Last name origins & meanings:
- 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.
- Irish (especially County Down): as 1, but also occasionally used
instead of Dempsey.
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