This Swedish surname of WESTERVELT was a topographic name for someone who lived to the west of a settlement, or a regional name for one who had migrated from further west. The name was derived from the Middle English word WEST. Other spellings of the name include WESTERN, WESTREN, WESTMAN, WESTER, WESTERMAN, WESTERLING, WESTRA, WESTERBERG (western hill), WESTERDAHL (western valley), WESTERLIND (western lime), WESTERLUND (western grove) and WESTERMARK (western land), to name but a few. Habitation names were originally acquired by the original bearer of the name, who, having lived by, at or near a place, would then take that name as a form of identification for himself and his family. When people lived close to the soil as they did in the Middle Ages, they were acutely conscious of every local variation in landscape and countryside. Every field or plot of land was identified in normal conversation by a descriptive term. If a man lived on or near a hill or mountain, or by a river or stream, forests and trees, he might receive the word as a family name. Almost every town, city or village in early times, has served to name many families. In the 17th century, so-called 'soldiers' names are found as the earliest kind of hereditary surnames in Sweden. These names were derived from vocabulary words, usually martial-sounding monosyllables such as Rapp (prompt) Rask (bold), or occasionally names of animals and birds. The names were bestowed on soldiers for administrative purposes, and no doubt in some cases derived from pre-existing nicknames. The Swedes have in recent times combined two words together to manufacture family names to take the place of their common patronymics, terminating in BERG (mountain), STROM (stream), ALM (elm), BLAD (leaf), HED (meadow), LUND (grove), SKOG (forest) and WAHL (field), to name but a few. These words are not just any words, but are usually nature words combined for easy pronunciation. This custom has been actively encouraged by the Swedish government and there are some 56,000 combinations of the variants. Most Swedes did not adopt hereditary surnames until late, and the patronymic system was still in use in rural areas until late in the 19th century. In the absence of evidence to the contrary it is thought that people may have adopted their surname from the area in which they lived.
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