Chapman (surname)

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This article is about the surname Chapman. For other uses, see Chapman.
Family name
Meaning Business man or trader
Related names Kaufmann

Chapman is an English surname derived from the Old English occupational name céapmann “marketman, monger, merchant”, from the verb céapan, cypan “to buy or sell” and the noun form ceap "barter, business; a purchase." Alternate spellings include Caepmon, Cepeman, Chepmon, Cypman(n), and Shapman. (By 1600, the occupational name chapman had come to be applied to an itinerant dealer in particular, but it remained in use for both "customer, buyer" and "merchant" in the 17th and 18th centuries. Modern chiefly British slang chap “man" arose from the use of the abbreviated word to mean a customer, one with whom to bargain.)

The Oxford English Dictionary (OED) supplies four meanings for chapman, all of which pertain to buying and selling: 1) A man whose business was buying and selling; 2) an itinerant dealer who travels, also known as a hawker or peddler; 3) an agent in a commercial transaction; 4) a purchaser or customer. (N.B. A “petty chapman” was a retail dealer.) The OED includes a citation of an English ordinance or decree that dates from 1553, during the reign of Edward VI: "No Tinker, Peddler, or petit Chapman shall wander about from the Towne but such as shall be licensed by two Justices of Peace." According to a list of colonial occupations, a chapman is a peddler or dealer of goods, usually itinerant, going from village to village. The related word chapbook is a later coinage from the 19th century which appears to refer to the fact that chapbooks were very cheaply made. From Old English ceap is also derived cheap “inexpensive,” a shortening of good ceap “good buy,” and Cheapside “market place,” a street in London that both historically and in modern times has been the financial center of the city.

Both the compound “chapman” and its first element chap- have cognates in all the major Germanic languages: From the prehistoric West Germanic compound *kaup- are derived cognates Old Saxon cop, Old Frisian kap "trade, purchase," Middle Dutch coop, modern Dutch kopen “buy,” koop "trade, market, bargain and goedkoop “inexpensive." These are akin to Old High German choufman, German Kaufmann, a common modern German surname; and North Germanic forms leading to Old Norse kaup "bargain, pay,” modern Swedish köpa “buy,” and modern Danish kjøb "purchase, bargain" and Copenhagen (originally Køpmannæhafn "merchants' harbor, buyer's haven"). The common ancestor is Proto-Germanic *kaupoz-, which was probably an ancient Germanic borrowing of Latin caupo, caupon- "petty tradesman, huckster," of unknown ulterior etymology. From the German the word was borrowed into the Slavic languages (Old Slavic koupiti, modern Russian купить, etc.), the Baltic languages (Old Prussian kaupiskan “trade, commerce,” Lithuanian kὑpczus “merchant”) and Finnish kaupata “to sell cheaply.” In the Romance languages, however, the word has not survived.

People with the surname or nickname Chapman include:


Austin Chapman, Australian Protectionist Party politician
Andy Chapman, indoor soccer player
Andy Chapman, indoor soccer player



Carrie Chapman Catt, woman's suffrage leader
Carrie Chapman Catt, woman's suffrage leader


Donovan Chapman, American country music artist
Donovan Chapman, American country music artist


Eddie Chapman, British spy and double agent, aka Agent Zigzag
Eddie Chapman, British spy and double agent, aka Agent Zigzag


Fredrik Henrik af Chapman, Swedish naval architect
Fredrik Henrik af Chapman, Swedish naval ship architect


Grizz Chapman, television actor
Grizz Chapman, television actor
George Chapman, English dramatist, translator and poet
George Chapman, English dramatist, translator and poet


Henry Chapman Mercer, American archeologist



Johnny Chapman, race car driver
John Wilbur Chapman, American Presbyterian evangelist



Leonard F. Chapman, Jr, American Commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps


Maria Weston Chapman, American abolitionist
Marshall Chapman, American country rock singer-songwriter


Nicki Chapman, British television presenter
Nicki Chapman, British television presenter


  • Orlow W. Chapman (1832–1890), American Solicitor General of the United States
  • Oscar L. Chapman (1896–1978), American Secretary of the Interior during the last three years of the Truman administration
  • Owl Chapman, Surfer


Phillip K. Chapman, Australian astronaut and scientist


Roger Chapman, British rock singer


Steven Curtis Chapman, American Christian musician


Tracy Chapman, singer songwriter
Tracy Chapman, singer songwriter


Victor Chapman, French American wartime pilot
Victor Chapman, French-American wartime pilot


William W. Chapman, American politician in Iowa and Oregon