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Origins and Meaning of the name

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or go to top menu or exit name origins page to Plant site map

Other sub-pages in the top menu relate to such topics as the vegetative and monastic soul of the main Plant homeland and the feudal noble overlords of the earliest Plants.


Some past deliberations with updates

There is evidence of 'Plant like' names in France dating at least from the 9th century though, more traditionally, the Plant surname has been considered in connection with early evidence in England where it appears to have 13th century origins.

Radulphus Plente had, in 1219, duties to the king for the burbhote of Oxford and for reparations to the king's household (apparently at the royal palace of Woodstock). The spelling Plante occurs by 1262 and, by c1275, the names Plantin and Pl(a/e)nte coexist in Norfolk.

An 1890 book dealt with the spellings Plante and Plente together. The MED (Middle English Dictionary) lists plente and plante as variant spellings of plaunt. The following gloss introduces views and evidence about the meaning of the name.

Greenman1

1. Such evidence as that above for Radulphus Plente leads to an Old Postulate 1 that Plant might means a 'royalist auxiliary'. The early distribution of Pl(a/e)nte records has shown that a few of them were in proximity to the Warren earls of Surrey who had descended from Geoffrey Plante Genest (now spelled Plantagenet) of Anjou. A much better coincidence of locations has been found more recently, however. This indicates a relationship of the Plante name with the locations of an illegitimate line of descent from Geoffrey's grandson – Henry II's natural son – William Longspée – leading to the Longspée-Audley hypothesis. An 1860 Surname Dictionary and an 1862 book state that the Plant name is supposed to be corrupted from Plantagenet – it is not unknown, in America for example, for slaves or servants to have adopted names from their masters – though, if the royal name Plantagenet is involved, why not others such as Planterose. At Riseley in Bedfordshire in England, John Plaunte, 1309, was taxed in the Subsidy Rolls and is considered to be almost certainly identical with John Planterose, similarly taxed in 1332.

Green Peeper

2. Further considerations lead on to Old Postulate 2 that Plant might allude in some way to illegitimate descent. The Plant Heraldry shows a token of illegitimate descent. Also, early occurrences of Pl(a/e)nte are found near 1254-8 records for Roger Plantyn, who was an auxiliary to a Bigod earl, and Plantyn might be a diminutive implying illegitimate descent. A possible connection is that Henry II's mistress, Ida de Tosny, was William Longspée's mother before she married Roger Bigod, earl of Norfolk. This maintains the integrity of the aforesaid Longspée-Audley feudal hypothesis for the overlords of the early Plants along with the possibility that Plantyn might perhaps be a diminutive of some other Plant-like name. Whether illegitimate or not, a 1916 book suggested Plant had such a meaning as a young offspring. Still today, the Welsh meaning of plant is children and, whether one child or many, this can be compared with the word offspring which is appropriate as a metaphor of a garden creeping plant – as one or many, it is difficult to identify one from another, though it is immediately clear that more rooted offshoots have been produced.

Greenman2

3. A 1916 book suggests that the name form de la Plaunt is locative and meant 'from the plantation'. This forms a basis for Old Postulate 3 though the medieval word planted also carries such possible connotations as 'from the manor of la Planteland' (near Chepstowe) or 'from God's planted craft' (9th century Old English) or 'from the plant soul as the first principal of life' (rather as LeVert or de la Greene might mean 'of vigorous young growth' and DuPlan(t)e might mean 'earthly child' [i.e. minor mundis] or 'from the planted Word of creation').

To an extent, the Plant name can be compared with the surnames Children, Child(e), and Young, given the association with offspring. There is also a possible analogy in that Lewis might have been a diminutive of Llewellin and, though doubted by many, it has sometimes even been said to mean 'family or followers of the Llywellyn Princes of Wales'. This implies a degree of playfulness with the Llewellyn name. Similarly, the Warrens also participated in the Welsh Wars and there is evidence for a playfulness with the Warren name in the depiction of rabbits in their warren on the seal of John, Earl Warenne in the early fourteenth century [PE p357]. From the twelfth century onwards, the Warren earls were descendants of Geffrey Plante Genest and, similarly as for Warren, there might even have been a playfulness with the Plantagenet name leading to such a Plant-like name as Plantyn.

