Corbett Surname Meaning, History & Origin

Select Corbett Meaning
comes from the Old French corbet, meaning raven. It might at one time have been a nickname for
someone with dark hair. But the raven is
also a symbol in heraldry signifying ferocity.
Hugh Corbet arrived with William the Conqueror from Normandy and
bore this
symbol on his crest. He was granted
lands in Shropshire and Corbet became a Shropshire name.
The surname Corbet began to give way to
Corbett from the 16th century.
Select Corbett Resources on The Internet

Select Corbett Ancestry

England. Corbetts
were first found in Shropshire.

The Corbet line
there started
with Hugh Corbet, the Norman lord, and his son Roger. Their
first base was Caius castle. Later the ancestral home was
Moreton Corbet near
Shrewsbury. They controlled most of what went on within the
county and their name was law.

One branch of this family, based in Longnor Hall, dates from the
1500’s. The last in this line was Jane Corbett who married the
archdeacon Joseph Plymley. He assumed the name of Corbett and
was, as his preserved diaries have revealed, a strenuous campaigner
the slave trade. The
Corbetts of Merrington were another Shropshire line and Corbetts were
also to be
found at Wigmore in Herefordshire and in Montgomery by the Welsh

By the 19th
century, many
Corbetts had moved away from Shropshire into neighboring counties.
Joseph Corbett, for instance, had gone to Brierley Hill in
Staffordshire where he ran a canal transport business. His son
John became known as the salt king. He made a fortune
in the
late 19th century
his salt
works at Droitwich.

Elsewhere There
were two Corbett outposts from the 18th century, one in
Northumberland on the Scottish border and the other in the Channel
Islands between England and France:

  • The Corbet name at Kirknewton in
    Northumbria dates back to the 13th century and connects with the Norman
    Corbets who had been landowners across the border in Roxburgh.
    One family history traces back to a John Corbett who was a yeoman
    farmer at Allerwash in the late 1600’s.
  • Corbets on Guernsey in the
    Channel Islands date from the early 1700’s. They made their money
    in the late 19th century from quarrying granite and built their home The Hotensias on St. Martins. William Corbet
    was later known as “the melon king.”

Scotland. In
the early twelfth century, a Corbet branch had secured lands in
Roxburgh on the
Scottish borders. They held sway there
for many generations. Corbet Tower in
Teviotdale is a relic of those times. Robert Corbet was the provost of
Dumfries at the time of Bonnie Prince Charlie. Corbets
also owned lands in Clydesdale and their name in Scotland became
concentrated later on in Glasgow and Lanarkshire.

Ireland. With the border
region depressed, many Corbets moved away to
Ireland. They settled in Ulster counties
such as County
Down and Tyrone, and their name was also to be found further south in
Tipperary and Cork. However, these
Corbetts may not have
been Scots, or even English. The Irish
Corban, from the Gaelic O’Corbiun,
was often in those days anglicized to Corbett.

Again, economic
hardship, this time in Ireland, caused an exodus. Most
left in the hopes
of a better life; while some, like James Corbett from Tipperary, were
removed as convicts. John Corbett, a
Scots-Irish Ulsterman, was an early trans-Atlantic crosser, settling in
County, Pennsylvania in the 1690’s. Later emigration took place
to New York,
Canada, Australia, and New Zealand.

America. Robert Corbett
was an early arrival in New England, settling in Mendon,
Massachusetts. A descendant was the Daniel Corbett who married
Mary Holbrook in 1741. They were the first names that were
entered into the Corbett family Bible that was presented by Eldad
Corbett to his daughter on December 27, 1825. These Corbetts were
later to be found in Pennsylvania and New York.

There were a number of variants of the Corbett name in
early America – Corbett, Corbet, Corbit, Corbitt, and Corbitts:

  • Jesse Corbit
    came to Maryland from Ireland in the late-1700’s and fought in the
    Revolutionary War.
  • a
    Corbitt branch still flourishes in SW
    Corbitt was one of the first settlers in the Wiregrass region of SE
    Georgia. His family later moved onto Florida.
  • some
    Corbets are to be found in Guernsey county, Ohio where a number of
    Guernseymen, including Peter and Elizabeth Corbet, had gone in the
    early 1800’s.
  • while
    most Corbetts entered
    and either settled there or in North Carolina or in other states of the

doughty men were the products of Corbett Irish stock.
The first, Gentleman Jim Corbett, born in San Francisco, was
crowned heavyweight champion of the world in 1892; the
second Jack Corbett,
less known,
was a grizzled sea veteran who became the guide and mentor to the great
Street financier, Alfred Hatch. A book Jack
Corbett: Mariner,
recently published, celebrated his life.

