Dean (surname)

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Wiltshire UK locator map 2010.svg
Wiltshire in South West England
Word/nameOld English
Region of origin England
 Wiltshire (also Gloucestershire and Kent)
Other names
Variant form(s)Deane, Deans, Dene, De Dene (archaic)[1][2]

Dean is a surname of Anglo-Saxon English origin.[3] It is originally derived from the Old English word "denu" (Middle English, "dene") meaning "valley."[3] Another common variant of this surname is Deane.[1][2] The family originate from counties Wiltshire and Gloucestershire.[4]

The view north towards Ross-on-Wye from Symonds Yat Rock, in the Forest of Dean in Gloucestershire

Origin and variants[edit]

Dean is thought to be a habitational name from any of several places in various parts of England that are known by a variation of the name.[3] The first bearers of the name lived in Anglo-Saxon England in mountainous or hilly areas where they would have adopted the name as a habitational marker.[2] The surname is historically concentrated in the West Country in South West England, particularly in and around the county of Gloucestershire,[5] and there are several places called Dean in the area (including other areas of Southern England), suggesting that this region may be the surname’s likely area of origin. Dean and Deane are also historically found as surnames in Scotland and Ireland.[5]

Perhaps less likely, it may also be a descriptive name for someone thought to resemble an ecclesiastical Dean, or an occupational name associated with the servant of a Dean, derived from the Middle English word "deen," which is itself ultimately derived from the Latin word "decanus" (modern English, Deacon), meaning "a leader of ten men".[2]

Recorded usage of the name dates back to the late 11th century when it was recorded as the surname of several individuals. The first known person on record to use the Dean surname appears to have been an individual named Robert de Dene, who was a "Pincema", or, an official in charge of wine and beverage for King Edward the Confessor (1042–1066).[5] His descendants, known as Denn or Denne, were landowners in Kent and Sussex, but apparently died out by the 1600s.[5] Another known early Dean was an individual named Ralph De Dene, who was recorded in the Domesday Book for Sussex during the reign of William the Conqueror (1066–1087) in 1086.[2]

The official use of surnames became necessary when governments introduced personal taxation.[2] Until the gradual standardization of English spelling in the last few centuries however, English lacked any comprehensive system of spelling. Consequently, spelling variations in names are frequently found in early Anglo-Saxon and later Anglo-Norman documents, meaning that a person's name was often spelled several different ways over a lifetime. As such, different variations of the Dean surname usually have the same origin.[1]

Notable people with the surname[edit]

Fictional Characters[edit]

  • Jason "J.D." Dean, the antagonist of the 1988 teen film Heathers, and it's musical and TV adaptations

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c "Dean History, Family Crest & Coats of Arms". Retrieved 29 June 2018
  2. ^ a b c d e f "Last name: Dean". Retrieved 29 June 2018
  3. ^ a b c "Dean Family History". Retrieved 29 June 2018
  4. ^ Longstaff, John C. (1911). "Notes on Wiltshire names (chapter IV)" (PDF).
  5. ^ a b c d "Dean". Retrieved 29 June 2018