[Reference: PE=Michael Prestwich, Plantagenet England 1225-1360 (Oxford University Press, 2005).]

Battle

The y-DNA evidence indicates that living Plants have descended largely in an unusually large single male-line family. This does not disprove the truth of their having several widespread origins, as was assumed for a traditional view that the Plant name is "multi-origin", though it has to be doubted that they were many unrelated men with each being a gardener. However, though computer simulations show that the name could have had fewer origins than traditionally thought, it might have had several, with most of the initial genetic families having died out, or having grown little, whilst the main Plant family has grown unusually large. In view of the large size in England of the main family, an early start to the name would help to explain its abnormal size. If the main Plant family had already reached a substantial size before the fourteenth century, for which there is some evidence, its large size is more easily explicable, especially if we allow that there could have been some appreciable mobility amongst some early isolated records of the name which occur as early as the late twelfth century. In particular, we can allow that several of the early records are missing, given the increasingly incomplete records when time-travelling backwards to early times.

Tournament

One contention has been that the Plants were assorted servants of the 'Plantagenet' nobility. A more ambitious version is that they were (illegitimate) Plantagenet children. However, this would demand a greater onus of genealogical or DNA 'proof' than has not been forthcoming. Nineteenth-century claims to the effect that the Plants were illegitimate Plantagenet offspring are generally dismissed as 'too fanciful' - further detail concerning this claim is outlined elsewhere on this website.

An alternative claim [J.S.Plant (1998 onwards) in Roots and Branches] has been that there is arguably more consistency with the evidence if the definition is changed from '[metonym] gardener, planter' to '[ontological metaphor] seedling, shoot, offshoot, offspring'. I earlier outlined some evidence in 2005 in Volume 28 of the scholarly journal Nomina and, though my investigations have been ongoing, this remains compatible with further evidence with in particular a possible twist for the main homeland that they could have been regarded as God's children or 'planted shoots, offshoots' of Dieulacres abbey in the form of several monastic brethren [Cistercian conversi] or abbey retainers, with one genetic family [perhaps associated with Audley lands both adjoining the abbey and elsewhere through north Staffoordshire] having grown unusually large, partly not least by chance.

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A more recent appraisal of the meaning

The Welsh word plant means children. The early meaning of planta (Latin) and plante (Old English) was a 'shoot for propagation'; and there is evidence, in early English books, that some people took the 'offshoot' meaning of plante and mapped it up the so-called Great Chain of Being to get, as 'offshoot, offspring', a young person or novice. In Irish and in the historic Palatine of Chester, in the main Plant homeland, this word has been recorded with the similar meaning scion or child.

In England, the first known record for Plente is in 1219 and for Plante in 1262. It is conceivable though not confirmed that the spelling of Plente, meaning 'abundant' or 'fertile', may have led on to Plante or Plonte, meaning 'children'. Still later, in the fifteenth century, the Plantegenest nickname evidently became sufficiently embellished with godly sense to make it acceptable as a royal surname – [I outlined this in an academic paper: J.S.Plant (2007) The tardy adoption of the Plantagenet surname, Nomina, Vol 30, pp. 57-84]. If we include Normandy under the English kings in our deliberations however, the first known record for Plante is then in 1180, around the same time as the first known usage of the noble name Plante Genest which later became conspicuous as Plantagenet.

The modern surname Plenty might have derived from Plente. So far, only one Plenty has been DNA tested and he does not belong to the same male-line family as any tested Plant. This does not rule out, however, a possibility of some early confusion between Plente and Plante at least in regard to these names' medieval meaning – interchanged spellings of the words plente and plante are evidenced in the Middle English Dictionary.

A more godly sense to Plantagenet can be related to 'Plantagenet favoured' concepts of The Plant Soul. These appear in medieval collocations, as evidenced in the full version of the Oxford English Dictionary. There is evidence for plant relating to the implantation of seed, the instillation of vertu and God's planted Word. These can be related to the contemporary vegetable soul on the one hand with its powers of growth and generation along with, on the other hand, another power in another part of the human soul – these two parts, the vegetative and the intellective, had been more intermixed in an earler philosophical framework and this was only just beginning to be superseded, from around the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries onwards.

