The surname “Taylor” is common in the English-speaking world. Wikipedia mentions the following about its history:

Taylor is a surname used in the British Isles of French and Latin origin which originated as a Norman occupational surname (meaning tailor) in France. It is derived from the Old French tailleur ("cutter"), which is in turn derived from the Late Latin taliator, from taliare ("to Cut").

The words in Old French and Late Latin use the letter “i” in the words that gave rise to the surname Taylor, and the modern English word “tailor” similarly uses an “i.” Why is it, then, that the surname Taylor doesn’t use an “i?”

(I’m curious about this because the surname “Smith” seems to have “Smyth” or “Smythe” as common variants, yet in my personal experience I’ve never met someone with the surname “Tailor.”)

  • It's an interesting question—especially since many citations from the 1500s and early 1600s of people with this last name use such spellings as Tayler, Taylour, Tailour, Tailor, and Tailer, in addition to Taylor. Perhaps the gravitation toward Taylor for the last name and tailor for the occupation reflected an general desire to distinguish between the two—not unlike Tyler and tiler, perhaps. But if so, it didn't carry over to all trades, such as weaver, cooper, brewer, mason, and fowler. – Sven Yargs Mar 27 '20 at 7:40

From the mid-fifteenth to the mid-eighteenth centuries the occupation of "tailor" seems to have been spelled "taylor", often with a capital T.

Before that time there is record of "tailor"or "taillour" following the Norman French taillour, (modern French tailleur).

Before mid-fifteenth century

1297 R. Gloucester's Chron. (Rolls) 6391 A robe he let him ssape uerst of blod red scarlet þere Þe ssarpe stones bi þe stret is tailors were..Þe tailors corue so moni peces uor is robe ne ssolde powȝe.

c1412 T. Hoccleve De Regimine Principum 472 The taillours..moot heer-after soone Shape in þe feeld.


1466 in Manners & Househ. Expenses Eng. (1841) 354 Herry Galle taylour,..axsethe for makenge of a longe gowne of pewke, ij.s.

1530 J. Palsgrave Lesclarcissement 68 A tayllours wyfe or a woman tayllyour.

1600 W. Shakespeare Henry IV, Pt. 2 iii. ii. 149 Shal. What trade art thou Feeble? Feeble A womans tailer sir... Fal... but if he had bin a mans tailer hee'd a prickt you.

c1600 Wriothesley's Chron. Eng. (1875) I. 5 This yeare the Taylors sued to the Kinge to be called Marchant taylors.

1611 B. Rich Honestie of Age (1844) 34 I doe see the wisedome of women to be still ouer~reached by Taylers, that can euery day induce them to as many new fangled fashions as they please to inuent.

a1616 W. Shakespeare King John (1623) iv. ii. 196 I saw a Smith..With open mouth swallowing a Taylors newes.

1663 S. Pepys Diary 25 May (1971) IV. 155 Into the coach again; and taking up my wife's Taylor.

1704 J. Pitts True Acct. Mohammetans iii. 16 They all sit down cross-legg'd, as Taylors do.

1751 S. Johnson Rambler No. 123. ⁋5 I..sent for my taylor; ordered a suit..and..staid at home till it was made.

Surnames were introduced intermittently in England from the time of the Norman Conquest (1066). However there is evidence that many were still being created in te fifteenth century.

Perhaps, and it is only speculation, the name "Taylor" may date from a time when the occupation of that name had adopted the "English" spelling of "taylor".

All examples from the Oxford English Dictionary.

  • Actually the OED has a possible Taylur from 1296, and a taylor from 1318. Which may not invalidate your suggestion. – Colin Fine Mar 25 '20 at 20:03

A shorter answer: Why not?

English spellings weren't formalized until recently, and the name Taylor has been around for a long, long time.

So, actually, what's surprising is that there aren't more ways to spell it.

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