There is a large group of surnames, more frequent in French, German and Italian names, which are actually a compound of nickname and patronymic. They consist of an adjective indicating size or an attractive quality as a prefix attached to a given name. This Jewish and German surname of EHRGOTT is such a name literally meaning 'husband'; (the word EHR having progressively become restricted to the marriage contract and then to the state of matrimony itself). At one time in the Austrian Empire, only one son in a Jewish family was officially permitted to marry and start a family of his own; this may have been a surname adopted by such a person. The second element of GOTT is of German origin 'the descendant of Gotesscalc' a name meaning God's servant. The name was also locational 'the dweller by the watercourse or channel'. Local names usually denoted where a man held his land and indicated where he actually lived. Surnames which were derived from ancient Germanic personal names have the same meaning in many languages. The court of Charlemagne (Charles the Great, king of the Franks (742-814) was Christian and Latin speaking). The vernacular was the Frankish dialect of Old High German, and the personal names in use were Germanic and vernacular. These names were adopted in many parts of northwest Europe, particularly among the noble ruling classes. Hereditary surnames were found in Germany in the second half of the 12th century - a little later than in England and France. It was about the 16th century that they became stabilized. Because of the close relationship between the English and German languages, some Germans are able to transform their names to the English form just by dropping a single letter. Many Germans have re-spelt their names in America. A great number of immigrants from Germany settled in Pennsylvania. After the start of the first World War, Germans in great numbers Anglicized their names in an effort to remove all doubt as to their patriotism. Afterwards some changed back, and then during World War II the problem became acute once more, and the changing started all over again, although not with as much intensity.
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