The surname of FETTEROLF was a Low German nickname for a fat man, originally derived from the Middle German word VETT. The name was also adopted by Ashkenazic Jews. Variant spellings of the name include VETTER, FETTMAN, FETTER, FETTERMAN and FETTING. The name was also a German nickname from the Middle German word VETERE meaning uncle, nephew, 'the fathers brother, one related to another, a male relative'. In Northern Germany the word was sometimes used as a given name, and this may lie behind some cases of the surname. 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. The name has spread widely and in England early records of the name include Walter le FAYTOUR, who was recorded in 1255 in County Bedfordshire, and Adam le FEYTOUR appears in 1272. Edward VETERE of Yorkshire, was listed in the Yorkshire Poll Tax of 1379. 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.
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