Pratt Surname Meaning, History & Origin

Select Pratt Meaning
The Old English praett,
meaning trick or cunning, became a nickname for someone who was cunning
or played tricks. The earliest citing of this name was Lefwinus
Prat around 1080.
Pratts Bottom is a village in the London
borough of Bromley, on the border with Kent. Often the butt of
jokes, the village was named after the family of Stephen Prat who lived
in the valley in the 14th century. Some Pratts do not like this derivation and prefer its origin from the
latin pratum, meaning a
clearing or meadow.

Pratt Resources on

Pratt Ancestry

The Pratt name in early times was mainly to be found in
and around East Anglia. It cropped up later in Devon
and in Staffordshire and the Yorkshire dales.

Suffolk Wilfric
Prat was documented in the Seals
of Suffolk in 1179. Walter Pratt of Baldock in Hertfordshire was
born in Mildenhall, Suffolk in 1390. Pratt families were local
gentry in Norfolk, at Hockwold from the time of Henry VIII and also at
Downham. Sir
Roger Pratt
of the latter family, who became a leading
architect in
Restoration England, built Ryston Hall for his own account in 1672, a
manor which has stayed with the family to the present day. Sir
Roger also built Coleshill House in Berkshire, the property of Pratts
who had become wealthy cloth merchants in London.

Devon The Pratt
name was and is to be found in the west country, in
Devon. One early sighting was in Kentisbeare. Another
family from this area made it in the legal profession in London, rising
to be Earl Camden in the 18th century.

Thomas Pratt, who died in 1739, started a
long line of
Pratt potters
at Fenton near Stoke.

Yorkshire The
little village of Askrigg in Wensleydale can boast the 18th century
jockey and horse breeder John Pratt and the early 19th
century clockmaker James Pratt.

The Pratt name also cropped up in Swaledale, beginning with
Thomas Pratt in 1630.
Poorly educated, these Pratts worked at the Old Gang lead mines on
Gunnerside and were converts to Methodism. However, these mines
closed down in the 1840’s and the Pratts left the area.
The Rev. John Pratt was posted to Newfoundland in 1873. His son
was the poet, E.J. Pratt. The family
was traced by daughter Claire in her 1971 book The Silent Ancestors: the Forebearers of
E.J. Pratt

A Pratt family had arrived in Ireland from Leicestershire in 1641 and
acquired land in Meath and later in Cavan. They held onto Cabra
castle in county Cavan until 1964. Other Pratts took land in
Youghal, Cork and county Laios at this time (John Pratt was known as
“Cromwell Pratt” in Laios).

Scotland. The Pratt name
appeared at Nairn in the Scottish Highlands during the 13th
century. They became a sub-sept of the Grant
clan. They
showed up in numbers first in Fife and later in Aberdeen.

America. Phineas Pratt
probably the first Pratt arrival in America, coming to Massachusetts
Bay with Thomas Weston in
1622 and helping to establish the Wessagusett plantation. Forty
years later as an old man, he wrote an account to the court of
Massachusetts of the colonists’ early struggles. He lived onto
the ripe old age of ninety.

Other early Pratts in New England were:

  • Joshua Pratt who arrived at Plymouth on
    the Anne in 1623 and Matthew
    who came in the 1630’s and settled in Weymouth. Matthew’s line
    was covered in Francis Pratt’s 1890 book The Pratt Family.
  • while John and William Pratt were
    Puritans who had settled in Hartford, Connecticut in 1636. From
    this lineage
    came Jared and the Mormon Pratts. There are, because of multiple
    wives, a staggering 30,000 descendants of the 18th century Jared

Massachusetts later produced one remarkable Pratt family.
Pratt was born in Wrentham in 1771, the son of Noah and Hannah
Pratt. He became the famous New England organ builder of his
time. His
son Addison was first a Yankee whaler and then a Mormon missionary in
the Pacific islands. His wife Louisa Barnes Pratt, from whom he
was later separated, became better known to the wider public after her
memoirs of missionary work and pioneer life was published.

