This surname CATAN was a Jewish nickname from the Hebrew KATAN, meaning one who was a small man. The name is widespread and in many forms which include Katan, Cattan, Kattan and Catan. The German form of the name is Klein. When traditional Jews were forced to take family names by the local bureaucracy, it was an obligation imposed from outside traditional society, and people often took the names playfully and let their imaginations run wild by choosing names which either corresponded to nothing real in their world. No one alive today can remember the times when Jews took or were given family names (for most Ashkenazim this was the end of the 18th century or the beginning of the 19th) although many remember names being changed after emigration to other countries, such as the United States and Israel in recent years.
At some time the name was brought into England and Scotland, and is of local origin from Catton near Allendale, Northumberland. There is also a Caton in County Lancashire. The name of Cation, which is found in Fife is probably a variant. Early records of the name mention Cathan (without surname) who was a juror on an arbitration in Fife, circa. 1128. Thomas de Cattone of Perthshire, rendered homage in 1296. A later instance of the name mentions Marion Cattane, spouse of Henry Manson, who was recorded in Skelberrie, Lunnasting, Shetland in 1635. Habitation names, which are by far the largest group, usually denoted where the original bearer of the name held his land, and where he actually lived. These local surnames derive (with a few occasional exceptions) from English, Scottish or French places, and were originally preceded by a preposition such as 'atte' or 'bye'. The earliest local surnames of French origin are chiefly from Normandy, particularly from the departments of Calvados, Eure, Seine-Inferieure and La Manche, although some settlers arriving in England early acquired surnames from English places. Local names may derive from the manor held, the place of residence, and occasionally from a sign like an Inn or Tavern, or a particularly unusual shape of rock, hill, tree, stream or river.
Arms recorded in Riestaps Armorial General. (Kathen)
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