Vol. 55 No. 4 (2007)
Research Article

Compass Points in English Surnames

Published 2007-12-01



West is by far more frequent as an English surname than any of the other compass points, followed in sequence by North, East and South. It has been hypothesized that this is due to the pattern of internal migration in England during the period when surnames were becoming established. An alternative is that this is a matter of fashion, the west of England being seen as exotic and adventurous at that time. These hypotheses are tested using a large data set that considers both the four names mentioned and a variety of compound names that incorporate the four compass points. The evidence does not favor either hypothesis. Rather, it is consistent with the null hypothesis that the adoption and retention of one or another compass-point surname is largely a random process.


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