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Last name origins & meanings:

  1. Scottish, Manx, and English: occupational name for a judge or arbiter of minor disputes, from Old English dēm(e)stre, a derivative of the verb dēmian ‘to judge or pronounce judgement’. Although this was originally a feminine form of the masculine dēmere, by the Middle English period the suffix -stre had lost its feminine force, and the term was used of both sexes. The surname is not common in England, where the term was early replaced by Anglo-Norman French juge (see Judge), but relatively frequent in Scotland, where until 1747 every laird of a barony could have certain offenses within his territory tried by his dempster, and on the Isle of Man, where deemsters also played an important part in the administration of justice.
  2. Irish (especially County Down): as 1, but also occasionally used instead of Dempsey.
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