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Lancaster (surname)

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View category for people with the Lancaster surname
Lancaster
Origin: Lancaster, in Lancashire
Meaning: Fortification on River Lune/Lan
Variant(s): Lancashire
Lankshear
Lancastle
Longcastle
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Meaning and originEdit

Lancaster is a name derived from the city of Lancaster, in Lancashire (once also called Lancaster) in northwestern England.

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The town name, first seen in the Domesday Book, has two components:

1. Lan-, often Lon- in early spelling, is the River Lune, once often spelled commonly as Loyne, next to which the city is founded.

2. -Caster, is from Latin Castrum, a fortified camp, the same source as the English word "Castle".

Lancaster was not only a city, but also

  • a large parish.
  • the capital of an early medieval "honour" of Lancaster, which possibly included parts of Westmorland.
  • the capital of what came to be a traditional county of Lancaster, which in turn came to be called Lancastershire and then Lancashire.

Alternative spellings and/or variantsEdit

SpellingsEdit

1. The first component, Lan-, is pronounced in different ways historically, but until recent centuries the "a" was "o-like". In England it was therefore never spelled with an "e" (as it was sometimes in France, where "Len" has an "o-like" sound, and this had an influence upon the spelling in Spain and Portugal, and hence in Latin America). Therefore common spellings are Lan-, Lang-, Lon- and Long-.

2. The second component is normally pronounced with the a of "cat", and not the European sounding "a" of "father". Variants therefore never include -costre or -coster, but rather kester is common.

Other variations on this component include:

French-style endings: -castre or -castr' instead of -caster.
Latin-style endings: -castria

It should be kept in mind that Lanchester in County Durham is a different place than Lancaster, and that spellings with -cester, -cestre, and -cestria are likely to refer to that place. However the two places may have given rise to surnames which are now spelled in the same ways.

VariantsEdit

1. There is clear documentary evidence of families who used surnames in the form of Lancaster, as well as surnames in the form of Lancashire, the neologism which came to distinguish what had originally been called the County of Lancaster. Therefore Lancashire and Lancaster should be considered as variants of each other.

Lancashire as a surname was sometimes shortened into two syllable versions such as Lankshear.

2. Surnames of the form Lancastle, Longcastle etc., are also found being used inter-changeably with Lancaster. Such surnames are probably most often derived from Lancaster, as modified in parts of Britain which were not close to the actual town.

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