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Family spelling variants includes Le May, Lemay, Mey, Mai, Mae, Maye

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May Family History


This ancient and interesting surname with the various spellings of May, Le May, Maye, Mayes, Mays, Mayze, Mayzes, Mey, Meys, Lemay and no doubt others as well, is of early medieval English origins, but probably from a Norman French introduction. It derives from a term of endearment or greeting (mai) given to a young person, or somebody of close friend or kinship. Similar expressions in the twentieth century are 'lad(die)' or 'man' or even 'guy' which is now applied to both males and females. The surname it is claimed can also be a hypocoristic or shortened form of "Matthew", and when with a plural ending implies a patronymic 'Son of May'...


May (Variants: Maye, Mae, Mai, Mey, Lemay, Le May)

An English relationship name from the Middle English male personal name May, a pet form of Matthew (Mayhew). A relationship name from the Middle English female personal name May, possibly a pet form of Mary or Margaret. Also derived from the name of the month.

May, in the Saxon, is a daisy, a flower; the fifth month in the year, beginning with January. Gaelic, mai or maith, good, pleasant, fruitful; Mad, Welsh. From Ma we have mai, the earth, the producer; ma, mother, tender, kind.

In Irish, the English name is well established but in some cases it also represents Irish Ó Miadhaigh, or Maye.

In Chinese, a non-standard Romanisation of the Chinese surnames ?‎ (Mak) and ?‎ (Moy).

Early bearers of the surname include: Johannes filius Maie, 1274 in Hundred Rolls (Lincs); Elena filia May, 1301 in Subsidy Rolls (Yorks); Richard May, 1538 in IGI (Great Canfield, Essex); Elizabeth May, 1539 in IGI (Bampton, Oxon); George May, 1539 in IGI (Toft, Cambs); Hary May, 1539 in IGI (Heckfield and Mattingley, Hants); James May, 1539 in IGI (Dover, Kent).

John May was a Cornish settler, convicted in Cornwall in 1801. He was sentenced for life, and transported aboard the ship "Glatten" on 23rd September 1802 to New South Wales, Australia.

In 1891, the surname was recorded in England and Wales with 19,170 occurrences and a further 933 in Scotland.

In 1881, it was widespread especially Devon, Cornwall, London, Kent and Lancashire. It was a top surname in Cornwall with 1,247 occurrences. In Devon, the district of Plymouth had 202 occurrences.

Brian Harold May (b. 1947), English guitarist for the rock band "Queen".

David May (b. 1951), British computer scientist

Theresa Mary May (b. 1956), née Brasier, a British politician, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom since 2016 to the present day.

1881, 1891 Census

1881 Census in Cornwall

1881 Census in Devon

Dictionary of American Family Homes, P Hanks OUP 2003

Homes of Family Names in Great Britain, H.B. Guppy, London 1890

The Oxford Dictionary of Family Names in Britain and Ireland, P.Hanks, Coats, McClure OUP 2016

1860 Lower, Mark A Patronymica Britannica: a dictionary of the family names of the United Kingdom, London: J.R Smith. Public Domain

1857 Arthur, William An Etymological Dictionary of Family and Christian Names. New York: Sheldon, Blakeman. Public Domain


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