German, English, and Dutch: status name for a freeman of a borough, especially one who was a member of its governing council, a derivative of Middle High German burc, Middle English burg ‘(fortified) town’, Middle Dutch burch. The English name is found occasionally as a surname from the 13th century onwards but is not recorded as a vocabulary word until the 16th century. The usual English term was the Old French word burgeis ‘burgess’ (see Burgess). This name is frequent throughout central and eastern Europe. It also occurs as an Ashkenazic Jewish family name, but the reasons for its adoption are uncertain.