Hardy Surname Meaning, History & Origin

Hardy Surname Meaning

Hardy is an English and French surname that is derived from the Old French word hardi meaning “bold” or “courageous” or sometimes “foolhardy.” It probably emerged initially as a nickname for someone exhibiting those traits.  Hardy and Hardie are the two main spellings of the name.  Hardie is the Scottish version.

French Hardys include the 17th century playwright Alexandre Hardy and the 20th century singer Francoise Hardy. But the French Hardys are outnumbered by the English Hardys by more than two to one. Still, many of the English Hardys may have had some French blood in them.

Hardy Surname Resources on The Internet

Hardy and Hardie Surname Ancestry

  • from England Yorkshire) and from Channel Islands
  • to Canada, America and Australia

England.  Hardy country may bring to mind the county of Dorset and the novels of Thomas Hardy. But Hardy country should more properly be considered as Yorkshire where the first English Hardys may have originated and which has the largest number of Hardys today.

YorkshireAn early Hardy family of Yorkshire was said to have been descended from the Norman knight de Hardie in the 11th century. The first traceable record was a John de Hardy of Wetwang, Driffield in the mid-1400’s. A later John de Hardy, born around 1500 and thought to have been a descendant, made his mark as a merchant in London and married well. George Hardy from his family emigrated to Virginia in 18436.

Hardy Flatts formed part of the Whitwell village in north Yorkshire. A Widow Hardy was recorded as choking on a piece of bread near there in the 1500’s. Ed Hardy was a carter in the area in the early 1700’s. And Hardys at Thornton Dale at Wilton in north Yorkshire date from the late 1600’s. 

One Hardy family in Yorkshire seems to have originated in Westmoreland. These Hardys were first recorded at Kirkby Lonsdale in 1571 on the death of Edmund Hardy. Their home was Park House, some two miles outside of the town: 

  • from this line came the curate and schoolmaster Rev. John Hardy of Kirkburton near Huddersfield. He subsequently acquired the Birksgate manor house.
  • from this line also came the Rev. Thomas Hardy, the vicar of Mirfield. The family history here was recounted in Charles Hardy’s 1913 book The Hardys of Barbon.

Thomas Carteret Hardy was a colonel in the York Fusiliers in the 1780’s.  He may have had Jersey roots as the Carterets were an important family in the Channel Islands. From his line came the Victorian brother archivists and antiquarians Thomas Duffy and William Hardy.

Two notable John Hardys in Yorkshire were:

  • the John Hardy from humble roots in Horsforth near Leeds (his grandfather was a farm laborer there in the 1670’s).  He became the principal owner of the Low Moor ironworks near Bradford in the early 1800’s. His son Gathorne was a prominent Conservative politician and was created the Earl of Cranbrook in 1892.
  • and the John Hardy from the Bradford area in the early 1800’s.  He was the forebear of the Hardys of Odsal House in North Bierley.

Channel Islands.  There was a Le Hardy family at Jersey in the Channel Islands ever since Clement Le Hardy left France for that island in the 1360’s. A later Clement le Hardy was Bailiff of Jersey from 1485 to 1493, but seems to have ended his days in a “verminous prison” after a disagreement with the Governor.

Jean Le Hardy was the Solicitor General of Jersey in the 1650’s.

  • via his eldest son John came Sir Thomas Hardy, a Rear Admiral of the British Navy who died in 1732 and had a monument to him erected in Westminster Abbey.
  • via a younger son Philip, appointed Commissioner of Garrisons on the neighboring island of Guernsey, came Charles who pursued a career in the British Navy and rose to be Lord Commissioner of the Admiralty.

This Charles was:

  • the father of Admiral Sir Charles Hardy, the colonial Governor of New York in 1755
  • the father of Josiah Hardy, the colonial Governor of New Jersey in 1763
  • and the grandfather of Temple Hardy, a naval captain who saw action during the French Revolutionary Wars.

Dorset.  Jean Le Hardy was said to have departed Jersey for Dorset around the year 1490. Possibly related were the Hardyes recorded at Sydling from about 1540. Thomas Hardye gave his name to the Thomas Hardye school in Dorchester, completed in 1569. His nephew Francis was the forebear of Nelson’s flag captain Thomas Hardy and the writer Thomas Hardy:

  • the Hardys of Portersham led to the Captain Thomas Hardy who was immortalized by Nelson’s dying words of ‘Kiss me Hardy’ at Trafalgar in 1805.
  • while the marriage of John Hardey and Elizabeth Swyre in Owermoigne in 1746 led to the writer Thomas Hardy who was born in Dorchester in 1840.

Scotland.  Hardie has been considered to have either Norman, Viking or Celtic origins. The Viking origin refers to a Viking Hard tribe that had raided the British coast in the 10th century. The Celtic explanation came later. It was thought that many MacHardies in Aberdeenshire shortened their name to Hardie to avoid reprisals after the Highland defeat at Culloden in 1746. Overall, the Norman explanation seems the most plausible.

