This is a copy of an article published in The Peak Advertiser, the Peak District's local free newspaper, on 26th April 1993, 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 HODSON?

A great many surnames end in "-son" and this shows that the original bearer of that name was identified as "the son of -." Sometimes parentage is indicated by endings such as "-s", or "-es", and giving in respect of this particular name, "Hodges".

One of the most popular names among the Anglo-Saxons was "Hrothgar". The first unit of the name, "Hroth-" means "fame" and the second, "-gar", means "spear" . It stands to reason that in their turbulent times the Anglo-Saxons would register their approval of a man who was handy with a spear! The Normans also admired the name and by the time of the Domesday (1083) they had evolved a form "Roger".

For the next 600 years it was a firm favourite, and the number of men baptised "Roger" and affectionately called "Hodge" must have been innumerable. However by about the 18th century the popularity of the name seems to have led to its decline. The form "Hodge" started to lose its friendly connotations and began to be used as something of a "put-down" - so much so that a Dictionary of 1700 defined "Hodge" as "a country clown". Even today it has not quite lost this meaning. With it went also the name "Roger" and although it is not unknown as a boy's name, it was not listed among the Top 50 as recently as 1988. The name "Hodge" since that period has survived only within a surname. It is widely distributed over Lancashire and Cheshire and in North Derbyshire, especially around Ashover.

The intrusive "-kin" in the name "Hodgkinson" is merely what is called a diminutive suffix and is found in many names - "Jenkins", "Wilkins" - and, in simple terms, it adds a "pet form" to another "pet form".

In a few isolated cases, which could only be verified by reference to contemporary records, were they still available, the name "Hodson" could possibly be derived from "Odo's son." "Odo" was a Germanic name and meant "the wealthy one." It is now rarely encountered having been supplanted by "Otto."

So we can take all the names like "Hodson", "Hodges" and "Hodgkinson" and say that originally they meant that the bearer was "the son of the man whom we affectionately call 'Hodge' - being the "pet form". for Roger. A quick count through the local directories yields nearly 1000 entries for the names mentioned here.

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From "The Peak Advertiser", 26th April 1993.

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