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PronunciationFrench: [ʒɑk] or [ʒak]
Region of originFrench
Other names
Related namesJames
Iago, Diego

Ancient and noble French family names, Jacques, Jacq, or James are believed to originate from the Middle Ages in the historic northwest Brittany region in France, and have since spread around the world over the centuries. To date, there are over one hundred identified noble families related to the surname by the Nobility & Gentry of Great Britain & Ireland.[1]


The origin of this surname ultimately originates from the Latin, Jacobus, which belongs to an unknown progenitor.[2] Jacobus comes from the Hebrew name, Yaakov, which translates as "one who follows" or "to follow after".

Ancient history[edit]

A French knight returning from the Crusades in the Holy Lands probably adopted the surname from "Saint Jacques" (or "James the Greater").[3] James the Greater was one of Jesus' Twelve Apostles, and is believed to be the first martyred apostle. Being endowed with this surname was an honor at the time and it is likely that the Church allowed it because of acts during the Crusades. Indeed, at this time, the use of biblical, Christian, or Hebrew names and surnames became very popular, and entered the European lexicon.[4]

Robert J., a Knight Crusader in 1248, was the first documented use of the surname.[5] Since then, several personalities who have glorified this surname: Guillaume, secretary of the Duke and auditor of the account in 1413; Thomas, the Archdeacon of Penthievre, the Prior of Pirmil, the Bishop of Leon in 1478, transferred to Dol in 1482, the ambassador of the duke to the Pope in 1486, who died in 1503, and is interred in his cathedral; Jean, the Canon of Dol and Prior of Lehon; François, Lord of the Ville-Carré, and the Provost Marshal in 1577; and Captain of Ploërmel, who prospered in Rennes in 1621; Bernard, a Rennes counsellor in 1653.[6] The widespread use of surnames was not evident in Europe until the mid-to-late 16th century, and prior usage was restricted to the noble class.[citation needed]

Spread of surname use into the UK and its spelling variations[edit]

The use of surnames reached England during the conquest by an army of Norman, Breton, Flemish, and French soldiers under William the Conqueror. The names became anglicised following the conquest. Over the centuries the spelling of the Jack surname has changed and developed as the French language became increasingly associated with high culture and status.[7] Several European kings have thus adopted the name.[8] Jack appears in the records spelled as Jacques, Jaques, Jack, Jacks, Jackes, Jakes, Jeeks, Jeke, Jeex, Jaquiss, Jaquez and Jaquis, with spelling variations even occurring in documents referring to the same person. There are several explanations for this situation. Latin, as a language used by educated men, and the language of the Anglo-Saxons both had a profound impact on the spelling and pronunciation of Norman names. On the other hand, the Norman language affected the development of English. As the English language developed from its Germanic roots into Middle English (which was influenced by Norman French) we find a period during which spelling was not standardised but roughly followed phonetic pronunciation. During this time names were spelled a variety of ways depending upon local dialects. Thus the surname, as well as the Anglo-Saxon names, were recorded in many different ways.[9]

Early history[edit]

Norman surnames like Jack are sometimes mistakenly considered French, though Normans (a term derived from "Northmen"), were of partial Viking origin. In 911, Vikings settled in their namesake region, Normandy, in current day France, where their language merged with that of locals. Throughout this period, England also endured Viking invasions, but the Anglo-Saxons successfully repelled them until 994. When the Danes ruled England, the Saxon royal family lived in Normandy and intermarried with the Duke of Normandy's family. William II, Duke of Normandy, could then claim the English throne when his cousin, Edward the Confessor, the restored Saxon king, died without an heir.

At the Battle of Hastings, William's army defeated their rival, King Harold Godwin, who was killed in the engagement. William could then claim the throne as Harold was elected and not a true member of the royal family. Despite the success of the foreign "conquest," English nobles were permitted to retain their land unless they rebelled. Any resisting English elite had their lands confiscated, and some of them fled into exile as a result. William granted lands to his followers and built commanding military strongpoint castles for defence of his realm.[10] By 1086, more than 92% of English nobles were replaced by William's followers.[11] One of these followers is believed to be an ancestor of the surname, Jack.