Hardie has been mainly a Lowland Scottish name. William Hardy was recorded at Lanarkshire in the Ragman’s Roll of 1296. The spelling changed later to Hardie:

  • one family history began with the marriage of Robert Hardie and Marion Campbell at Alloa near Stirling in 1663.
  • another began with the marriage of David Hardie and Agnes Myles near Leuchars in Fife around the year 1690.
  • while Matthew Hardie was a highly-regarded violin-maker in Edinburgh in the early 1800’s, but he died poor.

Ireland.  Hardy in Ireland was generally a name of English import, mainly found in Ulster. But there was also a Hardy family of French Huguenot origin in Ireland. Henry Hardy had first come to London from La Rochelle in France in the early 1700’s. His family later decided to settle in Ireland, first in Dublin and then in Cork where Henry and Marie Hardy made their home.

America. The early Hardys and Hardies in America were covered in Claude and Edwin Hardy’s 1935 book Hardy and Hardie.  

New England.  Thomas and John Hardy were thought to have been two brothers who came to Boston under Governor Winthrop in 1630. Thomas settled first in Ipswich before moving onto Bradford, Massachusetts. His home there was known as Groveland. His descendants were numerous. Meanwhile John made his home in Salem.

“The Hardy name has been perpetuated in Salem in many ways. There is a Hardy Street, Hardy Rock, Hardy Wharf, and the Hardy House which was the birthplace of Nathaniel Hawthorne.”  

Virginia. George Hardy from the Driffield family in Yorkshire came to Virginia in 1646, followed by his parents John and Olive twenty years later. He was the owner of the famous Hardy mill in Isle of Wight county, built soon after his arrival and continuing in use into the 20th century. The mill remained in Hardy hands until 1800:

  • Samuel Hardy was a delegate to the Continental Congress in the 1780’s. Hardy county in West Virginia was named in his honor.
  • Thomas Hardy migrated south with his family in 1785 to Newberry county, South Carolina. The Hardys were to remain on his plantation home there until 1973.
  • Robert Hardy came to Chatham county, North Carolina around the year 1800. His line led to W.H. Hardy, the founder of the towns of Hattiesburg and Laurel in Mississippi.
  • while another branch of the family headed to Kentucky. James G. Hardy was elected its Lieutenant Governor in 1854 and Hardyville in Kentucky was later named after him.

The family story was told in Betty Couch’s 1998 book Our Hardy Heritage.

Josiah Hardy, a sea captain, was possibly related to these Hardys. Born in Virginia, he made his home in Chatham, Massachusetts in 1776. On one cold winter’s day ten years later, he and his party froze to death on their boat on their way to Boston. His wife died soon after and their children became orphans. Remarkably these Hardys later established themselves as a notable New England family. The line was covered in Whitney Durand’s 2011 booklet Descendants of Josiah Hardy.  

Pennsylvania. There were Hardys who came later to Pennsylvania. Their numbers included:

  • Robert Hardie who emigrated to Pennsylvania from Scotland in the 1740’s. His son Robert and grandson David both served with the US Navy, Robert in the Revolutionary War and David in the War of 1812.
  • William Hardy, reportedly from Ireland, who came to Somerset county sometime in the 1770’s. His descendants migrated west to Indiana and Iowa.
  • and Jonas Hardy, the son of a Leeds woolen manufacturer, who arrived with his family at Lycoming city in the early 1820’s. They moved onto Illinois in 1837.

Australia.  Thomas Hardy emigrated from Devon to South Australia in 1850. He is believed to have been related to the Captain Thomas Hardy of HMS Victory fame in 1805.

Thomas started a vineyard in South Australian 1853 and soon became the acknowledged wine grower in the region. Thomas Hardy and Sons was his wine company and his son Robert and grandson Kenneth and great grandson Robert all followed in his footsteps. A line also led to Tom Hardy, killed in an airplane crash in 1938, and his son James (later Sir James), a champion yachtsman.

Another Hardy, this time Arthur Hardy from Yorkshire, came out to South Australia somewhat earlier in 1839. He grew rich in business in Adelaide and was reputedly one of the town’s wealthiest men in the early 1880’s. However, he later overstretched himself and fell into debt. Mabel Hardy’s 1959 booklet History of the Hardy Family told his family story in Yorkshire and Australia.

Hardy Surname Miscellany

Hardy and Hardie Today

The following are the approximate numbers of Hardy and Hardie around today.

Numbers (000’s) Hardy Hardie
England and Wales    33     1
Scotland     1     6
America    28     2
Elsewhere    16     3
Total    78    12

Hardy is largely a north of England name, mainly found in Yorkshire.  Hardie is a Lowland Scottish name. 

