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Meaning & Origins

Biblical name, borne by the greatest of all the kings of Israel, whose history is recounted with great vividness in the first and second books of Samuel and elsewhere. As a boy he killed the giant Philistine Goliath with his slingshot. As king of Judah, and later of all Israel, he expanded the power of the Israelites and established the security of their kingdom. He was also noted as a poet, many of the Psalms being attributed to him. The Hebrew derivation of the name is uncertain; it is said by some to represent a nursery word meaning ‘darling’. It is a very popular Jewish name, but is almost equally common among Gentiles in the English-speaking world. It is particularly common in Wales and Scotland, having been borne by the patron saint of Wales (see Dewi) and by two medieval kings of Scotland.
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English: occupational name for a worker in metal, from Middle English smith (Old English smið, probably a derivative of smītan ‘to strike, hammer’). Metalworking was one of the earliest occupations for which specialist skills were required, and its importance ensured that this term and its equivalents were perhaps the most widespread of all occupational surnames in Europe. Medieval smiths were important not only in making horseshoes, plowshares, and other domestic articles, but above all for their skill in forging swords, other weapons, and armor. This is the most frequent of all American surnames; it has also absorbed, by assimilation and translation, cognates and equivalents from many other languages (for forms, see Hanks and Hodges 1988).
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