Recorded in several spellings as shown below, this is an English surname, although now recorded throughout the British Isles. It is of pre 8th century Scandinavian-Viking origins, and locational from one of the places called Smaithwaite in the counties of Cumberland, Northumberland and Lancashire. The derivation is from the Old Norse word "smar", meaning small, with "thveit", a meadow or land which is flooded in winter, or "thwet" whose meaning is "a clearing in woodland suitable for grazing". Many of the placenames with "thwait(e)" as a second element are late. Neither of the two Smallthwaites in Cumberland, being recorded before 1611, but probably identical in origin to the earlier Smaithwaites. The surname spellings include Smurthwaite, Smorthwaite, Smorfit, Smorthit, Smurfi, Smurfitt, and Smallthwaite. Examples showing the name development include Smirthwait (1562, Durham); Smaytwhat (1563, Cumberland); Smartwhat (1505, Durham); and Smorthwhat (1632, Lancashire). Recordings from church registers include: the marriage of Dorothy Smurthwaite and Richard Morgin in Gainford, County Durham, on October 21st 1604, and the first recorded spelling of Henry de Smethwayt. This was dated 1285, in the Assize Court Rolls of Lancashire, during the reign of King Edward 1st of England, and known as "The Hammer of the Scots", 1272 - 1307. Throughout the centuries, surnames in every country have continued to "develop" often leading to astonishing variants of the original spelling.

Surnames reference. 2013.

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