John de Hardy, London Alderman.  John de Hardy came, it was said, from Yorkshire.  He got rich as a merchant in London.  He was thought in 1522 to have been the second wealthiest member of the Haberdashers’ Company.

Merchant prominence in London brought him civic prominence.  He lived on Milk Street and was a neighbor of Thomas More. He served as Alderman for Aldersgate and then Farrington from 1524 to 1535 and was the Sheriff of London in 1527, And he had married well.  His wife apparently was Mary de Stanley who was reportedly of royal ancestry. This was always a boasting point for later Hardys of his line.

However, John died relatively young.  He had given up his position as Alderman in 1535, claiming infirmity.  At that time he had signed a petition detailing the impoverishing effects of the expenses involved in holding high office in London.  The cause of his death in 1543 was said to have been poisoning.

Reader Feedback – John de Hardy.  The lineage by Thomas Markham has been disproven for over three decades. The Herald of the College of Arms in London in 1976 stated that:

  1. There is no proof that the John Hardy (1613-1676) was the son of Richard Hardy and Alice Wilson
  2. That there is no proof this Richard Hardy was the son of the John de Hardy who married Margaret Newton. as shown on the Wetwang Visitation.
  3. That there is no proof that the John de Hardy was the son of Michael de Hardy and Alice Skelton,
  4. That there is no proof that this Michael de Hardy was the son of John de Hardy and Mary Stanley.
  5. That there is no proof of the marriage of John de Hardy and Mary Stanley and no proof that she was a Magna Charta Baron descendant.
  6. That there is no proof of the marriage of John de Hardy and Margaret de la Pole or that she was a Magna Charta descendant.
  7. That the heralds that interviewed the Hardy family members who provided the information for this Wetwand visitation did not do a very good job of researching the material.

This lineage is no longer accepted by any genealogy society and is not listed in the newest set of volumes on the descendants of Magna Charta Sureties.

Hope this helps.  Tom King

Sir Thomas Hardy’s Monument in Westminster Abbey.  The inscription on Sir Thomas’s monument in Westminster Abbey gives some views on the origin of his family and its history in Jersey.

“Near the West door of the choir, lies interred the body of Sir Thomas Hardy who died on the 16th of August, 1732 in the 67th year of his age; and, according to the directions of his will, was buried in the same grave with his wife who died on the 28th of April, 1720.

He was born in Jersey and descended from Clement Le Hardy, who removed from France and settled in that island and was made a Justice (Jurat) there in 1381 and was succeeded in the same office by his son and grandson.

His great grandson Clement was made a Lieutenant-Governor and had the office of Bailiff, with the title of Seigneurie de Mélèche conferred upon him for life by Henry VII as a reward for the most important service he had rendered him.

The Earl of Richmond, after the disappointment he had met with in his first attempt upon England, was separated from the rest of his fleet by a storm and landed privately in Jersey, intending to stay there until he could obtain leave from the French King to come into his dominions.  He was sheltered at the house of Clement who protected him and conveyed him safely to Normandy at the hazard of his own life, notwithstanding that a proclamation from Richard III to apprehend the Earl had been published on the island.

His descendants have on all occasions distinguished themselves to the utmost of their power by their loyalty and fidelity to the Crown.”

Reader Feedback – Hardys in Northumberland.  I’m from the Hardy family in Alnwick – fly fishing manufacturers. My Hardys seem to have come from the border area, but are not recorded as reivers although they married Dodds and Duns. Definitely Nordic origin through genome test with Nation geographic.

Hugo Hardy (hugo_hardy@hotmail.com)

Henry and Marie Hardy in Cork.  Henry and Marie Hardy had ten children.  But one was stillborn, six died in infancy, and two at the early ages of 15 and 23.  John drowned at sea in 1769, just off the coast of Maryland; Peter “died in the East Indies in 1782 with his relative Governor Droz.”  Simeon, born in 1749, was the only son who survived.  Simeon’s son, also named Simeon, became a Cork shipowner and merchant who was active in the sugar trade with the West Indies.

Marie herself had died in 1760, her husband Henry in 1783.  They were buried in the Huguenot burial ground in Cork. The inscription read:

“The burial place of the Hardy family, French Huguenots, was outside this wall.  One of the first interments was that of Marie, daughter of Chales Boileau Lord of Castlelmau and the wife of Henry Hardy, who died on the 17th June, 1760.  And the last was that of John Peter Hardy, who died on the 14th May, 1868.  Tout Hardi!”

John Peter Hardy was the son of Simeon Hardy, merchant.

Kiss Me Hardy.  It was a famous moment in English naval history.   Admiral Nelson, England’s greatest naval hero, was dying at the Battle of Trafalgar on 21st October 1805.  He had been hit by a musket ball fired from a French ship at about 1.15pm and he died below decks at about 4.30pm.  His body was preserved in a barrel of brandy.