Early notables[edit]

Historians have studied documents such as the Domesday Book, compiled by William I of England, in search of the first record of the Jack surname, and found it to be of Norman origin, first appearing in Yorkshire where they held a family seat as Lords of the Manor of Nether Silton in the North Riding of the region. At the time of the Doomsday Book in 1086, Nether Silton was recorded as a village with a hall and the tenant-in-chief was the Count of Mortain.[12]

The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of William Jagge, from Cambridgeshire dated 1251, in the "Chartulary of Ramsey Abbey", during the reign of King Henry III, who was known as "The Frenchman", 1216 – 1272, a witness in the Assize Court Rolls of Cambridgeshire in 1260.[13]

Katherine Jeke of Wikington in Stafford married Robert Farnham, Lord of Querndon in 1440. The family later acquired estates at Easby Abbey and Elvington. Of this latter branch, Sir Roger Jaques was Lord Mayor of York in 1639, and knighted by King Charles I. Sir John Jacques was also knighted by King Charles I in 1628. The family branched into Middlesex. Mary, daughter of Thomas Jacques of Leeds, married Robert Gosforth of Northumberland in 1818. The present seat of the family is at Easby Abbey.[14]

Before the usage of surnames became common, differentiating between generations also led to ‘son of Jack’ becoming Jackson, most notably with President Andrew Jackson of South Carolina. The Jackson family had immigrated from Ireland during the colonial period. Jackson led American forces at the Battle of New Orleans in the War of 1812. Due to favorable weather conditions, and his overall leadership, Britain suffered one of her worst defeats in their overseas colonial history. His fame as a general helped him to become the seventh US president later in his life.[15]

People with the surname Jacques[edit]

Jacques as given name[edit]

Jacques (French: [ʒak] (listen), Quebec French pronunciation : [ʒɑɔ̯k] (listen)) is the French equivalent of James, ultimately originating from the name Jacob.

Jacques is derived from the Late Latin Iacobus, from the Greek Ἰακώβος (Septuagintal Greek Ἰακώβ), from the Hebrew name Jacob יַעֲקֹב‎.[16] (See Jacob.) James is derived from Iacomus, a variant of Iacobus.[17]

As a first name, Jacques is often phonetically converted to English as Jacob, Jake (from Jacob), or Jack. Jack, from Jankin, is usually a diminutive of John but can also be used as a short form for many names derived from Jacob like Jacques. For example, in French "Jacky" is commonly used as a nickname for Jacques, in Dutch "Jack" is a pet form of Jacob or Jacobus along with the other nicknames "Sjaak", "Sjaakie" and "Jaak". In Swedish, it is "Jacke" for Jacob or Jakob and in German it is "Jackel" or "Jockel" for Jakob.[18]

People with the given name Jacques[edit]

Fictional characters[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Thomas Robson, Cabinet of Armorial Bearings of the Nobility & Gentry of Great Britain & Ireland, 1830. p
  2. ^ Heraldrys Institute of Rome, Jacq Nobles, 2016
  3. ^ John Lehman, Jack Family, Coat of Arms, 2016
  4. ^ John Lehman, Jack Family, Coat of Arms, 2016
  5. ^ Courtois cabinet, Latin Charters from 1191 to 1249 relating to Crusaders.
  6. ^ Heraldrys Institute of Rome, Jacq Nobles, 2016
  7. ^ Hollister, ed. "The Effects of the Norman Conquest", The Impact of the Norman Conquest, P.33.
  8. ^ "Hammered Gold Crown of King James I".
  9. ^ Swyrich Corporation, The Most Distinguished Surname Jack,1998
  10. ^ Puryear, Cynthia L., "The effects of the Norman Conquest on Anglo-Saxon Aristocracy" (1976). Honours Theses. Paper 711, p.2.
  11. ^ David C. Douglas, gen. ed., English Historical Documents (New York: Oxford University Press, 1953), Vol II: 1042–1189, p. 21.
  12. ^ Swyrich Corporation, The Most Distinguished Surname Jack,1998
  13. ^ Swyrich Corporation, The Most Distinguished Surname Jack,1998
  14. ^ Swyrich Corporation, The Most Distinguished Surname Jack,1998
  15. ^ John Lehman, Jack Family, Coat of Arms, 2016
  16. ^ Morris, William and Mary (eds); entry for "Jacob", American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language (1975).
  17. ^ Morris, William and Mary (eds); entry for "James", American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language (1975).
  18. ^ Morris, William and Mary (eds); entry for "Jack", American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language (1975).