A local usage of plaunten around the main Plant homeland in the fourteenth century applied to the Lord's 'planted' Word of creation, with planted meaning God's 'planted or implanted craft' or, more particularly, 'established' as God's planted creation. However, in modern times, such a sense is not generally favoured or even considered for Plant as an English surname. Similarly, any understanding of Plantagenet piety, for example, is typically absent in modern popular culture which often places more emphasis on battles and secular conquests. There is rather more in the culture of other places however to support a sense of a politico-religious foundation for Planta and some other Plant-associated names in the Alps.

There is certainly no evidence that the Plants were genetically related to the Plantagenets. It is possible however that the English Plants began with an 'abundant' or 'fertile' meaning to their name, in confusion with the spelling Plente, and there might similarly have been a vigorous 'hairy shoot' meaning of Plante Genest (a meaning suggested by the twelth-century names Plantapeluda and Plantegenest). Though the nature of this influence may seem obscure, a study of medieval writings reveals that there was a metaphysical connection, since the plant powers (i.e. the vegtative operations of the human soul) in a hairy shoot could be seen as bringing forth the plenty (plente) of vigorous growth and offspring [e.g. the Latin word vegere means to enliven].

There have been many since 1958 who have perhaps too readily persisted with the much publicised gardener interpretation, especially in consideration of one early instance of a gardener having the Plant by-name near Hull. That is not remiss in itself, except that 'gardener' has often been presented as the only possible meaning even though Hull is away from the Plants' main homeland; also, this isolated late fourteenth-century gardener, with a different recorded occupation from that of most early Plants, can be dismissed as having had that occupation just by coincidence. Certainly, the medieval word plaunt had various meanings and one can identify at least three main hypotheses, which can be supplemented with a fourth:

1. Gardener - this theory has persisted for over half a century though it does not stand up well to scrutiny especially not in the main Leek-Macclesfield homeland from where most living Plants descend;
2. Offspring (or offshoot) - this century-old explanation is compatible with much early evidence not least in the surname's main homeland;
3. From la Planta (or some such similar place) - though the Alps are very distant from England, recently uncovered evidence reveals an early migration of a priest with the name Plante from there to the Diocese of London - furthermore, the earliest known form of the hereditary name is Planta in the Alps and an early 'de la Planta' form of the name is in Anjou (then held by English kings along with Normandy and much else) – it literally means 'from La Planta' with evident traces of the subsequent development of this name into Plant such as by the alias de Plant'.
These three hypotheses are not necessarily mutually exclusive. Thus, some of the earliest evidence appears to support (3) above; and, the meanings (2) and (1) may have developed subsequently, or arisen independently in different localities. An example of a combined hypothesis is:
4. Living near a planted place, or a monastic religious planting, such as involving animal husbandry with people planted (biblical) in Cistercian hills - this is a variation of a century-old (but perhaps slightly misleading) suggestion 'from the plantation' and it can be considered as more embracing than 'a gardener' in as much as there is a likelihood that someone living near such a planted place might indeed have been a gardener or, as the evidence shows, they could instead have persued very different occupations.
As well as an Alpine la Planta there might have been other similarly based locative names and, to support this, there is for example a placename le Plantis in Normandy near the 1198 occurence of a name Rad de Planteiz, hence perhaps giving rise to the 1282 name de Plantes in England meaning from le Plantis in Orne in Lower Normandy. Also in Orne, in the reign of Richard I (1189-99), there is the name Ranulph Plantul with plantule meaning a seedling or young plant, as indeed did the word plant often itself at that time rather than a fully grown plant. The differing debates for these meanings are argued further, such as in connection with a 2011 book below.

Also, the meanings 1 and 2 and simplified versions of 3 and 4 are included in a 2016 Surname Dictionary, as described below. A variation on 2 for the main Plant homeland is God's children as conversi of Dieulacres abbey as discussed in detail here and evidenced here.

