Surnames Terminating In -cock.
( Originally Published Late 1800's )
You recently gave admission to the communications of two correspondents, discussing the etymology of surnames terminating in -cock; and their remarks were neither unamusing nor unprofitable. I am somewhat surprised, however, that one origin and meaning of Cock, both as a surname standing alone, and probably in many of these compounds, has escaped their investigations, nor has it been suggested by any other correspondent.
Permit me, therefore, to point out that this name is of frequent occurrence in the antient records of this country, under the various forms of Coc, Koc, and le Cok', le Coy', etc., answering, in fact, to the Latin coquus, more usually in the Middle Ages written cocus ; and whilst the greater number of the descendants of these ancient professors of the culinary art have modified their orthography with the times, to Coke, or Cooke, or Cook (and these are still very frequent surnames among us), others have evidently retained the final c, and thus assimilated their name to the victims, instead of the lords, of the kitchen. Hence we proceed to Cock, and Cocks, and Cox.
In the Great Roll of the Exchequer, for 25 Hen. III., 1241, I have found Adam Coc (sometimes Cok), evidently the King's Cook, at Clarendon Palace, near Salisbury, commissioned by the King to superintend certain repairs there, and to instruct the workmen, so that the kitchens and stable might be inclosed within the outer wall :
" In magna porta amovenda, et ea in alio loco ponenda, sicut Adam Coc ex parte R. ei dixit, ita quod coquine et stabulum sint infra clausum, c et xv li viii s. x d."
So late as 1503, we find the name spelt Cok on a sepulchral brass at Blickling, Norfolk. (Blomefield, xi. 405.)
Now this clue will clearly explain some of the names which terminate in cock, as Meacock, the meat-cook; Salcock, the salt meat cook; Slocock, the slow-cook ; Badcock, the imperfect cook ; and Grocock, the gross or wholesale cook, who kept a cook's shop. Or Grocock may be le gros coc, or fat cook. And those compounded with Christian names are thus readily accounted for : Wilcox will be William the cook ; Hancock, Johan the cook (not Anne, for cooks were more frequently male than female) ; Sandercock, Alexander the cook ; Jeff-cock, Jeffrey the cook, etc. The Allcocks may be descended from Hal the cook, unless their great ancestor was aide cocus, the Hall-cook.
At the same time, it is evident that some names of this class have originated in other ways. Some, no doubt are of local origin, as Lay-cock, from Lacock in Wiltshire. Baldcock is perhaps a corruption of Baldock, the town in Hertfordshire. Adcock is possibly derived from at-Cote, like at-Hill, at-Wood, etc. Compounds of Cote are frequent in the West of England, and we have them from all four quarters of the compass,—Northcote, Southcote, Eastcote, and Westcote. On the other hand, Mallcott may be a conversion from le mal coc, and so be synonymous with Badcock.
It must also be allowed that some of the families of Cock have been named after the bird; and there are various reasons why such a sou-briquet should be given to persons of a vain, or noisy, or pugnacious disposition. Old Stowe also helps us to another and more honourable origin—the practice of early rising. He tells us that among the earliest benefactors to Christ's Hospital in London, was "one Richard Castel, alias Casteller, shoomaker, dwelling in Westminster, a man of great travaile and labour in his faculty with his owne hands, and such a one as was named, The Cooke of Westminster, because, both winter and summer, hee was at his worke before foure of the clocke in the morning."
There is a highly respectable family which bears the name of Cockerel. Here the allusion to the bird is undeniable ; Dr. Littleton, in his Latin Dictionary, interprets the word "pullaster" as "a young cockerel, or a little dwarf cock." Shakespeare, in his Tempest, Act ii., sc. 1, has applied these terms to human characters :
Antonio. Which, of he, or Adrian, for a good wager, first begins to crow? Sebastian. The old cock. Antonio. The cockrel. Sebastian. Done !