This English surname of VIPPERMAN was a nickname which was applied to a venomous or unpleasant person, from the snake, the viper. The name is also spelt VIPPER, VIPERMAN and VIPER. Surnames having a derivation from nicknames form the broadest and most miscellaneous class of surnames, encompassing many different types of origin. The most typical classes refer adjectivally to the general physical aspect of the person concerned, or to his character. Many nicknames refer to a man's size or height, while others make reference to a favoured article of clothing or style of dress. Many surnames derived from the names of animals and birds. In the Middle Ages ideas were held about the characters of other living creatures, based on observation, and these associations were reflected and reinforced by large bodies of folk tales featuring animals behaving as humans. In Hotten's 'The Original Lists of Persons of Quality' which includes emigrants, religious exiles, political rebels, serving men sold for a term of years, apprentices, children stolen, maidens pressed and others, who went to America from Great Britain to the American Plantations between 1600 and 1700 is included Thomas VIPER aged 34 years who imbarqued in the 'Plain Joan' on 15th May 1635 from the port of London to Virginia. It was not until the 10th century that modern hereditary surnames first developed, and the use of fixed names spread, first to France, and then England, then to Germany and all of Europe. In these parts of Europe, the individual man was becoming more important, commerce was increasing and the exact identification of each man was becoming a necessity. Even today however, the Church does not recognise surnames. Baptisms and marriages are performed through use of the Christian name alone. Thus hereditary names as we know them today developed gradually during the 11th to the 15th century in the various European countries. Over the centuries, most people in Europe have accepted their surname as a fact of life, as irrevocable as an act of God. However much the individual may have liked or disliked the surname, they were stuck with it, and people rarely changed them by personal choice. A more common form of variation was in fact involuntary, when an official change was made, in other words, a clerical error.
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