has it’s beginnings in Scotland. The story goes, a Scottish king was doing battle with his enemies and was knocked off his horse. One of the king’s men picked him up, armor and all and set him back on his horse. After the battle (which the king presumably won) the king awarded his man with knighthood and the name Armstrong because it took an exceptionally strong man to pick up the king in full body armor.

This is the only origin story I can find for the Armstrong name and it explains the Scottish roots. Now, there is no actual recorded history to back up this story however the story itself is older than the written word so there’s a good chance there is some truth to it. With a name like Armstrong, the story of its origin would have to be something like this anyway, right?

My given name is Marshall. It’s interesting that my parents picked that name and I’m pretty sure they decided on it simply because they liked it. Of the most prominent theories I can find for the name, all of them say it has Germanic roots and specifically, Frankish. Now the Franks were from the area between the Rhine and the Weser rivers in present day Germany. This is really interesting because my DNA results say I’m 26% Germanic and my genealogy shows that all my German ancestors come from the exact area of Germany! What are the odds that my parents picked a name for me that has a direct relationship to my DNA?

The actual meaning of my name is also interesting. In the Frankish it was a combination of two words, Mare and Shalkoz meaning Horse servant. It is an occupational name. As a noun, a marshal is one who gathers something together, or the act of gathering as in, “The General marshaled his troops.” A horse servant would be a “Horse marshal, or one who gathers horses. Every tribe, group of warriors, or kings retinue had a person designated as the Horse Marshal. So the person who took care of the horses was the Marshal.

On a side note, my paternal Great grandfather’s last name was Farrar. It turns out that name also has to do with horses. It is a Northern English name for someone who works with iron. Specifically, a farrier or one who shoes horses. So I have two names associated with horses. I’ve only ridden a horse once in my life, the thing was old and senile and tipped over, spilling me onto the road. I guess I don’t live up to my family names.

Do any of you know the origin of your names?

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