What’s the origin of the name ‘Barefoot’?

I get asked a lot about the origin of my name. Predictably, lots of people think that it’s First Nations in origin. It’s not. I’m pretty Caucasian, and my ancestors have only been in Canada for a couple hundred years.

I’ve always understood my name to be English in origin, and to predate the Battle of Hastings, but that’s about it.

For my birthday last month, some friends got me one of those ‘here’s where your name comes from certificates’. Here’s what it said:

This is an English name from the Olde English pre 7th century “baer”, bare or naked, and “fot”, foot and was used as a nickname for someone who habitually lived and worked without shoes on. It was used specifically of friars and pilgrims and those who went barefoot as a religious penance. There were similar examples in Medieval England for example “Barleg” and “Bareshanke”. The friar in Shakespears “Romeo and Juliet” is described as “a barefoote brother”. William King and Elizabeth Barfot were married in St. George’s Chapel, Mayfair, 1748. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Reginald Berfot. which was dated 1203, in the Pipe Rolls of Cumbria. during the reign of King John, known as “Lackland” 1199 – 1216.

I suppose, then, that my ancestors had to put up with bad jokes about “no shoes”, too.

To be thorough, I also found this listserv message on my name that looks rather thorough.

1 comment

  1. Interesting. I also know that several European immigrant families anglicized their surnames to make it easier to blend in North America. One of the easiest to remember is, although it was for his stage name is Alex Lifeson of Rush, Lifeson being the translation of the Slavic Zivojinovic as I am given to understand.
    I had guessed that it could be that in your case as well because I had never heard of a UK surname Barefoot before. Cheers!

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