Philpot: What's in a Name?
Originally published on my personal blog on the 5th of October 2013.
My surname is both a blessing and a curse. It is fairly uncommon without being obscure, and an easy go-to nickname. I often wonder if friends and colleagues subconsciously get a kick out of over-enunciating my family name, what with its soft and dainty first syllable abruptly pursued by the undignified plosive that begins the frankly comical second syllable – “Phil… pot”. It's reminiscent of those old Birds Eye adverts where children make popping noises by running their thumbs across the inside of their cheeks.
My surname is also a pain in the proverbial when it comes to spelling it correctly. Don't get me wrong; I can manage it, though I have now had almost a quarter of a century to practice. Others, meanwhile, insert Ls and Ts and even the occasional S where these letters simply do not belong – at least not for me. I can understand why, though. ‘Philpot’ opens itself up to far more potential spellings than ‘Smith’, ‘Baker’ or ‘Miller’. Within a four mile radius of the comfort of my computer chair, there is a Philpots Manor School, a Philpots Sandstone Quarry (in Philpots Lane, no less) and an area of archaelogical interest called Philpots Promontory Camp, called after a local namesake of 1327. I wonder if pioneering palaeontologist Elizabeth Philpot ever considered a visit.
Still, I am quite naturally fond of my surname, and interested to discover a little of its origins and its usage through the ages. (On his personal website, my father has further information on our branch of Philpot family history). What is perhaps most interesting is the derivation of my surname – what it actually means, because it's not obvious! Unlike the other three surnames in the preceding paragraph, which all but certainly saw a blacksmith, baker and miller at the root of their modern namesakes' family trees, being a Philpot doesn't mean my great-great-(…)-great-great-grandfather was a landlord or a billiards player on any other literal filler of pots.
According to HouseofNames.com, Philpot comes from the name Phillipot, a version of the ancient given name Phillip (of course still in use today). Phillip, in turn, comes from the Greek name Phillipos, derived from the words philein, meaning to love, and hippos, meaning horse.
Perhaps it is this affiliation with horses which sees such a strong modern link between the surname Philpot and the county of Sussex, one of increasingly few parts of the country where these animals are still a regular sight? It's impossible to say for sure, but it is at least easy to say that as a Philpot, I am in very good company.