Mortimer: Origin and meaning of surname

Mortimer is a Norman (Old French) geographical or habitational name derived from “mort-mer”, meaning “still/deathly water”, from the Norman word “mort(e)” meaning “dead” and Latin word “mare/mer” meaning “sea/pond”. It probably referred to a stagnant pond or a partly drained swamp in a low-lying area in Normandy.1-5

Thus, the village, Mortemer, is possibly the source of the medieval family name of Mortimer. The village is situated in the valley of the river Eaulne in the Pays de Bray natural area in the Seine-Maritime region of Normandy, France.6 The surname was introduced into England by Ranulph (Raoul) de Mortemer, a General in chief-command of a division of Duke William of Normandy who invaded England in 1066 and defeated and killed King Harold II of England at the Battle of Hastings. Duke William became King William I (also known as William the Conqueror), the first Norman king of England who reigned from 1066 to 1087. For his successful leadership during the conquering of England, De Mortimer was granted a great barony. He became the ancestor of the Lords Mortimer of Wigmore of Herefordshire, Earls of March.2-4,7,8 No direct male heritage between our Mortimer branch and the descendants of Ranulph de Mortemer could be established. Several variations of the surname are found such as De Mortemer, De Mortimer, Mortemer, Mortimer, Mortimor, Mortimore, Mortymore and Mutimer. The surname was also taken to Scotland and Ireland and interesting deviations developed such as McMurty, Mortagh, Mac Muirchaertaigh and O’Muirchaertaigh. All these appeared over centuries, as spelling in medieval times was a highly imprecise process, even for the literate who often also choose to change or adapt the spelling of their surname. 1,2,9

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  1. Mortimer family history. https://www.ancestry.com/name-origin?surname=mortimer
  2. Mortimer surname, family crest & coat of arms. https://www.houseofnames.com/mortimer-family-crest
  3. Mortimer. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mortimer
  4. Last name: Mortimer. http://www.surnamedb.com/Surname/Mortimer
  5. Mortimer. https://www.behindthename.com/name/mortimer
  6. Mortemer, Seine-Maritime. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mortemer,_Seine-Maritime
  7. Roger de Mortemer. Lord of Mortemer-sur Eaulne. http://mortimerhistorysociety.org.uk/index.php/roger-de-mortemer
  8. William the Conqueror. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_the_Conqueror
  9. English-language spelling reform. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/English-language_spelling_reform