M*CH*MORE One Name Study
What does M*CH*MORE mean?
by Mike Mitchelmore
It is not known for sure what the name M*CH*MORE means. Four hypotheses
have been advanced.
The Great Moor
M. A. Lower, in Patronymica Britannica: A dictionary of the family
names of the United Kingdom, published by J. R. Smith in 1860, explains
the meaning of two M*CH*MORE variants as follows:
- Michelmore: Local: "the great moor" [mickle and muckle
from Anglo-Saxon mucel, "great", "big"]
- Muchmore: the great moor [ME muchel "big"]
Several other English names use the same prefix, for example the surnames
Mickelborough and Muckleton and the place names Michelstow and Much Wenlock.
The 1813-1837 Holne parish register contains references to two villages
called Michaelcombe / Michael Combe / Mucchicombe / Mucchacombe /
Muchacombe / Mitchelcombe / Michelcombe and Littlecombe / Little Combe
/ Little Coombe, clearly showing the use of michel and its variants
as the opposite of "little". In fact, there are several records of
M*CH*MORE places elsewhere in England:
a Michamore meadow in Cheshire (1668)
Michlemore Close (1678) and a Michelmore Lane
(1860) in Nottinghamshire
a close or meadow called Michimore in Berkshire (1743)
Muchmore Farms in West Sussex
(1798, 1867) and Essex (1826, 1840)
Michaelmore Brook and a
parcel of land called Michaelmore in Staffordshire (1892,
the parish of Muckamore in County
Antrim, Northern Ireland
There are also several other common Devon surnames with the -MORE ending,
including BLACKMORE, LONGMORE, MORTIMORE, NORTHMORE and PASSMORE. It is
generally agreed that -MORE in this context indicates a moor, marsh or lake,
from the Anglo-Saxon mor (march, fen or area of uncultivated land)
or mere (lake). Thus BLACKMORE (also a place name) indicated someone
living near a black marsh, MORTIMORE lived near a "dead sea" or drained
swamp, and PASSMORE lived on the far side of a marsh.
Which great moor M*CH*MORE refers to is unknown. It could have been Dartmoor,
near where the earliest M*CH*MOREs
were to be found. However, the surname seems to have originated near Salcombe,
on the coast about 20 km south of Dartmoor. It seems more likely that M*CH*MORE
referred to a large marshy or uncultivated area near Salcombe.
Michael of the Moor
Bob MUCHAMORE, the founder of the M*CH*MORE One Name Study, believed
that the name derived from Mitchel (or perhaps Michael) of the Moor.
In support of this argument, some of the earliest known spellings (MUCHELEMOR
and MOCHELEMORE) may have been attempts to transcribe a surname sounding
like "Michel-le-Moor" (a common form among early surnames).
Great St Michael
William John MITCHELMORE has advanced a third explanation: One of the
Celtic tribes that occupied the South West of England followed a saintly
person known to them as Great St. Michael, whose name in Celtic sounded
like MYGHAL-MUR. It is possible that the later Anglo-Saxon invaders changed
the name to sound more like MITCHELMORE.
The large man of the sea
A fourth explanation comes from John Kenneth MITCHELMORE: Perhaps the
surname means "large man of the sea", with MITCHEL coming from the Anglo-Saxon
muchel (as above) and MORE coming from the Cornish mere, meaning
sea. Possibly the first MITCHELMORE was a MITCHELL who became a sailor—we
certainly have large number of seafarers among our ancestors.