Caribbean. William
Corbett had arrived in the Caribbean on
the sloop Catherine in 1679. His
family were, for generations, sugar planters
near Johnson’s Point in Antigua. However,
their way of life came to an abrupt end in 1833 with emancipation.
Edward Corbett, the planter then, was
for his mistreatment of slaves on a boundary dispute and died in jail,
reportedly “from

Canada. The early Corbett
immigrants came mainly from Ireland. There was
cluster of Irish Corbetts at Chapel’s Grove in
Newfoundland from the 1790’s. Around the same time
Alexander Corbet sailed from Scotland on the Lucy to Prince Edward Island.
Later in the 1850’s, from Ireland, came James Corbett and Patrick
Corbett to New Brunswick. The latter, from county Clare, was said
to have crossed the Atlantic with a priest and seven brothers.

Scots born but of Irish roots, Joseph Corbett arrived with his brother
John in 1856. Five years later, he received a land grant in
Bentinck township, Ontario and settled there. Joseph was an
expert in the growing and grafting of apples and his orchard survived
there until the 1930’s.

Australia. The early
Corbett arrivals were mainly Irish, either as convicts or as free
settlers. Two
sides of Ireland were to appear later – the Catholic priest (James
Corbett from Limerick) and the sporting journalist (William Corbett and
his son Claude who were born in Sydney).

Alexander Corbet sailed from Scotland on the Eagle in 1859. He first headed for the Victoria goldfields.
Later his
family moved to Gympie in Queensland where they became engaged in the
timber trade. This business has now passed through five
generations. .


Select Corbett Miscellany

The First Corbets.  It is said that Corbet came with his second and fourth sons, Roger and
Robert, to the invasion of England by Duke William of Normandy.
Besides the two sons who settled in Shropshire, the eldest and third,
Hugh and Renaud, stayed behind.

Corbat (sic) and his two sons, Roger and Rodbert (sic), are named by
Ordericus among “the faithful and very valiant men” employed by Roger
de Montgomery in the government of his new Earldom of Shrewsbury.
Corbet was also, according to tradition, consulted by William the
Conqueror as to the defence of the Welsh Marches.  Corbet the
Norman was dead before 1086 for his son Roger fitz Corbet is the
Domesday baron.

Robert Corbett in Massachusetts.  In The Corbett Family of England and America, Henry R. Corbett writes:

“Little is known about Robert Corbett except that he
fought bravely in King Philip’s War (which ended in 1676).  A
quote from History of Milford Town
says: ‘Robert Corbett is the first of this name known in these
parts.’  Robert became interested in the settlement at Woodstock,
now in Connecticut, but then in Massachusetts.  Sometime before
1691 Robert went to live there and he is recorded as having purchased a

There were at least three Robert Corbetts born in England
during the 1640’s who could equally be considered as a suitable fit for
this Robert of Massachusetts who died in 1695, possibly aged 55.

Reader Feedback – Jesse Corbit of Maryland.  I come
from a line of Corbits that came from Ireland.   My forebear
was Robert Corbit who settled in Coshocton county, Ohio in 1804.  His father Jesse Corbit came to America in the
1700’s and fought in the Revolutionary War. Jesse
settled in Hancock, Maryland.

Some background information comes from the
history of Coshocton county which was written while Robert was still
alive.  Another descendant, Gary
Householder, posted the
following query.

“I am searching for Jesse
Corbit or Corbet or Corbett of Maryland.  From
military records we would assume that
Jesse was born around 1750, potentially in Ireland. There are records
of him
in Maryland history books during the Revolution.

connection is through Phoebe Corbit,
Corbet or Corbett who was born sometime around 1790 in Maryland and
John Adam Hous(e)holder in Steubenville, Ohio in 1811.  This
Phoebe is most likely the sister of
Robert Corbit, born on Maryland in 1790.

family children have names like John,
Jesse, Isabell, Daniel, Lewis, Adam and Phoebe.   Our
Phoebe’s children share those same names, all but for Jesse.  We have leads in our Housholder family that he
was of Irish descent through some of their children’s records.”

I would appreciate if there’s anything you can
tell me about Jesse Corbit.

Trinity Corbett (

Corbetts in Newfoundland.  The Corbett forebears in Newfoundland appear to be Thomas, who
got his land in 1796, and his cousin, Michael, who inherited adjoining
land from his grandmother.

Thomas’s son Patrick
married Sera Hawkco in Chapel’s Grove in 1808.  The Hawkcos were
one of the first eleven families that settled in Newfoundland.
They were originally called Hacquoil and had come from the Channel
Island of Jersey.  However, they married the Irish and lost their
“French Connection.”

