The Chapman Name.
Joseph Chapman (younger) left instructions on the fly leaf of a book that it should be preserved and passed on to future generations. Unfortunately he gave no details of his grandfather's origins. However, my own interest in the family began when my own grandfather, Bernard Joseph Gregory Chapman, gave me a simplified version of "the tree", and some "named" family photographs when I was about twelve years old.

As a boy, I was told that Chapman meant a travelling salesman, especially one who dealt in books and religious tracts. Perhaps, the emphasis on religious material was wishful thinking. Regardless of the items sold Chapman, and alternative forms, Cheapman, Chepman, and Chipman, are surnames of occupation. The name is derived from the same Old English root as ceap (to barter or price), ceapian (to buy or sell), and ceapstow (market place), from which came later terms "cheaping" and "chipping" meaning a market place. These words are retained in place names such as Chipping-Norton, Chipping-Camden, Cheapside, and Chepstow, and in other surnames such as Chippendale. Bardsley (1968) claims that the verb "to chop" is still used in some parts of England as meaning "to purchase", and that the phrase "chopping and changing" was originally used as an expression for selling and exchanging. He then describes the Chapman in somewhat poetic terms, describing him as being "far above the rank of ordinary footpad", and as "a sort of pedlar in high life". Dunkling (1978) is slightly more encouraging to Chapmans today by giving the origin of the name as "at first a merchant, later a pedlar". Reaney (1961) gives the meaning of the name as a merchant, or trader, and states that it comes from the Old English ceapmann, cyp(e)mann, or cepemann, and lists a number of early documentary occurrences of the name:


"Beside that which chapmen and merchants brought. And all the kings of Arabia and governors of the country brought gold and silver to Solomon." 2 Chronicles, 9, 14

"Not utter'd by base sale of chapmen's tongues" Loves Labour Lost, Act 2, Scene 1, line 16.

"Fair Diomed, you do as chapmen do, Dispraise the thing that you desire to buy." Troilus and Cressida, Act 4, Scene 1, Line 75.

Chapman arms


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Page last revised 20th July 1999.

© S. B. Chapman