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Kemp Surname Facts


KEMP(E) - In Old English, the term "Kemp" designated a soldier engaged in single combat. The name Kemp is derived from the Saxon word "To Kemp" or combat, which in Norfolk [County, England] is retained to this day; a foot-ball match being called a camping or kemping; and thus in saxon a Kamper signifies a combatant, a champion, a man-at-arms. In some parts of Scotland, the striving of reapers in the harvest-fields is still called Kemping."[1]

English, Scottish, Dutch, and North German: Status name for a champion, Middle English and Middle Low German kempe. In the Middle Ages a champion was a professional fighter on behalf of others; for example the King's Champion, at the coronation, had the duty of issuing a general challenge to battle to anyone who denied the king's right to the throne. The Middle English word corresponds to Old English cempa and Old Norse kempa ‘warrior’; both these go back to Germanic campo ‘warrior’, which is the source of the Dutch and North German name, corresponding to High German Kampf.[2]

KEMP derived from CEMPA which means "ordinary warrior (or foot soldier to us nowadays) or soldier."

Kemp is an ancient Norman name that arrived in England after the Norman Conquest of 1066. It is a name for a champion at jousting or wrestling. In medieval England, the joust was used to train feudal knights for battle. Checking further we found the name was derived from the Middle English word kempe, which is a derivative of the Old English word cempa, which means warrior or champion.[3]

Dutch: Metonymic occupational name for someone who grew or processed hemp, from Middle Dutch canep ‘hemp’.[4]


Recorded in several spellings including Cemp, Kemp, Kempe, Kemppe, Kempt, the patronymic Kempson, and possibly others, this interesting surname is English. It originates from the pre 7th century word 'cempa' meaning a champion, a title bestowed upon a champion of jousting or wrestling. The name is derived from the Roman word "campus", meaning a battlefield. The name development since the First Millenium includes the following recordings: Edmund Kempe of the county of Norfolk in 1099, Alan Kempe in the Hundred Rolls of Suffolk in 1273, Ralph le Kemp of Sussex in 1296 and Ricardus Kempe of Yorkshire in the Poll Tax rolls of 1379. Early examples of recordings taken from the surviving church registers of Greater London include the christening of Abiell Kemp on December 14th 1590, at St. Margaret's Westminster; the christening of Mary Kempt, the daughter of Joseph Kempt at St Giles Cripplegate, on May 21st 1667, and the marriage of Mary Cempe, to James Asskins as spelt, at St James Clerkenwell on June 20th 1667. A coat of arms granted to the nameholders has the blazon of a red shield, charged with three gold garbs and a gold border engrailed. The motto "Lucem spero", translates as "I hope for light". The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Eadulf Cempa,. This was dated 902 a.d, in the list of Old English Bynames for the county of Wiltshire", during the reign of King Edward the Elder, of England, 899 - 924. Throughout the centuries, surnames in every country have continued to "develop" often leading to astonishing variants of the original spelling.[5]

First found in Kent where where one of the first records of the name was Edmund Kempe c. 1100. Years later, Ralph le Kemp was listed in the Subsidy Rolls of 1296 in Sussex.

The unstable environment in England at this time caused numerous families to board ships and leave in search of opportunity and freedom from persecution abroad in places like Ireland, Australia, and particularly the New World. The voyage was extremely difficult, however, and only taken at great expense. The cramped conditions and unsanitary nature of the vessels caused many to arrive diseased and starving, not to mention destitute from the enormous cost. Still opportunity in the emerging nations of Canada and the United States was far greater than at home and many went on to make important contributions to the cultures of their adopted countries. An examination of many early immigration records reveals that people bearing the name Kemp arrived in North America very early: Edmund Kemp settled in Virginia in 1653; Evan Kemp settled in Virginia in 1637; Humfrey Kemp settled in Bermuda in 1635; Thomas Kemp settled in Virginia in 1636 along with William.[6]


Before the last few hundred years the English language had no fixed system of spelling rules. For that reason, spelling variations occurred commonly in Anglo Norman surnames. Over the years, many variations of the name Kemp were recorded, including Kemp, Kempe and others.[7]

Motto Translated: I hope for light.

From the book A Dictionary of Surnames by Patrick Hanks and Flavia Hodges (Oxford University Press 1988) p 292:

  • Kemp English: occupational name for a champion at jousting or wrestling, Middle English kempe [a weakened sense of Old English cempa warrior, champion, from camp battle, Latin campus plain, field (of battle);cf. Campion]
  • Variations : Kempe.
  • Cognates: German: Kampf, Kempf; Kompf (Bavaria); Kempner (also Jewish, presumably an adoption of the German surname). Low German: Kempe. Dutch: Kemper.
  • Diminutives: German: Kampfl, Kempfle.
  • Patronyms: English: Kempson. Dutch: Kempers. Finnish: Kemppainen. (Patronyms are names developed from proper names.)
  • Kempa Polish: topographical name for someone who lived on a small island or by an isolated clump of trees and tufts of grass.
  • Variations: Kepa; Kempski, Kepski.
  • Cognates: Jewish (E. Ashkenazic): Kempe (from kempe, the Yiddish reflexitive of the Polish vocabulary word); Kempinski.
  • Diminutive: Polish: Kepka
  • Habitation names: Polish: Kempinski; Kepinski, Kepczynski.

Kemp family tree and history-related websites

Other External Links to On-Line Kemp Resources

References & Sources

  1. ^ Source: Kemp Family Association
  2. ^
  3. ^ House of Names: Kemp Family Crest and Name History
  4. ^
  5. ^ Internet Surname Database: Kemp Surname. Read more: Another meaning, quite similar to this is "ancient warrior"... One of the most famous early members of this clan was William Kempe an actor and jester who worked with William Shakespeare. He was famous for Morris Dancing from Norwich to London around 1600. Parish records record the death of "Kempe, a man" in St. Savior, Southwark, late in 1603; while this is not clearly the comedian, the record fits his departure from the documentary record.
  6. ^ House of Names: Kemp Family Crest and Name History
  7. ^ House of Names: Kemp Family Crest and Name History

External links

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