Bate Surname

The Bate name has been established in Europe for over 1,000 years. It originates out of Anglo-Saxon England. It is not a popular surname but not an uncommon surname. It is generally difficult to establish relationships to ancestors prior to the 17th century due to the paucity of information on surviving records.


The Bate surname has at least four origins.


It is commonly thought to originate as a medieval male given name which arises as a diminutive form of the given name ‘Bartholomew’. The given name ‘Bartholomew’ originates from the Aramaic patronymic ‘bar-Talmay’ which means ‘abounding in furrows’ or ‘rich in lands.’ Acceptance of the name among Christian Europeans may have grown due to an association with St. Bartholomew, one of the twelve apostles and the patron saint of tanners, vintners and butlers. It is an appropriate etymology given the Bate family’s centuries of history as farmers, labourers and skilled craftsman on continents near and far.

The name may also originate as a derivation of the Northern Middle English (pre 7th century) word (possibly of French origin) for ‘bat’ or ‘boat’ and used to describe any man (misogyny being prevalent in those times) who worked as a boatman or fisherman. The Old Norse word ‘bati’ which means ‘profit or gain’ may have also entered the Anglo-Saxon lexicon and evolved into a sense of ‘lush pasture’ which gave rise to the surname attaching to people who lived on farmland. The name may also originate from the Anglo-Saxon word ‘bate’ for ‘contention.’ Each of these postulations befits the chief characteristics demonstrated by Bate family members across generations and continents.

Surnames only became commonplace with the introduction of head tax (or ‘poll tax’ because ‘poll’ is an archaic term for ‘head’ or ‘top of the head’) which required a census. Yet such records were subject to gross inconsistencies across geographies as the English language lacked any comprehensive system of spelling rules until the proliferation of the dictionary in the 18th and 19th centuries. Various iterations of the surname evolved over time as local dialects (particularly between Anglo-Saxon and subsequent Anglo-Norman communities) and literacy levels influenced the spelling and recording of names.

Although ‘Bate’ appears as the most popular early form of the surname, variations include Bat, Bats, Batson, Bates, Bateman, Batemen, Batt, Batts, Batte, Bateson, Bait, Baits, Bayte, Baytes, Bet, Bets, Bett, Betts, Bette and Bettes, among others. With the passage of time, many of these derivations developed their own family identities but retain genetic relevance to the Bate surname (indicating familial association). Referring to English and American records, the Bates Association noted in 1911 that:

. . . but Bate it was uniformly in the old English record and usually so in the New England records until about the time of the Revolution, when it comes to be quite uniformly Bates. This change from Bate to Bates follows a tendency which we see today to attach a final “s” to many names.

With migration becoming commonplace before and after the Second World War, various other surnames were anglicized by immigrants upon arrival in their new countries. For example, the German surname ‘Betz’ was often anglicized to ‘Bate’ upon entry into America.

The Bate surname was attached to a family seat in Yorkshire from ancient times, well before the Norman Conquest in 1066. Records dating to 1079 mention a Bate family in the county of Cornwall. Other early indications of the surname include a Herbert Bat mentioned in the 1182 Pipe Rolls of Shropshire. An Obertus Bate is mentioned in the 1183 Bolden Book. A Bate le Tackman is mentioned in the 1273 Hundred Rolls of Lincolnshire while a Bate de Butwick was recorded in County Lincolnshire in the same year. A Bate (without a surname) was documented in County Yorkshire in 1275. Early topographical references include a Thomas del Bate in Northumberland in 1270 and a William of Ye Bate in Yorkshire in 1297. A Roger Bate is mentioned in the 1275 Subsidy Rolls of Worcestershire. The names of Henr’ Bate, Hug’ Bate, Johs Bate, Isabella Bate, Marg’ and Ric’ Bate, Symon Bate, Witt Bate and de Witt Bate are mentioned in the Hundred Rolls of the late 13th century. The Middle English allegorical narrative poem ‘The Vision of Piers Ploughman’ (circa 1370 to 1390) contains an early derivation of the Bate surname through reference to ‘Bette the bocher’ (butcher) and ‘Bette the Bedel’ (messenger, herald, crier) and ‘bad Bette kutte’. The earliest record of the surname in Scotland appears to be Walter del Bate of Lancashire in 1296. Petrus de Bate was recorded in Lanark in 1415. The name was carried into Ireland in the 17th century, notably into the Province of Ulster and County Dublin.

Bate is not a popular surname. At the same time, it is not an uncommon surname. The family name is prevalent in several parishes in England, which challenges genealogical research for branches in those areas. Older parish records frequently use only the first names of parents for births and baptisms which makes it difficult to trace and link individuals with the same surname across generations with accuracy and certainty before the 17th century.


A coat of arms belongs to an individual and not a surname. Armorial bearings are hereditary. A coat of arms was traditionally granted to a male individual and passes to his descendants in the male line. It can be borne and used by all descendants in the legitimate male line of the original armiger. No coat of arms may be claimed by any individual based on a surname. To establish a right to arms by inheritance, it is necessary to prove descent from an ancestor who is already recorded as entitled to such arms in the registers of the College of Arms. The presentation of a family pedigree is a key step in this process. As such, the number of individuals with the surname who may legitimately claim the right to bear arms is much smaller than presented in popular culture, particularly by commercial coat of arms services that populate the web (commonly known as ‘bucket shop’ heraldry). Any establishment that sells a coat of arms to a person not entitled to such arms or any person who uses of a coat of arms without entitlement commits ‘heraldic fraud’.

The College of Arms is the official heraldic authority for England, Wales, Northern Ireland and much of the Commonwealth, including Australia and New Zealand. At material expense, we commissioned the College of Arms in England to prepare a report which lists all the coats of arms associated with the Bate (and Bates) surname from its sources. This report includes the names of the original armigers and the names of descendants entitled to bear such arms to certain generations of that family. A copy of this report is available for a fee that helps offset the original cost of the research.


A motto was originally a war cry or slogan. The placement of a motto on a coat of arms first appeared in the 14th and 15th centuries but only gained popularity in the 17th century. The oldest coats of arms generally do not feature any motto. A motto seldom forms part of the grant of arms. Under most heraldic authorities, a motto is an optional part of the coat of arms and can be added or changed at will. Many families have chosen not to display a motto.

The motto most frequently associated with the Bate (and Bates) surname appears as the Latin expression ‘et manu et corde’ which means ‘both with hand and heart’. The origins and veracity of this motto have not been confirmed.


A Dr Brady Bates registered a tartan in 2003 for use by any individual of the surname. In this instance, the bearer of the Bate (or Bates) surname is entitled to wear the tartan. It is registered with the Scottish Tartans Authority and the Scottish Register of Tartans.


A significant amount of effort has been devoted to research of specific branches of the Bate surname.

In America, The Bates Association (founded 1907) is dedicated to general research into all ancestral lines of the surname with a focus on American lines and particular emphasis on families in the New England region. The Bates Association coordinates The Bates DNA Project through Family Tree DNA. This project makes a suite of genetic tests available to individuals who believe they are related to the Bate surname. Through this process, individuals may establish or gain insights into relationships between different branches of the Bate family.

The Bates Association

The Bates DNA Project