From FHM issue 151
What's in a name: Cox
Like many of the names that we feature in our monthly take on surname etymology, this popular moniker has evolved from another. Originally the name would have been spelled ‘cocks’ and might have originated in a number of different ways. Most commonly it would have applied as a nickname for an arrogant or powerful youth; someone who had the swagger of a rooster. Cock was a term of endearment for young pert boys in early English history as they strutted – this is also where we get our word ‘cocky’ from today.
The name was also probably given to someone who lived close to a hillock or ‘haycock’; those who lived at the ‘Sign of the Cock’, ie a pub; or, in Wales, those with red (‘coch’) hair.
As you can see from the maps shown below, most of these so-named people have been found in southern England during both the 1881 census and the more recent 1998 assessment. This can lead us to believe that the name evolved in this area, probably in one of the two most highly concentrated areas of Dorset/Wiltshire or Oxfordshire/Berkshire. The area with the highest concentration of people named Cox today is Oxfordshire, with the town of Abingdon being the most popular place for them to live.
One of the most famous associations people have with the name Cox is with the dessert apple, ‘Cox’s Orange Pippin’. This particular cultivar of apple is said to have been created by one Richard Cox in Berkshire in around 1825. It is notable among apples as its seeds can be heard rattling inside if one is shaken.
Cox is also short for ‘coxswain’ – the assistant coach in charge of steering on a rowboat. These important figures in rowing sports are so- called as cox is also an old English word for a small boat.
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