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An excerpt from www.HouseOfNames.com archives copyright 2000 - 2016

Origins Available: English, German

The name Butts comes from the ancient Norman culture that was established in Britain after the Conquest of 1066. It was a name for a nickname for the Middle English word butt meaning "thicker end" or "stump," in other words a name for a thickset person. Alternatively the name could have been derived from the Middle English word "butt" or the Old French word "but" which both meant a target or mark for archery. In this latter case, the name would be ascribed to one who lived near archery butts or perhaps an archer [1].


The surname Butts was first found in the village named Butt in Normandy where William Bot was listed in 1195-8 (Norman People). The earliest records of the name in England was Robertus filius But who was listed in 1137 and Godlambus filius But who was listed in Norfolk 133-60. A few years later, Walter Botte was listed in Oxfordshire in 1189 (Rotulus Pipe Rolls) and Roger But who was Viscount of Southampton in 1203 (Magn. Rotulus).

Anglo-Norman names are characterized by a multitude of spelling variations. When the Normans became the ruling people of England in the 11th century, they introduced a new language into a society where the main languages of Old and later Middle English had no definite spelling rules. These languages were more often spoken than written, so they blended freely with one another. Contributing to this mixing of tongues was the fact that medieval scribes spelled words according to sound, ensuring that a person's name would appear differently in nearly every document in which it was recorded. The name has been spelled Butt, But, Butte and others.


This web page shows only a small excerpt of our Butts research. Another 179 words (13 lines of text) covering the years 1203, 1486, and 1545 are included under the topic Early Butts History in all our PDF Extended History products.


Another 31 words (2 lines of text) are included under the topic Early Butts Notables in all our PDF Extended History products.


Some of the Butts family moved to Ireland, but this topic is not covered in this excerpt. Another 133 words (10 lines of text) about their life in Ireland is included in all our PDF Extended History products.


For many English families, the political and religious disarray that plagued their homeland made the frontiers of the New World an attractive prospect. Thousands migrated, aboard cramped disease-ridden ships. They arrived sick, poor, and hungry, but were welcomed in many cases with far greater opportunity than at home in England. Many of these hardy settlers went on to make important contributions to the emerging nations in which they landed. Among early immigrants bearing the name Butts or a variant listed above were:

Butts Settlers in United States in the 17th Century

  • Robert Butts, who landed in Virginia in 1640
  • Peter Butts, who arrived in Virginia in 1672

Butts Settlers in United States in the 18th Century

  • Jacob Butts, who arrived in Virginia in 1703
  • Henry Butts who arrived in Virginia in 1713
  • Henry Butts, who arrived in Virginia in 1713

Butts Settlers in United States in the 19th Century

  • S Butts, who arrived in San Francisco, California in 1850
  • J P Butts, who landed in San Francisco, California in 1851
  • John Butts, who landed in St Clair County, Illinois in 1867

Butts Settlers in Canada in the 18th Century

  • Aaron Butts, who arrived in Nova Scotia in 1760

Butts Settlers in Australia in the 19th Century

  • William Butts arrived in Adelaide, Australia aboard the ship "Harpley" in 1849


  • Walter E. Butts, American poet and the Poet Laureate of New Hampshire
  • Alfred Mosher Butts (1899-1993), American architect, inventor of the board game Scrabble in 1938
  • James Butts (b. 1950), American Olympic athlete
  • Calvin O. Butts III (b. 1949), American pastor of the Abyssinian Baptist Church, New York
  • Captain Samuel Butts (1777-1814), American militia officer, eponym of Butts County, Georgia
  • Marion Stevenson Butts Jr. (b. 1966), retired professional American NFL football running back
  • Charles L. Butts, former member of the Ohio Senate (1975 to 1990)
  • Second Lieutenant John E Butts, American officer awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor in 1944
  • Gerald M. Butts (b. 1971), President and CEO of WWF-Canada
  • Mary Alice "Peggy" Butts (1924-2004), Canadian Senator (1997 to 1999), recipient of the Weiler Award in 1995



  • The Butts Family of Rhode Island by Francis B. Butts.

The motto was originally a war cry or slogan. Mottoes first began to be shown with arms in the 14th and 15th centuries, but were not in general use until the 17th century. Thus the oldest coats of arms generally do not include a motto. Mottoes seldom form part of the grant of arms: Under most heraldic authorities, a motto is an optional component of the coat of arms, and can be added to or changed at will; many families have chosen not to display a motto.

Motto: Possunt quia posse videntur
Motto Translation: They are able because they seem to be.


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  1. ^ Reaney, P.H and R.M. Wilson, A Dictionary of English Surnames. London: Routledge, 1991. Print. (ISBN 0-415-05737-X)

Other References

  1. Burke, Sir Bernard. General Armory Of England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales. Ramsbury: Heraldry Today. Print.
  2. Burke, Sir Bernard. Burke's Genealogical and Heraldic History of the Landed Gentry: Including American Families with British Ancestry. (2 Volumes). London: Burke Publishing, 1939. Print.
  3. Burke, John Bernard Ed. The Roll of Battle Abbey. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing. Print.
  4. Bede, The Venerable. Historia Ecclesiatica Gentis Anglorum (The Ecclesiastical History Of the English People). Available through Internet Medieval Sourcebook the Fordham University Centre for Medieval Studies. Print.
  5. Ingram, Rev. James. Translator Anglo-Saxon Chronicle 1823. Print.
  6. Bowman, George Ernest. The Mayflower Reader A Selection of Articales from The Mayflower Descendent. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing. Print.
  7. Hitching, F.K and S. Hitching. References to English Surnames in 1601-1602. Walton On Thames: 1910. Print. (ISBN 0-8063-0181-3).
  8. Fairbairn. Fairbain's book of Crests of the Families of Great Britain and Ireland, 4th Edition 2 volumes in one. Baltimore: Heraldic Book Company, 1968. Print.
  9. Best, Hugh. Debrett's Texas Peerage. New York: Coward-McCann, 1983. Print. (ISBN 069811244X).
  10. Hinde, Thomas Ed. The Domesday Book England's Heritage Then and Now. Surrey: Colour Library Books, 1995. Print. (ISBN 1-85833-440-3).
  11. ...

The Butts Family Crest was acquired from the Houseofnames.com archives. The Butts Family Crest was drawn according to heraldic standards based on published blazons. We generally include the oldest published family crest once associated with each surname.

This page was last modified on 25 March 2016 at 00:47.

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