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An 1860 Surname Dictionary

Mark Antony Lower (1860) on page 269 of his Patronymica Britanninca: A Dictionary of the Family Names of the United Kingdom lists under the entry for Plant:
A family in humble circumstanches at Kettering, bear the ancient royal name of Plantagenet, though now it is commonly corrupted to Plant. See a late number of the ''Leicester Mercury.''

An 1862 Book

On page 149 of his book A History of the Ancient Parish of Leek, John Sleigh (1862) records for example that an old deed from John, abbot and monk of Dieulacres, gave leave to Richard Plant of Stonycliffe to make an enclosure (clausuram) near a place called Lingrene, in the time of Henry VI. On page 33, Sleigh notes further that a deed of John Plant of Stonycliffe carried a seal that was the Virgin with Christ in her arms, in an arch. Sleigh adds the footnote to the name of John Plant 'This name is supposed to be corrupted from Plantagenet'.

An 1890 Book

On page 363 of the 1968 edition of the Homes of Family Names in Great Britain, Henry Brougham Guppy (1890) remarks:-
'The PLANTS are very numerous in the Eccleshall district (Staffordshire). The name of Plente occurred in the 13th century in Hunts and Oxfordshire. There are also now a few representatives of the name Plant in Suffolk and Shropshire.'
On page 536, he attributes 0.014% of the general population in Shropshire to the Plant name, 0.060% in Staffordshire and 0.016% in Suffolk.

A 1912 Surname Dictionary

In Surnames of the United Kingdom, Henry Harrison (1912) suggests:-

Anglo-French-Latin: dweller at a Plantation or Grove [French plant; Latin planta, a twig, graft] Du Plant (Duplant) is not an uncommon French name.

Note: Du Plant in French can mean 'from or of the planted place'.

A 1916 Book

On page 185 of the book Surnames, Ernest Weekly (1916) remarks:-

Plant itself is generally local (i.e. of the locative type) [John de la Plaunt, of Rouen, Pat.R.], from OF. plante, enclosure, plantation, but its occurrence in the Rolls without de [Robert Plante, Hund.R.] suggests that it was also a nickname, from ME. plant used in a variety of senses, sprig, cudgel, young offspring (see NED.).

On page 268, he adds:-

Planterose [John Planterose, Hund. R.] and Pluckrose [Alan Pluckrose, ib] still exist and have plenty of medieval support; cf. Simon Schakerose (Pat.R.), Peter Porterose (ib.), Andrew Plantefene (Leic. Bor. Rec.), and Elyas Plantefolye (Fine R.). Pluckerose has a parallel in Cullpepper [Thomas Cullepeper or Colepepyr, Pat. R.] with which cf. Richard Cullebene (Hund.R.).

A 1956 Surname Dictionary

In a Dictionary of American Family Names, Elsdon Coles Smith suggests:-

English: dweller at the place where bushes and young trees were started for transplanting.

Note. This opinion might have derived from the different Middle English bynames Plantebene, Planterose and perhaps also Plantefolie with the last confusing folie with feuille (a leaf, perhaps one grafted into a stock plant with a strong stem). On the other hand, however, the spelling of its several occurrences is consistently Plantefolie or Plantefolye giving the more direct meaning, in Middle English, an instiller of wickedness or foolishness (cf. a jester).

A 1958 Surname Dictionary

On page 276 of the 1976 edition of A Dictionary of British Surnames, P.H.Reaney (1958) lists:-

Plant, Plante:
William Plante 1262 For (Ess), 1279 RH (C); William Plauntes 1275 RH (Nf). Metonymic for a gardener or planter of various plants. cf. Henry le Plaunter 1281 Rams (Hu), Ralph Plantebene 1199 P (Nf) 'beans' and PLANTEROSE.
Planterose:
Robert, Alice Planterose 1221 AssWa, 1272 RamsCt (C). 'Rose-grower.'


JSP note: a much fuller list of early records and documents for the Plant(e) name is given elsewhere on the website.