Captain Henry Pratt, the son of London pewterer Henry Pratt, would sail
regularly between London and Philadelphia in the 1680’s at the time of
William Penn’s first arrival there. He too made his home in
Philadelphia. A descendant, also named Henry, became a successful
merchant trader in the city in the years following the Revolutionary
War. He built his home, the Lemon Hill Mansion, in what is now
Philadelphia’s Fairmount Park.

Virginia and the South.
Virginia received one notable Pratt. A son of Charles Pratt, Earl
Camden, was said to have had
difficulties at Oxford University. He therefore decided to
emigrate to America
rather than to embarrass his father. Charles and his brother John
in Virginia in the 1790’s, acquiring estates in Caroline County.
Martha Pratt returned from Virginia to England with her husband in the
early 1800’s. But she left a painting of herself at the
Shirley plantation manor.

“Family descendants noticed an unusual
property of the painting. Whenever Aunt Pratt’s painting was
removed from its spot on the second floor, the frame would start
shaking violently. In 1974 the Virginia Tourist office put the
painting on display in Rockefeller Center. It caused a sensation
with its constant vibrations.”

Daniel Pratt
made his mark in the South in the years prior to the Civil
War. He had moved to Alabama from New Hampshire in the 1830’s and
was really the South’s first industrialist in what was then mainly an
agricultural economy.

Heading West.
Pratts also headed West, in particular to Kansas. The most
celebrated was Caleb Pratt, a young Civil War officer who died in the
conflict and after whom Pratt, Kansas is named. Other Pratts in
Kansas were:

  • Ephraim Pratt and
    his wife Betsy who came to farm in Neuchatel, Kansas in 1869 (after he
    his animals in a prairie fire he became a preacher)
  • Alfred Pratt
    who arrived from Indiana in 1876 and was one of the first settlers in
    Hamilton county.
  • and a Pratt family from Yorkshire which came to Kansas in
    1878 and built the
    Cottonwood Ranch
    (which stayed in family hands for almost a

Canada. Newfoundland can
boast not only the poet E.J. Pratt, but also the painter and printmaker
Christopher Pratt. He designed the flag for Newfoundland which
was adopted by the provincial legislature in 1980.

Pratts arrived
elsewhere in Canada as the 19th century proceeded:

  • Alexander
    Pratt from Scotland operated a grist mill in Cobourg, Ontario in the
  • Robert
    and Henry
    were early settlers in the 1890’s on the Canadian
    Pacific Coast side, at Kamloops in British Columbia.
  • and
    Ralph Benjamin Pratt arrived from Sydenham in Kent in the 1890’s as
    well and became an architect for the Canadian National and Canadian
    Pacific Railways.

South Africa. James Pratt
is the forgotten man in South African history. He was an early
explorer in the Witwatersrand. owning what is now prime Johannesburg
land. But he fell foul of the Boers in Transvaal who confiscated
this land. He returned to England a broken man.

Australia and New Zealand.
William Pratt from Devon was transported to Tasmania in 1825 for
burglary, became a printer, and on his release in 1859 served the local
Methodist Church. His son and grandson were both prominent
Methodists, first in New Zealand and then in Australia.

Richard Pratt was born Ryszard Przecicki of Jewish parents in Poland
but changed his name on arrival in Australia in 1938. He became
known as “the cardboard king” for his packaging company and was one of
the richest men in Australia on his death in early 2009.


Select Pratt Miscellany

Sir Roger Pratt.  Sir Roger Pratt became one of the leading arbiters of
architectural taste in Restoration England, introducing and
establishing the astylar ‘double-pile’ house style, which became the
norm during the reign of Queen Anne.  The first house constructed
in this style was Coleshill House in Berkshire for his cousin Sir
George Pratt.

Pratt was also a consultant on the rebuilding of St Paul’s Cathedral
and the redesign of the City of London after the Great Fire of
1666.  His services were rewarded iby a knighthood, after which he
built himself a house at Ryston, retired from architectural work, and
spent the rest of his life living as a country gentleman.

Pratt Ware.  One of the oldest Staffordshire pottery works was that of Felix
Pratt at Fenton, which was in operation continuously from 1775 to

Of the many different kinds of pottery made by Pratt and his
successors two types are especially popular with present-day
collectors. The attractive and colorful cream-tinted earthenware jugs
and mugs with relief decoration have long been known as Pratt ware,
although they were also made elsewhere in Staffordshire.

