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.


There are a large number of theories  as to how the surname ARTHUR originated. Out of my investigations, I am including what I believe are the  most interesting versions of the origin of the ARTHUR surname.



This unusual and interesting name is the subject of some controversy regarding its origins. One version is that it derives from the Celtic personal name "Arthur", but there is some doubt as to the etymology of the name. It is thought to be composed of "art", in Old Welsh "arth", meaning "bear", with the Old Welsh "gwr", meaning "hero". The name development includes: Robertus Arcturi (1197, Herefordshire); Adam Arthur (1246, Lancashire); and Henry Artur (1327), Somersetshire has been absorbed into the Celtic name "Arthur", for centuries now associated with the historical 6th Century British leader who fought victorious battles against the Saxon invaders. The modern forms of the name are Arthur, Arter, Artharg, Arthur and Arthars, the last two being the patronymic forms, meaning "son of Arthur. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Geoffrey Arthur, which was dated 1135, in "Records of Oseney Abbey", Oxfordshire, during the reign of King Henry 1, known as "The Lion of Justice", 1100 – 1135. It is believed that many of those who carry the ARTHUR surname in Ireland are descended from ARTHUR’S who arrived here with Strongbow when he invaded Ireland and settled around the village of Emily. Aedan MacGabran was the king of Dal Riada in Scotland from 574a.d. to around 606a.d. and he had a son called Artúr or Artuir who may be the person on whom the tales of King Arthur are based only this Artúr was a war leader and never became king as he was killed in battle






Another theory for the origin of the Arthur Surname is as follows.


While origin of the name Arthur remains a matter of debate. Some suggest it is derived from the Roman nomen gentile (family name) Artōrius, of obscure and contested etymology (but possibly of Messapic or Etruscan origin). Some scholars have suggested that is relevant to this debate that the legendary King Arthur's name only appears as Arthur, or Arturus, in early Latin Arthurian texts, never as Artōrius (although Classical Latin Artōrius became Arturius in some Vulgar Latin dialects). However, this may not say anything about the origin of the name Arthur, as Artōrius would regularly become Art(h)ur when borrowed into Welsh.




Don’t know about the above but I must say that I find it interesting as it could tie into the theory of the name having it’s origins in the region of Dalriada in ancient Scotland which was formed by Irish tribes who invaded Scotland in the late 400’s, early 500’s. Therefore backing up the theory that the name has Celtic origins.




 A strong man; from Ar (Latin vir), a man, and Thor, strong. In the Gaelic, Air is the same as Fear, a man; and the ancient Scythians called a man Aior. Thor was the Jupiter of the Teutonic races, their god of thunder. In Welsh, Arth is a bear, an emblem of strength and courage, and ur a noun termination, a man. Arthur, a bear-man, a hero, a man of strength; the name of a British prince. Interesting isn’t it.


According to the Arthur Ledger the Arthur family is descended from the sept Mac Artureigh which together with the families of O'Brien, O Cinnide, MacMahon etc. sprung from the Royal Milesian house of Ireland descending directly from Cormac Cas who was King of Munster A.D. 250  The rest of the explanation for the change from MacArtureigh to Arthur is explained in the next paragraph. The History of Ireland Ancient and Modern by Abbé Mac-Geoghegan in chapter 8 says that the Artuerigh were descended from Caorma Cas King of Munster and were allied to the O'Brien clan.


The surname Arthur from Limerick City is believed to have derived from the Old Norse personal name "Arnthorr", which in turn was derived from "Arn", eagle, and "Thor", the name of the god of thunder . These Vikings with this name almost certainly intermarried with members of the Mac Artureigh sept who were from Clare and belonged to the O'Brien sept who ruled Dal Cais  Unlike the surname in other places where the Arthur's seem to be descended from Scottish/ Celtic etc. antecedents who came over with during the Plantation of Ulster under King James I or from the Arthur's who came over with Strongbow and settled on the Limerick Tipperary border. The surname Arthur developed in the city of Limerick before the Norman invasion. However the full change to Arthur or Arturé only have occurred after the arrival of the Normans and they seem to have adopted the Arthur surname that came over with the Normans and which was so similar to their own.It is good to remember that the surname developed here in Ireland before it did in England. Thomas Arthur is the first member of the family to be recorded as having adopted the surname Arthur in Limerick he stood high in favor with king Henry II who bestowed upon him in 1178 high honours as well as large grants of land. He died about the year 1204 aged 76 years and his brother was Richard Arthur who was recorded as a benefactor to the great Abbey of St. Thomas in Dublin in 1210.

 So There seem to be three origins for the surname Arthur in Ireland One is the one I have just outlined that the Arthur Family of Limerick City are of Gaelic Irish origin, others came over with Strongbow and the final origin for the name in Ireland is that some came over with the Scots settlers who came over here during the Plantation of Ulster which begun privately in 1606 and the official plantation with Scots and English settlers begun in 1609.


Why do I think this is the likely origin of the Arthur name in Limerick City?


I believe this is the likely origin of our surname because if we were descended from Arthur’s who came over with Strongbow and settled as farmers on what is now the Limerick Tipperary border around Emily how did they become important merchants and provide many Mayors to Limerick. Before the Black Death between 1348 and 1350 all areas of Ireland under Norman domination including Limerick were part of FEUDAL society that the Normans brought with them. Feudalism did not allow for movement between the social classes or for movement from country to town. It was a very rigid form of society so therefore it seems to me that it would have been very unlikely that farmers could have moved to the city and become wealthy merchants within such a short time of arriving in the Limerick area as farmers with the Normans. However if the Arthur family were already there with Viking origins it would make sense that they were merchants (many Vikings were). I concede that the evidence for this theory is scant as there is little or no documentary evidence for it but there is little documentary evidence for anything at this time. If the Arthur family were already there then it would explain how they could rise to become became Mayor’s so early in the City’s history. Finally to the best of my knowledge the Arthur family of Limerick City were the only Arthur's whose primary  means of earning a living was through trade (a Viking trait) all other Arthurs in the early years were engaged in Agriculture either as farmers or land holders.


The above are some of the more popular possible origins for the Arthur surname. I believe that this shows that the surname developed independently and at different times in a number of different locations both in Ireland and the United Kingdom.




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