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Some comments on a 2011 book

On page 30 of the book Surnames, DNA, & Family History by George Redmonds, Turi King, and David Hey, George Redmonds writes:-

One further aspect of by-names that has received little attention is the direct link between occupations and nicknames. ... but occasionally the context supports the inference. For example, Reaney's explanation of Plant as a by-name for a gardener received little support from John Plant in his recent article [Plant J.S., 2005. Modern Methods and a Controversial Surname Nomina 28: 115-33] on the surname and yet 'William Plant, gardiner' was a Hull taxpayer in 1379.
It is relevant to add, however, that the main appeal of the gardener meaning, for Plant, relies quite heavily on two psychological biases whereby we are all too easily misled when considering the relative merits of various possibilities. First, there is the so-called "availability bias" of envisaging plants only in modern gardens, even though the medieaval meanings of the word plant are various and different. Secondly, there is the so-called "confirmation bias" of seeking out and citing only one isolated example to "confirm" a preconceived assumption: here for the Plant name, this claimed "evidence" takes the form of an early man with the Plant name who was a gardener. It fails to mention that all earlier and other known early occupations of the Plants are different, such that all of these several other known occupations disconfirm gardener as a reliable assumption.

To consider further how to avoid invalid reasoning, we can note three subtle ways by which science can be misrepresented in the news for example. First, there is oversimplifying a concept and getting it wrong. The gardener assertion largely passes muster on this one: though 'gardener' oversimplies the foregrounded meanings of the word 'plant' in late medieval times, it is not necessarily a 'wrong' assumption. Secondly, there is cherry-picking a fact and ignoring the bigger picture: as indicated above, picking an gardener near Hull ignores all the other early documented occupations. Thirdly, ignoring more recent data and findings. This third mistake can arise especially for a populous surname, such as Plant, since there is a considerable amount of new medieval evidence that has increasingly come more readily to light, such as through on-line records, in recent years along with new insights from DNA testing.

We can acquit this 2011 Surname book of some still bigger howlers, which are sometimes employed by some seeking political of commercial persuasion. For objectivity rather than the dark arts, such methods have been summarised by: "if this isn't enough wrongness for you, it gets worse" [Physicsworld, (June 2017) Vol 30(6), pp 40-41]. That said, we can note that stressing a modern sense of a word such as 'plant' can be all too appealing in a Surname Dictionary that is intended for a modern audience and uses just a few words: this avoids digging deep into medieval evidence for the initial semantics for the Plant surname, such as for those meanings that relate to a contemporary understanding of the medieval vegetative soul. With more 'page space' now being readily available on-line, we can hope to progress beyond the very brief mentions in printed Surname Dictionaries: however, for the practicalities of those who attempt to summarise all surnames, they still typically devote only a relatively few minutes to consideration each individual surname, ignoring the bigger picture for the surname itself, while they seek generalisations throughout all supposedly 'similar' English surnames for examples. In other words, much time and effort is needed to avoid oversimplifying problematic aspects and quick surveys of all surnames can fall short of an adequate understanding of some important medieval aspects of some individual early surnames.

Thus, for the purpose of a fuller consideration of the Plant name, it is important to note that the gardener assumption considers only one selected hypothesis and only one selected early occupation that has been found for just one instance of Plant as a by-name. This isolated instance is quite distant from the Plants' main homeland. There are other records for Plant by-names, some earlier, and these do not support the gardener hypothesis, such as:

merchant (Geoffrey Plaunt in 1273); once bailiff of Marsfelde (Robert Plonte in c.1280); priest (Henry Plante in 1350); draperie (Will. Plante in 1376); agricole (Johannes Plante in 1381); and, chaplain (William Plonte in 1386).
Arguing that they all might be compatible with the 'gardener' hypothesis is not enough - as a counter argument, they are all of course compatible with the 'offspring' hypothesis for example.

Moreover, there are earlier 'de la Planta' forms of the name, with traces of remnants of the locative prefix de la in the name's subsequent development into Plant. These clearly favour a meaning based on the location of a 'planted place'. Given that a gardener needs to be near a 'planting place', we can add that it is no surprise that one of several different people presumed to be near a 'planted place' was a gardener. Hence, one could simply dismiss this occupation of adding little extra insight if we were to insist that the Plant name's meaning is locational, for a person living near a planted place, a place that was somehow 'planted'.

