This is a copy of an article published in The Peak Advertiser, the Peak District's local free newspaper, on 7th February 1994, 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 MYCOCK?

This means "the son of Matthew" Surnames which indicate parentage and descent are more often found written with a final "-s" and so in this sense 'Mycock" is the equivalent of "Matthews"

With regard to this notion of descent and ancestry, the second unit of the name, "-cock" does not, as one might be at first tempted to think, carry any diminutive force. (See 'Eliot' on 20th December). Comparison with words such as "hillock" (which describes "a small hill") and "paddock" (i.e. a "small enclosure") is misleading. Hence to suggest that "Mycock" means, literally, "the little one (i.e. child) belonging to Matthew" is very appealing and almost convincing. Sadly, however, it cannot be sustained.

Actually, the unit "-cock" means exactly what it says: it describes that well-known barnyard fowl, sometimes called a ' rooster". From here on, tracing the general origin of the name is comparatively easy, since it can be recognised as partaking in both the nature of a nickname and as a term of endearment.

The names of birds are frequently used in this last respect. Examples can be given: from Glasgow, where a woman is often called "hen"; down through the Midlands, where one soon gets used to being greeted as "me ol' duck" and, ending up in the London area where "me old cock-sparrer" is to be heard. It is curious that it is the names of birds which are favoured in this matter, whereas animals are rarely selected. Indeed, the only two which immediately spring to mind are, first, "lamb" to which nobody would take exception, and secondly, and rather oddly, "kid". We say oddly because while an awkward stroppy youth would certainly go off into a fit of sulks if called a "little goat", he would not think that its exact equivalent, "kid" was offensive. In fact during the past 150 years or so, the word has passed into the language as an acceptable equivalent for a child.

However, getting back to the main point, it can be taken that while any young man might, with becoming modesty, disclaim the title such as being "cock of the walk" he would, in silence, be no way displeased at having earned it. In some situations, though, addressing somebody as "Old Cock" is deemed to be bordering on impudent familiarity (see Thackeray, "Rose and Ring", Ch. 14), whereas in others it would be welcomed as denoting acceptance, admiration and esteem. Even John Bunyan, in the moralising evangelical pages of the 'Pilgrim's Progress" has a character described as "a cock of the right kind': (Part Two: Ch. 17).

The attributes of a rooster - its strutting walk, its appeal to its female counterparts, and, above all, its fighting spirit - are among those which, within acceptable limits, a father would be pleased to observe in his son and which society would deem admirable in any young man. As a compliment to both father and son, a community would bestow upon a youth the identity of being "so-and-so's young cock" and eventually the description would be tagged on to the parent's name and become a surname in its own right.

Several names, other than "Mycock" can be traced to this practice, of which "Willcock" or "Wilcox" (i.e. "the son of William") is a good and familiar example.

The first unit of the name, "My-" is really "Matthew" which has evolved through its pet-form from "Matty". Sometimes it appears as "May-" as in "Maycock" and this has led some people to speculate that it might be linked with the fifth month and signify "a child born in the month of May". This is certainly a pretty notion and cannot be entirely refuted. However, persons claiming this source for their surname would have to delve deep and far back into their family records to support it!

"Mycock" and its related forms, such as "Maycock' does not appear to belong to any particular locality. The name is probably slightly more familiar in this area than elsewhere because as well as being recognised through the television services of John Mycock, there are nearly a dozen farmers listed in Yellow Pages.

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From "The Peak Advertiser", 7th February 1994.

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