This surname MALHAM was a French nickname for a poorly accoutred warrior, perhaps one who could barely afford the knight's service he had inherited. The name was derived from the elements MAL (male) and ARME (armed) originally rendered in the Latin form ARMATUS. 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 earliest French hereditary surnames are found in the 12th century, at more or less the same time as they arose in England, but they are by no means common before the 13th century, and it was not until the 15th century that they stabilized to any great extent; before then a surname might be handed down for two or three generations, but then abandoned in favour of another. In the south, many French surnames have come in from Italy over the centuries, and in Northern France, Germanic influence can often be detected. The name is also spelt Malarme and Malama, and the associated coat of arms is recorded in Rietstaps Armorial General. Registered in France (Malama).
The name was brought to England in the wake of the Norman Invasion of 1086, and there is a place MALHAM, a township in the parish of Kirkby-in-Malham-Dale in the West Riding of Yorkshire, which may have given rise to the surname. John de MALGHOM of Yorkshire, was listed in the Yorkshire Poll Tax of 1379, and Stephen de Malgham (draper) was listed in the same document. A later instance of the name mentions William Barrett and Elizabeth MALLAM who were married at St. George's, Hanover Square, London in the year 1774.
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