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Meaning of Last Name

"spencer" family name, ancestry, and history

Meaning: derived from the Old French despensier, a steward

Origins: England

The origin of the surname Spencer (also Spence, Spender, Spens, and Spenser) can be traced directly to Robert d'Abbetot who is listed as Robert le Dispenser, a tenant-in-chief of several counties, in the Domesday Book of 1086. Robert was possibly one of the Norman knights who fought alongside (or accompanied) William the Conqueror in the defeat of King Harold II of England at the Battle of Hastings in 1066. There is little doubt that both Robert and his brother Urse came to England at about the time as the Battle of Hastings. They were both beneficiaries of William over the years, and were given titles and substantial land and property—suggesting repayment for some earlier deeds. It is likely that Robert's first acknowledgment was his official appointment as Royal "Dispencier" sometimes expressed more grandly as "Royal Steward", "King's Steward" or "Lord Steward". As dispenser of provisions to the King and his household Robert was known and recorded as Robert le Despencer or, in its Latinised form, Robertus Dispensator. There is also the possibility that Robert held this official position before arriving in England. Robert's adopted surname was usually written as Despenser or Dispenser—notably in works such as the Domesday Book of 1086 and the Scottish Ragman Rolls of 1291 & 1296. From 1066 until the 13th century the occupational name attributed to Robert d'Abetot existed with numerous spelling and other variations. Eventually both the "le" and "de" that frequently preceded the name were omitted. In 1392 the popular "s" in the centre of the name was discarded and replaced with the "c" seen in the present-day form—Spencer. The surname Spencer has gained in popularity over time. In the 19th century it also become popular as a given name—especially in the United States of America.

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