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Occupations Throughout History and Their (Interesting) Names

There are a lot of old occupations which no longer exist. If you read about them in history books you probably wouldn’t even know what the names of old professions even mean. If your family came from the U.K. originally then old documents might list some occupations that you’ve never seen before in your life. Here are some of the interestingly-named occupations of yore from England, some of which definitely went on to become surnames.

Abactor- cattle thief

Abigail- ladies maid

Accipitary- falconer

Ale draper- seller of beer and ale

All spice- grocer

Aproneer- shopkeeper

Artificer- mechanic who works on artillery for the military

Backmaker- cooper who makes tubs, barrels, and buckets from wood

Badger- licensed pauper who wears a badge as his certificate (from where we get the term “to badger someone”)

Bagman- traveling salesman

Balister- archer

Bandster- worker who binds wheat bundles after harvesting

Basil worker- tanner who works with goat and sheep hides

Batman- a military officer’s personal assistant

Biddy- female servant

Caddy butcher- butcher who works only in horse meant

Caffler- rag and bone man, peddler

Calciner- worker who makes lime from powdered bones

Calenderer- worker on the calender machine used for finishing papers and fabrics

Cardroomer- worker in the carding room of a mill, where where wool was combed out and sorted

Carnifex- a regular butcher

Chevener- embroiderer of fine stockings

Claker- magician or astrologer

Danter- female overseer in silk-winding room

Deal porter- specialist who hauled “deals” of wood between ship and shore

Delfman- salesman of Delft pottery from Holland

Deviller- operator of the “devil” machine which shreds cloth at the fabric mill

Doffer- worker who replaces empty loom spools with full ones in the weaving industry

Dragoon- cavalryman

Drippig man- seller of drippings (fat)

Dubber- worker in fabric mill who raises the nap of the cloth

Ealdorman- king’s court deputy

Ellerman- seller of lamp oil

Enumerator- census taker

Eremite- hermit

Estafette- mounted courier

Eyer- worker who maks the eyeholes in needles

Fanner- worker who winnows grain

Feather mason- worker who splits stone using steel tools called “feather”

Feller- woodcutter

Festitian- physician

Fiddler- clay worker who uses a tool called a “fiddle” to carefully remove the metal rings from the bottoms of cast clay products like cups and creamers

Fish bobber- mariner who ferries fish cargo from the trawler to the wharf

Flauner- confectioner

Fletcher- arrow maker

Fossetmaker- worker who makes taps for kegs and barrels

Fower- street cleaner

Friezer- one who embroiders cloth with silver and gold

Galloon maker- maker of metal trim for military uniforms

Gater- watchman

Gaunter- glovemaker

Gorseman- seller of gorse and hay for broom making

Gossoon- servant boy

Granger- farmer

Groover- miner

Haberdasher- seller of clothing and/or accessories

Hairweaver- maker of horsehair cloth

Huckster- street peddler

Henchman- horseman or groom

Horner- maker of cutlery handles made of horn

Howdy Wife- midwife

Hurrier- coal haulers who work underground ferrying coal (historically children worked this job)

Idleman- person living without work and of their own means

In-bye worker- miner who works the coalface

Jinny (or ginny)- miner who operates the ginny carriage

Jigger- potter who works to shape the bottoms of pieces

Kedger- fisherman

Kellogg- animal slaughterer

Kneller- chimney sweep

Knoller- bellringer

Lagger- sailor

Leach- doctor or veterinarian

Laster- shoemaker

Leavelooker- food inspector

Leightonward- gardener

Limeburner- worker who processes lime from limestone by burning

Linkerboy- man who carries a “link” (lantern) for hire at night

Maltster- brewer

Mangler- worker who operates the laundry mangle

Marbler- worker who makes paper looked marbled

Melder- corn miller

Misegatherer- local tax collector

Mudlark- scavenger specializing in sweeping the banks of rivers at low tide

Ostler- groomsman at an inn or an innkeeper in general

Owler- wool smuggler during the time when it was illegal to export English wool to other countries

Packman- peddler

Pantler- butler

Pardoner- salesman of official church pardons (papal or bishop)

Parminster- stone roofer

Pedascule- schoolteacher

Peruker- wigmaker

Plain worker- sewer working plain seams (as opposed to embroidery work)

Quarrel picker- glass installer

Quillwright- wheelwright

Quister- worker who bleaches fabric

Sawyer- lumber worker or saw operator

Scavelman- cleaner of ditches

Scriber- marker of measured bails of cotton at the docks

Skutcher- worker who beat flax to obtain the tow inside for making linen

Sempster- seamstress

Shookmaker- maker of shipping crates and fruit boxes

Tenterer- worker who would hang finished cloth on hooks to dry before sale (from where we get the

phrase “on tenter hooks”)

Tasker- reaper

Thacker- maker of thatched roofs

Tickneyman- traveling salesman specializing in pottery

Tiller- farmer

Tipper- maker of arrow tips

Tracer- drafter who traces designs using wax or trace paper

Treenmaker- artisan of wooden housewares

Ulnager- woolens inspector

Underviewer or underlooker- mine supervisor

Upright worker- chimney sweep

Vabster- weaver

Valet- personal assistant to a wealthy man

Verderer- game warden

Vulcan- blacksmith

Wakeman- night watchman

Warrener- gamekeeper and butcher for the rabbit warrens on a large estate

Way maker- road builder

Wellwright- maker of the gears for well mechanisms

Wherryman- sailor of a flat-bottomed ship called a “wherry”

Wyrth- laborer

Yagger- fish peddler

Yatman- gatekeeper

Yeoman- farmer who owns his own land

Yowler- thatcher’s assistant

Historical Treatments for Hysteria That Were Absolutely Bonkers: Click “Next Page” below!

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