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Surname Pelham - Meaning and Origin

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Pelham: What does the surname Pelham mean?

Pelham is a surname of English origin, derived from a place name in England. The name is believed to have originated from two villages named Pelham in Hertfordshire: Brent Pelham and Stocking Pelham. The place name "Pelham" is likely derived from the Old English terms "pel" meaning "a pear" and "ham" meaning "a village or homestead". Therefore, some sources suggest that the surname might imply "one who comes from the pear village" or "the dweller at the pear homestead". This surname was first found in Sussex, where the family held a family seat from early times. As a traditional English surname, Pelham has been borne by people of various professions and classes, including one of the prominent families in British noble hierarchy, the Pelham family who held the titles of Duke of Newcastle and Earl of Chichester.

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Pelham: Where does the name Pelham come from?

The last name Pelham can be found across the United Kingdom, the United States, Canada and Australia. It is most common in England, where it is ranked 18,164th in terms of population (in 2020). It is estimated that there are currently over 4,000 bearers of the name in the UK.

In the United States, Pelham is the 5,041st most popular surname, according to the 2020 census. Here it is most common in Texas, Georgia and Alabama. In Canada, it is ranked 2,222nd and is concentrated in British Columbia and Ontario. In Australia, the surname is one of the top 5,000 most common with a particular focus in Victoria and New South Wales.

Despite its relative prevalence, the source of the Pelham name is not known for certain. The most widely accepted theory is that it originated in east Kent, during the arrival of the Vikings, and is derived from the Old Norse ‘Pilhelm’ meaning ‘helmet of steel’. As well as being attributed to Viking invaders, the name has also been suggested to derive from a Spanish provincial surname. It has even been suggested that the Pelhams of Ireland were of Jacobite origin, descended from a younger son of the 4th Earl of Clarendon in the 18th century.

Whichever origin story, the Pelham name is now a global one and can be found scattered around the world.

Variations of the surname Pelham

The surname Pelham (or Phelham) is believed to be of Anglo-Saxon origin and is derived from two distinct sources. First, it is thought to originate from the pre-7th century personal name "Pelfaheme," which is a combination of the Old English elements "pelf" (profit, wealth) and "heah" (high). Second, the surname may have originated from a place name derived from the Old English elements "pel" (palisade, stake) and "ham" (hollow, valley).

Variants of the surname include Pelham, Phelham, Phelan, Pellam, Phiulham, Phielam, Pelman, Pellum, Pellamme, Phennem, Phaniell, Delham, Felham, and Phenham. Spellings of the surname can vary due to the changing conventions of the English language over time. Variations of Pelham such as Phielam, Pellam, and Pellum may have stood in prior to the modern spelling of Pelham.

Surnames of similar origin include Palham, Pebbleham, Pilham, Pollham, Pillowman, Pilman, Pollyman, and Pullam. Each of these surnames can be traced back to occupations or places of origin. For example, Palham was an occupational name for a butler, whilePebbleham may have been an occupational name for a miner. Pillowman is a nickname for a mattress maker, while Pilman and Pollyman are derivatives of Paul, a name used to refer to a small and humble man. Lastly, Pullam likely referred to a person who lived near a stake.

Ultimately, the modern spelling of the surname Pelham can trace its roots to two distinct sources. Its variants, spellings, and surnames of similar origins can help provide clues as to the familys origin.

Famous people with the name Pelham

  • Hilary Pelham: Actress in musical theatre, appeared in "Show Boat" on Broadway and "Once Upon A Mattress" in which she won a Theatre World Award for.
  • Oliver Pelham: Founder of the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority.
  • Michelle Pelham: Sociology professor at University of California Santa Cruz.
  • Linda Pelham: Composer who composed works for the Royal Ballet and Royal Opera House.
  • Samuel Pelham: Colonel of the American Revolution, best known for forming The Pulham Regiment which became an important contribution to the Battle of Bunker Hill.
  • Maxwell Pelham: British TV producer who created seminal programmes such as Downtown Abbey, and award winning documentary 'Our Planet'
  • Thomas Sydenham Pelham: 12th Earl of Chichester, Member of Parliament who was instrumental in the implementation of the 1875 Public Health Act.
  • Daniel Pelham: Recipient of the National Medal of Arts in 1999 for his theatre work.
  • Theresa Pelham-Haviland: American activist who was key to the passage of the Equal Rights Amendment.
  • Sarah Pelham: Canadian environmental scientist and professor at University of British Columbia, co-author of "Climate Risk Management and the Global Goals" (2018).

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