Origins of the surname Kay

The family of Abel Kay: Australian migrant from Pannal, Yorkshire, England

The family of Abel Kay (1830-1897) lived in Yorkshire until 1857. In that year, Abel - the youngest son of Benjamin Kay and Mary Todd Umpleby - sailed for Victoria, Australia and was joined early in 1859 by his wife Ann and sons Abel and Charles.

Related information for Abel's wife, Ann Ibbitson, can be found on the Ibbitson pages.

Recorded as Kay and Kaye, this interesting surname is "British". It has at least five possible origins. Firstly, it may be occupational for either a key maker or a key-bearer, one who held such a civic or similar post in a royal or noble household. This is from the Olde English pre 7th century word "caeg" meaning key. Secondly, it may be of French origin, and a topographical name for someone who lived by a wharf or was employed on one. The derivation being from Old French word "kaye" meaning quay. Thirdly, it may be of Celtic origin, from the Welsh given name "Cai", or the Cornish "Key", a name borne by the boastful brother of the famous King Arthur. Fourthly, it may be of Old Norse origin from the word "ka" meaning a jackdaw, and hence used to describe someone who bore a fancied resemblance to the bird! Finally, it may be a nickname for a left-handed man, from the Danish term "kei" meaning left, which was borrowed in the 13th century into the dialects of Lancashire and Cheshire, and survived in this area until the 19th century. The surname recordings include Geoffrey Cai or Kai in the pipe rolls of Norfolk in the year 1197, whilst church records include the marriage of Robertus Kay to Lucia Barber on the February 4th 1557. A coat of arms granted to the Kay family has the balazon of a silver shield charged with two black bendlets. The crest is a goldfinch proper. Throughout the centuries, surnames in every country have continued to "develop" often leading to astonishing variants of the original spelling. -- www.surnamedb.com

This page belongs to the Eucalypt Family History collection, maintained by Ryk Field. Reach me by email to: rykfield@gmail.com