This is a copy of an article published in The Peak Advertiser, the Peak District's local free newspaper, on 28th February 2000, 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 SALMONS?

The heading and the variations are to be found in the Local Directory but there are at least another twenty or more permutations on the name. And that does not take into account all the foreign forms - from the easily identifiable "Salamoni" in Italy to the tongue-twisting russian "Schlokowich".

The reason for the widespread occurrence of this identity is that it is based on the name of the Old Testament monarch, "King Solomon". He still stands high in the estimation of the Jews as being one of the greatest kings of Ancient Israel and is also noted by Christians on account of his links with the New Testament. As a first name it is still favoured by the Hebrew community, but among Christians it has tended to lose the appeal it enjoyed in the Middle Ages. Among the Mahometans his name is equally admired - as in the case of Soliman I (1520-1566) surnamed the "Magnificent" and ruler of the Ottoman (i.e. Turkish) empire.

The name "Solomon" is taken from the Hebrew expression "Sh'lomoh" which means "peace". It provides the present day salutation among the Jews as "shalom" and the Arabic "salaam". (For the circumstances through which King Solomon acquired his name, see I Chronicles XXII:6-9). It has a feminine counterpart in "Salome" - and, contrary to popular misinterpretation, the notorious dancer involved with King Herod, is not named as such in the gospels!

Our medieval ancestors generally spelled it as "Salomon" but largely through the influence of later translations of the Bible, particularly that of 1611, it has settled on "Solomon".

At this point it is desirable to emphasise that the name is in no way anything to do with the fish. That creature's special characteristic is its ability to travel upstream from the sea to inland fresh waters. In doing so it demonstrates remarkable agility in swimming against the current and in leaping over cascades. This was noted by the Romans who called it "salmo" which they based on "satire" which was Latin for "to leap" or "to jump". (Compare: "to sally forth", "somersault" and "assault"). In speaking, the "l" is not sounded - as also in "half" and "calm" and this has influenced some versions in the spelling of "Solomon" - e.g Sammon, Sammonds.

In most cases the surname will have been derived from the personal name. Along with many Old Testament names "Salomon" was frequently conferred in Christian baptism. The earliest record is for 1067 in York and mentions only a certain "Salomon" and this is followed some twenty years later by a reference to "Giselbertus filius Salamonis" here in Derbyshire. It ran alongside the use of the name in the Jewish community and especially in the south east, where immigrants tended to settle. By the end of the last century when a compilation of surnames special to successive counties was published "Solomon" was named as for Kent. The early registers for London make frequent allusions to "Salomon Judaeus". It was not exclusively Jewish by any means though. Even church officials bore the name. In Bury (Suffolk) there is mention of a "Salaman Clericus" (1121) and way up in Scotland the chaplain to the Bishop of Glasgow (1159) was named "Salomon". Here it might be mentioned that a form "Salmond" and even "Salmonde" emerged in Scotland and still prevails around Perth. The spelling is without significance. The extra "d" is described, by the best authorities, as "execrescent"!

The wisdom of Solomon was so firmly established in people's minds that they frequently conferred it as a nickname upon such of their neighbours whom they highly regarded for good sense. (For the celebrated incident of the two mothers in which the wisdom of Solomon was shown see I Kings: III-16-28). Evidence for such usage comes out in records where a person is positively described as "known as" (in Latin: "dictus"). Hence "Willelmus dictus Salamon" in Chester for 1287. Even King James I (1603-1625) was dubbed "the English Solomon" on account of his scholarship and learning. After all he did give us the "Authorised Version" of the bible. Otherwise there is room for wondering if the appellation had a touch of mischievous irony in it, not only in the case of His Majesty but of lesser mortals!

Finally some families may be able to lay claim to the name through a predecessor who acquired the name on account of playing the part of the Hebrew monarch in one of the great medieval mystery plays and pageants. It should be noted that many performers were not just drawn locally from enthusiastic amateurs but were regular professionals and well known in their area.

The surnames which end in "s" indicate descent. The Old English way of showing "belonging to" was by tagging on the syllable "es" which as time went by evolved into the apostrophe -s. In the case of surnames the apostrophe is omitted. So, with reference to a man called "Solomon", if the question were asked, "Whose child is that?" the answer could have been "It's Solomons".

Limiting reference only to our main heading, mention may be made to Robert Salmon (1763-1821) who invented numerous labour saving devices still used in agriculture. The artist Solomon J. Solomon (1860-1927) painted pictures which were once greatly admired but he is better remembered on account of having pioneered the art of military camouflage. Older readers will remember the virtuoso performances of the pianist who just called himself "Solomon" (1902-1988).

Locally the name is known to us on account of young Mark Salmons of Mount Pleasant Garage at Grindleford. He participates in the "Autohome" Rescue Service and for many a stranded motorist is a welcome arrival on site.

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From "The Peak Advertiser", 28th February 2000.

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