Jim Corbett, Big Game Hunter.  Jim Corbett was born in 1875 in Kumaon in the foothills of the
Himalayas.  His father was a postmaster at the town of Naini Tal
and Jim spent his childhood in an area surrounded by beautiful jungles
and dangerous predators.  He fell in love with the forest and the
animals and since an early age he knew how to mimic animal sounds and
track lethal beasts.

While being known as a conservationist and big game photographer, his
actual place in history is one of the best big cat hunters who has ever
lived.  Between 1907 and 1938, Jim Corbett killed nearly a dozen
man-eaters in India, predators who are estimated to have killed at
least 1,500 people during their reign of terror.

He always took on the most dangerous animals, when everyone else had
quit and all hope was lost.  He hunted alone and routinely came
within five to ten meters of the man-eater before killing it.  His
keen senses enabled him to most cunning of the lethal cats that
included the Champawat tigress (which was responsible for a record 436
kills).  Those were the times when over a hundred thousand tigers
roamed freely in India.  In some parts of the country it was a
matter of whether tiger or human would survive!

Such was his renown that India’s first national park in Kumaon was
named in his honor in 1957.  And one of the five remaining
subspecies of tiger has been named after him: Panthera Tigris Corbetti, better
known as Corbett’s tiger.

William Corbet in Guernsey.  William Corbet was well known in London’s Covent Garden and
on Guernsey as the “Melon King,” having produced some of the finest
crops of melons to be shipped to Britain.  He became a founding
member of the Guernsey Grower’s Association.  During his country’s
occupation by the Germans in World War II he ensured that much of his
crops were distributed to the Guerns.

His son William was able to escape the German
occupation.  Having squirrelled away small quantities of petrol
each week he was able to get away from the island with seven other
family members on an 18 foot fishing boat.  It was a moonlit night
and they saw nothing until in mid-Channel three German U-boats
appeared. Luckily they were not spotted until they arrived off Start
Point when a British minesweeper came alongside and escorted them to
Dartmouth.   They were the only people to successfully escape
island during its occupation.

Harry Corbett and Harry H. Corbett.  Harry Corbett was the puppeteer known as the creator of the
long-running Sooty glove puppet character; Harry H. Corbett the
rascally rag-and-bone man in the British TV comic series Steptoe and Son.  In 1976
Prime Minister Harold Wilson wished to honor the latter Harry H.
Corbett in the
Queen’s honors.  However, the middle initial “H” was lost in the
bureaucratic process and the former Harry Corbett was sent the
invitation letter instead.  In the end both men received OBE’s.

Death in Mugabe’s Zimbabwe.  Ralph Corbett, aged 76, had lived alone on his cattle ranch of Lannes
Farm near Kwekwe since the death of his wife Norma in 1992.  He
had been decorated in Italy during World War II and still held British
citizenship. But once the Mugabe regime had begun its policy of farm invasions,
his children in South Africa begged him to leave.
However, he believed that he would be in no danger.  On August 3, 2001, intruders broke into his farm.  They trussed
him up with wire and then bludgeoned him with an axe, leaving the walls
of his bedroom covered in blood.  He died in hospital four days


Select Corbett Names

  • Hugh Corbet, who came over with William
    the Conqueror and settled in Shropshire, is the acknowledged forebear of the Corbetts. 
  • Denys Corbet was a Guernsey
    poet and painter. 
  • John Corbett from Staffordshire
    was the salt
    king of England in late Victorian times, through his salt works at Droitwich. 
  • Gentleman Jim Corbett won the
    heavyweight boxing championship in 1892.
    He is sometimes called the “father of modern boxing” for his
    scientific approach to boxing. 
  • Jim Corbett, from an Irish family, was a celebrated big-game hunter in India. 
  • Harry Corbett was the puppeteer known for his Sooty glove puppet character in the 1950’s.
  • Ronnie Corbett was a popular British TV comic actor, best known for his appearances on The Two Ronnies.

Select Corbett Numbers Today

  • 18,000 in the UK (most numerous
    in Lancashire)
  • 8,500 in America (most numerous
    in North Carolina).
  • 16,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Canada)


Select Corbett and Like Surnames.

The Norman Conquest brought new rulers to England and they brought their names and language, a form of French, with them.  Over time their names became less French and more English in character.  Thus Hamo became Hammond, Reinold Reynolds and Thierry Terry and so forth.  The names Allen, Brett, Everett, and Harvey were probably Breton in origin as Bretons also arrived, sometimes as mercenaries.

The new Norman lords often adopted new last names, sometimes from the lands they had acquired and sometimes from places back in Normandy.  Over time the name here also became more English.  Thus Saint Maur into Seymour, Saint Clair into Sinclair, Mohun into Moon, and Warenne into Warren.  Here are some of these Norman and Breton originating names that you can check out.







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