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The "Prettyman" Name

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"A man who is not proud of his ancestry will never leave
after him anything for which his posterity may be proud of him"
Edmund Burke

The name Prettyman has intrigued many people and several have attempted to give its origin and its meaning. The earliest appearance of the name was in Bacton, Suffolk County, England in 1361 stated that John Pratyman owned land there.

Ferguson in his book "Teutonic Names" states the name probably is derived from "Brito" or "Le Brita": brito to break or Brita a ruler. Often the German "B" at the beginning of a name when changed to English becomes a "P". Hence, he reasoned, Prette or Preto, with the suffix man became Preteman.

Another writer asserts the name probably is derived from the French, "Belle Hommes", meaning Pretty-man.

Another author, Nuttal, gives an Anglo-Saxon theory that the name is derived from "Praete", meaning ornate or from "Praetig,"meaning clever. That which all these writers have missed is that the oldest spelling of the name is Pratyman.

Perhaps the best theory and probably the true one is advanced by the late William Pretyman, who until his death, was the family historian in England. In his book "Pretyman of Bacton, Suffolk"' He takes the ground that the name has no connection with the accepted meaning of the word "Pretty", but that its root is in the Latin word "Pratum" meaning meadow. In a most scholarly article of some length he gives historical data for his belief. Briefly he says: "That in the earliest records the spelling of the name was Pratyman. The last member of the family who wrote his name thus was William Pratyman, of Bacton, lord of that manor, who died in 1594, since then the family have written their name" Pretyman", dropping the "a" for the "e", in accordance with the custom. Many English families made that change in honor of Queen Elizabeth. He contends that "from the earliest records to the present time in England, the name has been spelled with but one "t" and never two, except when incorrectly written." He mentions a certain Henry Atta Mede (Meadow), who in 1272, in the body to one of the deeds bears the legends: "Sig: Henrici de Pratis", the Latinized form of his name. He gives numerous Latinized illustrations of the the Latin form of family names being used in many countries.

The author of the book, "The Norman People", states that the name is from the Norman "de Pratis" which later changed to "Praty". This theory was accepted by Mr. Pretyman, the historian. In 1159 there was a William de Pratis, living in Suffolk County, and a Jordan de Pratis at an even earlier date - the county where John Pratyman lived in 1361. In 1397 in that same county, we find Thomas Praty, Simon de Pratis and William Pratyman and his two sons, Stephen and William.

In nearby county of Essez there was a Bishop Praty (1430-46). In 1540-48 there was a Rector by the name of Rev. William Praty, sometimes spelled "Pratye".

He proves from records that in early times in Suffolk county the suffix "man" to family names was very rare, but by 1340 family names ending thus were numerous.

There came a time in England when some families began to change their names by adding prefixes or suffixes. Two of these were "er" and "man". If the householder dwelt in a meadow he might be Robert Feild or Robert Feildman. Other examples were Chucher and Churchman, Bridger and Bridgeman.

It is a natural conclusion that some branches of the family of Praty added the suffix "man", becoming Pratyman, while others did not do so, preferring to remain Praty.

The Prettyman Family,in England and America
by Reverend Edgar Cannon Prettyman

In the 2000 Census the name Prettyman ranked 14,273 in popularly compared to 13,953 in 1990.


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This Page created October 4, 2000;
Revised: November 2010