Oliver

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This article is about the etymology and origins of the Scottish Oliver family name. For first name, see Oliver (given name). For Oliver as a family name, see Oliver (family name). For other uses, see Oliver (disambiguation).
Oliver
Family name
Oliver Seat.jpg
Related names Oliver; Olivier
Clan affiliations Clan Oliver

The surname Oliver is of several different origins including French Norman and Scottish.

Etymology[edit]

The surname "Oliver" is derived from the Old French personal name Olivier. The Oliver surname seems to be French Norman in origin. The Oliver family was a sept of the Scotland Highlands' powerful Clan Fraser of Lovat and was a very powerful clan themselves in Roxburghshire and the Borders area. It arrived in Scotland and Ireland in the 14th century. This Old French name was introduced to Scotland and Ireland by the Normans. During the Middle Ages, it was a popular name throughout Europe. It was borne by one of Charlemagne's paladins, and friend of Roland.[1] Ostensibly, the name is said to derive from the Latin olivarius, meaning "olive tree".[2] However, all of Charlemagne's paladins bore Germanic names;[2] and the Latin derivation of the name may be a result of folk etymology working on an unidentified Germanic personal name, possibly a cognate of "Álvaro";[1] or possibly distantly connected with the Old Norse, "Óleifr", meaning "ancestral relic".[2]

The Catalan and (Occitan) French surname is a topographic name. It is derived from "oliver" (pronounced [uliˈβe, oliβe, oliˈve(ɾ)]), meaning "olive tree". It may also be related to the homonymous name listed above.[1] Some of the Oliver family who moved to the United States, ended up moving to Vermont, Michigan, and Florida.

Scottish surname[edit]

Oliver
Family name
Meaning "Bearer of the olive branch" or "Ancestor"
Region of origin Scottish Borders
Language(s) of origin Latin or Scandinavian
Related names Olivier

Many Scottish people with the surname Oliver are descended from the Oliver family that settled in the Border area of Scotland and England by the middle of the 13th century.[3] By the beginning of the 16th century, they had become a kinship group in which all its members bore the same surname of Oliver.

History and territory[edit]

Oliver tartan

The main territory in which the Oliver surname lived and exercised control was Jedforest, an indeterminate area situated south west and south of the Border town of Jedburgh. Originally the lands of Jedforest were held directly by the King, and as his tenants in chief the Olivers would have held their lands by Crown charter, but after a number of changes in feudal superior, Jedforest was granted by the King to the Clan Douglas (the Red Douglas) under whose protection the Olivers subsequently lived.

Oliver kilt

Certain Highland tourist literature -and associated maps- explain that the Olivers were a sept of Clan Fraser of Lovat. This erroneus idea has arisen from the fact that the Frasers living in southern Scotland before moving north to the Inverness area held the barony of Oliver Castle in the 13th century, having acquired it by marriage with the heiress of Oliver, son of Kyluert who then held it. At no time has any family with an Oliver surname ever lived at Oliver Castle, or in the area around it.[3]

It would seem that the Oliver Surname developed slowly over a period of time spanning the 13th to the 15th centuries, and the early records indicate that the first Olivers of any importance in the Border area were merchants in the strategic town of Berwick on Tweed. This town was then part of Scotland, and in the 13th century John Oliver was a merchant who operated a trading network in south east Scotland and in Northumberland. When John of Balliol, King of Scots, rebelled against Edward I, King of England, amongst his many supporters was Robert Oliver, merchant of Berwick -presumably son of John Oliver.[4]

See also[edit]

References and notes[edit]

  1. ^ a b c "Oliver" in A Dictionary of First Names, Oxford University Press, ISBN 0-19-280050-7
  2. ^ a b c Hanks, Patrick; Hodges, Flavia (2006). Hardcastle, Kate, ed. Oxford Dictionary of Names (2nd ed.). Oxford: Oxford University Press. p. 210. ISBN 978-0-19-861060-1. 
  3. ^ a b The Oliver surname on the Scottish Border, pp. 1-2
  4. ^ The Oliver surname on the Scottish Border, p. 19
  • Oliver, Colonel Winston H., The Oliver surname on the Scottish Border, Blain-Blainslie: The Oliver Society, 1982

External links[edit]