Family name origins & meanings
- Scottish, Manx, and English : occupational name for a judge or arbiter of minor disputes, from Old English dēm(e)stre, a derivative of the verb dēmian ‘to judge or pronounce judgement’. Although this was originally a feminine form of the masculine dēmere, by the Middle English period the suffix-stre had lost its feminine force, and the term was used of both sexes. The surname is not common in England, where the term was early replaced by Anglo-Norman French juge (see Judge), but relatively frequent in Scotland, where until 1747 every laird of a barony could have certain offenses within his territory tried by hisdempster, and on the Isle of Man, where deemsters also played an important part in the administration of justice.
- Irish (especially County Down) : as 1, but also occasionally used instead of Dempsey.