This Swedish surname of ARVIDSON was a baptismal name, from the popular Nordic given name of ARVID, composed of the elements represented by the Old Norse words ARE (eagle) and VIO (wide). 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 name meant the son of ARVID 'man of the people'. Many of the modern family names throughout Europe reflect the profession or occupation of their forbears in the Middle Ages and derive from the position held by their ancestors in the village, noble household or religious community in which they lived and worked. The addition of their profession to their birth name made it easier to identify individual tradesmen and craftsmen. As generations passed and families moved around, so the original identifying names developed into the corrupted but simpler versions that we recognise today. 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. Among the humbler classes of European society, and especially among illiterate people, individuals were willing to accept the mistakes of officials, clerks and priests as officially bestowing a new version of their surname, just as they had meekly accepted the surname they had been born with. In North America, the linguistic problems confronting immigration officials at Ellis Island in the 19th century were legendary as a prolific source of Anglicization.
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