The details are relevant in attempting to authenticate whether Nelson ever spoke the famous words “Kiss me Hardy.”  The best argument in support of the words being authentic is the fact that the events surrounding Nelson’s death on HMS Victory were witnessed by several people at close quarters, all of whom would have had an intense interest in it.

There were at least three eye-witness accounts recording that Nelson asked Hardy to kiss him. The precise words said weren’t recorded verbatim, but “Kiss me Hardy” can’t have differed in any material way from reality.  The witnesses – William Beatty, Chaplain Alexander Scott and Walter Burke – were shown in Arthur Devis’s painting The Death of Nelson.

According to the contemporary accounts, Nelson last words were:

“Take care of my dear Lady Hamilton, Hardy, take care of poor Lady Hamilton.”  He paused then said very faintly, “Kiss me, Hardy.”

This Hardy did on the cheek.

Nelson then said, “Now I am satisfied. Thank God I have done my duty.”

The Hardys of Newberry County, South Carolina.  Thomas Hardy was the patriarch of the family. Sometime in the 1780’s, he and his family – his wife Phoebe, his eight children, livestock, and some ten or more slaves – made their way on horseback through the woods from the old home in Virginia to a new home in Newberry county, South Carolina.  They built their first home there, a log cabin, along the Tyger river. There followed six generations of Hardys on this land.

Their heyday was in the years prior to the Civil War when their cotton plantation was in full swing and their home was a beautiful antebellum mansion with its classic double-tier portico.   William Hardy and his family lived like English gentry at this time, eve4n owning nineteen racehorses.

At the Hardy mansion in 1860, there were forty five slaves, many who adopt d the Hardy name and lived on at the estate after emancipation.   Like Gone With the Wind, there is a wedding on the eve of the Civil War.  In early 1861, William Hardy’s daughter Mira married John Davis Frost III at the plantation, a milestone social event at the time.

Nothing was the same afterward.  Months later, William Hardy’s son Charles and his Aunt Anna died of typhoid; while his sons Dickie and Haywood joined the Confederate Army along with their cousin Willie Hardy.  Willie was killed at Manassas.  Haywood became sick and died in 1864.  Dickie returned as Captain Dick.

Captain Dick joined the Knights of the White Camelia, later the Ku Klux Klan, to thwart “opportunists, some intent on open thieving and others on the legally sanctioned stealing of speculations and land grabs.” He served five terms in the state Legislature and lived into his 90s, but by then the Great Depression had come, “the final blow to life on the Southern land and to the farm way of life.”

When Dick died in 1949, his brother John and his wife Alice moved in.  They wired the mansion for electricity, installed indoor plumbing and restored the house. When Alice sold it in 1973, just 127 acres of the property remained.

James Kibler narrated the family story in his 1998 book Our Fathers’ Fields: A Southern Story.

Thomas Hardy’s Start in Australia.  Thomas Hardy arrived on the shores of South Australia in 1850 from Devon as a 20-year-old. He went to work for a pioneer vigneron, also from Devon, John Reynell at Reynella just south of Adelaide.

In 1851 he joined the gold rush to Victoria and, although finding no gold, his entrepreneurial flair led him to drive herds of cattle from Adelaide to feed the hungry miners. Over eighteen months he made a small fortune and in 1853 bought land at Bankside on the banks of the Torrens river near Adelaide, married his cousin Johanna, and began his own wine enterprise.

By 1894 Thomas Hardy was Australia’s largest wine producer.

Hardy Names

  • Thomas Hardy was the flag captain to Admiral Nelson at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805. 
  • Thomas Hardy was an English novelist and poet of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. His novels were based in the rural setting of Dorset. 
  • James Keir Hardie was the first leader of the British Labor party, elected in 1906.
  • Oliver Hardy was one part of the comic duo of Laurel and Hardy that were popular in America in the 1930’s.

Hardy Numbers Today

  • 41,000 in the UK (most numerous in Yorkshire)
  • 30,000 in America (most numerous in Texas)
  • 19,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Australia)

Hardy and Like Surnames

Nicknames must have been an early feature of medieval life in a family or community as these nicknames later translated into surnames.  People then lived a more natural life than we do today and the surnames have reflected that.

They could be about color (Brown, Gray, Green etc), whether of hair or complexion or other factors; mood (Gay and Moody are two extremes); youth (Cox and Kidd); speed of foot (Swift and Lightfoot); and actions (such as Shakespeare and Wagstaff).  Then there were likenesses to animals (notably Fox and Wolfe but also Peacock) and to birds (Crowe and Wren for example).  And then there were some extraordinary nicknames such as Drinkwater and Wildgoose.

Here are some of these nickname surnames that you can check out.




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Written by Colin Shelley

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