This is a copy of an article published in The Peak Advertiser, the Peak District's local free newspaper, on 26th July 1999, reproduced by kind permission of the author, the late Desmond Holden.

The “What's in a Name” series was a regular feature in the Advertiser over the period 1993‑2004, taking a refreshing look at the derivation of some typically Derbyshire surnames.

Articles are confined to the origins and meanings of surnames, and do not indicate any particular interest on Desmond's part in the genealogy, descent, or family history of individuals bearing the surnames featured.

Editor's Note: Articles are provided for general interest and background only. They are not intended to provide an exhaustive treatise for any individual family history - investigations of which may yield quite different results. Or, in Desmond's own words:

“In the end it must remain with individual bearers of the names to draw upon family traditions and to seek out such documentary evidence as is available to decide the matter for themselves.”

WHAT'S IN A NAME … Are you called DAKIN?

A reader has especially asked about the name "Dakin" and because it is identical with "Daykin", the two may be read as one.

The tagging on of "kin" (which clever people call a "diminutive suffix") is frequently involved with surnames. It is intended to convey the idea of protective affection or indulgence for a young child. It appears in ordinary words as well, such as "catkin" (i.e. the soft downy appearance resembling a furry kitten).

Caution is desirable however since not every word with this termination is a diminutive: "pumpkin" for example! In fact "-kin" is not indigenous to our language. It did not exist in Old English and was actually imported from the low countries where it was regularly used in both personal names and ordinary objects. It was not greatly admired by English writers and was not employed in much current vocabulary. Even today, apart from a few odd constructions which have been directly adopted from Dutch, such as "manikin" the only expression which enjoys popular usage is "lambkin".

However in the case of first names, it was quite different, and was enthusiastically taken up. Its usage in this respect in Flanders and Holland can be traced as far back as 975 AD and as immigrants increased from Flanders and adjoining countries, a decided impetus was given to the use of the diminutive in native names as well. By 1250 names such as "Jenkins" (i.e. - "Little John") and "Wilkin" (i.e. "Little Willie") were to be found.

What is remarkably interesting in this matter is that the suffux "-kin" was not only used to demonstrate affection, but was also invariably added to an already existing fond form. Only in a very few cases was it appended to a full personal name - of which "Peterkin" is the only example which comes readily to mind (as readers of the "Coral Island" - Ballantyne, might concede.

The custom of modifying baptismal names is widespread. So much so that it has acquired the distinction of an academic designation, namely "hypocoristic". The use of "hypocorisms" was a distinct feature of the medieval way of life, so much so, that large numbers of such fond or pet forms evolved into regular personal names and remained in use until about the time of the Tudors, and then passed into being surnames.

So, for example, the boys' first name "Adam" was hugely popular with our medieval ancestors, and was regularly foreshortened to "Addy" or even just "Ad". The tagging on of "-kin" then generated innumerable forms such as "Addekin", and "Hatkin".

The practice was also prevalent on the continent and in the south of England the pet form "Ade" was introduced by Flemish weavers, giving what is now the traditional name of the British serviceman, namely "Atkins". Note: the final "-s" which is almost invariable in these "-kin" formations simply indicates parentage and descent. So, if the question were to have been asked "Whose kid is that?" the answer could come as "It's Aitkin's".

In a vast majority of cases, the addition of "-kin" or "-kins" obscures the identity of the first name. Who would recognise "Matthew" behind "Makins" or that "Larkin" is based on "Lawrence"?

In passing it is curious to note that "-kin" rarely involves girls names. Only "Malkin" based on "Maud" is really familiar and usually in the context of "Grimalkin" a folk name for an old cat.

The supporting name in the "Dakin" is "David". As a first name in full it was not at all popular amongst the English before the Norman invasion, although favoured by the Welsh on account of its being their patron saint and also in Scotland where it blended with the Gaelic word "dahi" meaning "alert".

In fact it cannot be traced before the 9th century in England, although the short forms "Davy", "Davit" and "Daw" abound. It was a favourite among the Hebrew community, because it signifies in their language "He who is loved of the Lord" and was the name of their great king. It is not therefore very surprising to discover that the first record is to a "Doykenus, Judaeus" (1275) (Rutland).

So the name "Dakin" can be interpreted (in modern parlance) as "our Dave's bairn".

After the Jewish record, the next allusion is in Chester, for a "Daykin de Wick" (1290), then Shropshire, "Richard Deykin" (1344) and, oddly, an immigrant from Kent is mentioned in the York records as "Daykin de Idsford", (1379).

The name is quite evenly distributed across the country, but does not appear to have any Scots or Irish counterparts. Locally there are about 120 entries under "Dakin" in the Local Directory and a slightly less number of entries under "Daykin". The "-y-" spelling prevails more in the East Midlands than in the north.

Only two personalities appear in the Standard Biographies. Neither is a "head-liner" but deserve mention. Henry Dakin (1880-1952) was a celebrated bio-chemist. His name is given to "Dakin's Solution" - an invaluable element in the treatment of wounds on account of its antiseptic qualities. William Dakins (died 1607) was a great biblical scholar. He was one of the translators of the "King James Bible" and was entrusted with the Epistles of St. Paul. To him, perhaps, can be accredited those majestic cadences in Corinthian I: XIII. ("The greatest of these is Charity".)

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From "The Peak Advertiser", 26th July 1999.

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