For example, we might adopt a more comprehensive view that the name might have originally meant 'from the Planta' region of the Alps, or from some other similarly named location. This is supported by the 1350 record for a London priest called Henry Plante who was from Risole, evidently Risoul in the French Alps. The name could hence have morphed or arisen independently for a gardener near Hull and also to mean clan or children near Wales or to have some different locative or occupational or nickname origin at its inception in the main Plant homeland.

The meaning 'gardener' does not appear in any language dictionary for the word plant. On the other hand, the industrial meaning of the word for a location of a factory, or its equipment, appears in the Oxford English Dictionary: however, it should be added that the OED offers no evidence for this meaning before the eighteenth century. A 'planting or breeding' place is consistent with some contemporary philosophy in which the Arostotelian powers of man's and animals' vegetable souls were believed to be the nutritive, augmentative and generative. We also have for example that plante means a 'bed or planting place' in French, to plant can mean 'to procreate' in archaic English, and planta means 'to procreate or breed' in Welsh along with plant meaning offspring or 'children' in the English Marches adjoining North Wales.

To this, we might add that the first known precise location in the main Plant homeland is in 1373, for Thomas Plontt who had failed to pay a fine for trespass at the Black Prince's vaccary (cattle station); this is a place where all of the plant soul powers (feed, growth and breeding) would have been in evidence. One might imagine this as a forerunner of a meaning of plant, in an 'industrious' place, that developed not least into a notion of 'factory' from having generated animal products. More simply, we might consider the meaning of a 'planted place' such as an orchard, or a noteworthy garden, if that is not too close to favouring the most apparent modern meaning over such notions as God's planting of a sacred place, such as at a Cistercian monastery with its herb garden; and also with its lay brethren or abbey lease holders who tended the pastoral generation of feed for animals including sheep; and with adequate resources to support also their own family offspring.


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A 2016 Surname Dictionary

Though The Oxford Dictionary of Family Names in Britain and Ireland cites me [JSP] as the source of information for the meaning plant 1, I personally would place a little less of the emphasis on the possible meaning 'gardener'. That said, this 2016 Dictionary does list other possibilities, unlike some of its predecessors. This Dictionary displays some loyalty to Reaney's 1958 Surname Dictionary and associates Plant especially with two other names - Plantebene and Planterose – these are in different parts of England, away from the main Plant homeland and they also ignore other similar names with different meanings. Even these two names - Plantebene and Planterose - have symbolic as well as literal meanings as I outline in more detail elsewhere [here] on this website. That said, the possibility plant-1 in the 2016 Dictionary mentions the metaphorical meaning 'child' as well as the metonymic meaning 'gardener' [albeit in a rather 'too' negative way in my humble opinion].

This Dictionary states:

In the early times of the Plants in their most populous homeland, the common 'MAN IS PLANT' metaphor is in evidence [both for a foetus and for an heir]. The local literature includes such a meaning as a young man in training (cf. the training of a climbing plant, up and around its support). The meaning 'child' is an 'ontological' metaphor which means that it belongs to a 'branch of metaphysics dealing with the nature of being'. A little further away, in nearby Welsh, plant literally means 'children' with a slight complication that it here is plural rather than one 'child' – to this it can be added that, for a spreading plant for example, it can be difficult to identify individuals, as accords with the word 'offspring' which can refer to one or several children. Because of the plural in Welsh, it has been suggested that Plant means a branch of a family, not dissimilar to the q-Celtic pronunciation cland – however, this ignores that the meaning of plant has been used in the singular, to mean a young man, near the Plants' main homeland, albeit somewhat later than the origins of the surname.

As a further point, we may note that plant-2 and plante-1 are both compatible with the Longspée-Audley hypothesis in which these feudal lords for example could have ascribed the Plant name to some of their peasants. This suggests an early start to the main Plant family which would increase the chances for the largest Plant family's growth to its abnormally large size. This nobility could have brought a French meaning into England or, indeed, earlier nobles could have provided a cross-channel linguistic link, such as from Normandy, perhaps initially applying planté to the name of a local place that they 'planted' in England which then became attached as a surname to men living nearby. For example, there was a strong and enduring feudal link of the Chester earls between lands in Normandy and the preparation of land in 1214 for an Abbey refoundation ['planting'] in what became the Plants' most populous homeland.

As an extra layer of meaning to Plant, in such lands as those of Dieulacres abbey which adjoined Audley lands, the word 'plant' appears severally in the Latin Vulgate bible such that, as an example, Jacob 'supplanted' his brother with his own sons as new 'plantings'. The word 'plant' appears repeatedly in the contemporary bible, as well as in Old English writings from the times of king Alfred the Great: hence the usage of 'plant' includes 'planted people' in a 'planted place' receiving God's 'planted virtue'. All such senses are appropriate to monastic 'conversi', that is lay brethren as God's 'children' of Dieulacres abbey, 'planted' in the Cistercian moorlands to sustain a 'planted force' for both literal and spiritual life. I give a more critical account of such possibilities, with a view to a likely second edition of this Surname Dictionary, here.

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Some more liberally extended views of such names' possible meanings

...based on Dictionaries of early languages for example, such as the full version of the Oxford Englash Dictionary, Middle English Dictionary, Anglo Norman Dictionary, Ancient French, etc.

Reference: Dr John S. Plant (2001) Roots and Branches, Issue Number 21, etc.

For the gardener hypothesis, Reaney used a partial argument, basing it on just a couple of selected 'Plant like' names. Based carefully on the medieval occurences of names and on linguistic evidence, a fuller set of possible interpretations is as follows, though some senses suggest a more standard form of surname type rather better than others.

Plant(a/e)genet
de facto establisher lord, or a horse borne establisher, or (from the) plant-horse genera, or perhaps an implanter of ingenuity, or more usually the meaning is said to be 'sprig of broom', which is a hairy shoot
Plantebene
hallowed establisher offshoot, or a pleasant establisher child, or a favour of the plant soul, or a petitioner of prayer to the Virgin Mary, or an implanter of little or nothing, or an implanter of (human or animal) seed, or a gardener (it may literally mean plant-well)
Plantefolie
wickedness offshoot, or foolishness or sinfulness (bastard) child, or an implanter of contrition of crime, or an implanter of wickedness (illegitimacy), or perhaps a foot fuller or a foal borne establisher, or perhaps a tree-shoot planter, or a foal breeder or a planter of an arbour
Plente
abundant or generous or fertile, or Nature's plenty, or an imparter of plenarty of the plant soul, or a variant spelling of Plante or Palente
Palente
from the palace or palatine with associated rights
Planterose
courtly establisher child, or an implanter of pride or praise, or an infuser of the virtue of the Virgin Mary, or a surveyor, or an establisher of land rights or order, or a gardener, or an aroused shoot, or a resurrected or ascended or elevated or augmented plant soul, or an implanter of females
Plantyn or Plante
Nature's child, or an implanter of the augmentative or generative powers of the plant soul, or an imparter of virtue or gallantry, or an offshoot or offspring, or the Welsh meaning plentyn (child) or plant (children), or a gardener or breeder or philanderer, or from the planting or breeding enclosure
le Plaunter
establisher, or infuser, or philanderer, or planter, or breeder
de la Planta or de la Plaunt
of the plant soul, or from the first principal of life, or from the shoot, or offshoot or offspring, or from the Alpine region of La Planta, or from the planting or breeding enclosure
Plantefene
eager implanter, or happy child, or perhaps a shoot or spear lunger, or perhaps a planter of corn, or a happy breeder
Von Planta, Planta
from the shoot, or from the first principal of life, or from the garden source of the River Inn (Engadin) or from a similarly named place


The medieval evidence of the earliest Plant name records

See listing of some early records starting in 1180.

As of January 2024, after considering afresh all of the many medieval records that I have accumulated over the past quarter of a century, two particular meanings stand out for the Plant name as I outline in detail here: 6(i) sons, heir, young offspring; 6(ii) planter, especially of vines, with early wine trade migrations, vigneron, supplier of products from fermentations (de la Plaunt, from the vineyard plantation). I outline a summary of this, especially in connection with wine here (roughly 3690 words, 2 illustrations).

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