The distinguishing features of this early Pratt ware is the modeled
relief decoration and the zigzag and acanthus-leaf borders.  The
relief designs were painted under the glaze, and brilliant orange,
green, cobalt blue, black or brown, and sometimes purple is
characteristic of the ware.  In its deep, strong, and vibrant
color it resembles the finest old Italian majolica.  The subject
matter on these jugs includes scenes of the sea, hunting scenes, busts
of national heroes, genre scenes, and caricatures of the headdresses of
the period.

John Pratt from Wensleydale.  John Pratt is best remembered for being painted by George Stubbs on
the peerless horse Eclipse, a
picture which now hangs in the Sheldonian Museum in Oxford.  He
was a famous jockey of his day, said to have ridden eleven races in one
day at Newmarket, and one who got rich as a result.   He was
later one of the founders of the Jockey Club.

In 1767 he built from his winnings a house and stables in his home
village of Askrigg.  The house, now the King’s Arms, was part of his stud
farm and there was a yard at the back where he kept his hunters and a
pack of hounds.

Pratts from Swaledale

Born Place Died Place
Thomas 1630 Grinton 1689
Anthony 1659 Grinton
Michael 1661 Grinton 1717
Anthony 1698 Healaugh 1762 Grinton
William 1741 Grinton
James 1747 Grinton 1824 Reeth
James 1771 Grinton 1839
William 1779 Grinton 1824 Gunnerside
James 1792 Muker 1858 Gunnerside
James 1800 Grinton 1867 USA (Iowa)
Thomas 1805 Swaledale 1875
Christopher 1819 Grinton 1903 Undercliff
Metcalf 1826 Gunnerside 1891 USA (Nevada)
William 1828 Gunnerside
John 1839 Gunnerside 1904 Newfoundland
Thomas 1843 Grinton 1918 New Zealand

Reader Feedback – Kentibeare Pratts from Devon.  My husband’s family.  A researcher traced the
Pratt name to Normandy and they came to England in 900.
My husband had his DNA done as well he is on gedmatch. We would love to share the information.

Patricia Pratt (

Daniel Pratt: Alabama’s First Industrialist.  Daniel
Pratt helped provide cotton gins for Alabama’s predominant antebellum
economic activity, founded Alabama’s most prominent early industrial
town, and helped lay the foundation for postbellum development in
manufacturing and railroad transportation.

In 1831
Pratt left his home state of New Hampshire for Alabama where he was to
bring cotton gin manufacturing to cotton fields.  He purchased
land on Autauga Creek in 1838 and it was on that land that he built
Prattville as the site for his enterprises.  He established a
cotton gin factory, a cotton mill, a grist mill, a woollen mill and a
foundry, which employed more than 200 people.

Pratt’s gin business grew so large that he contracted with mercantile
firms in six different cities to sell his gins; and, after the Civil
War, he was shifting his reliance from the cotton economy to the new
industrial order of iron and railroad transportation.

The Cottonwood Ranch in Kansas.  The
Cottonwood Ranch State Historical Site preserves the story of one
family’s settlement on the Kansas Plains.

It is the story of an English family, the Pratts, who immigrated there
in 1878.  Abraham had sold his interests in England and eventually
settled in the area just south of the present Cottonwood Ranch.
The elder Pratt convinced his two sons to move there as well and they
settled on adjoining tracts.  John Fenton Pratt would eventually
build what would become known as the Cottonwood Ranch and constructed
this stone ranch house which has now been restored and converted into a

In 1888 John felt prosperous enough to send for his fiancee in England
to join him there.  Jennie Elizabeth Place was said to have cried
when she first sighted the edifice.  It obviously didn’t match her
expectations!  On several occasions she started on foot for the
nearest rail station, only to be persuaded to return.  With the
birth of her first daughter Hilda, she felt compelled to settle into
the ranch lifestyle.  But she vowed that she would never be
buried in the Kansas soil.  When she passed away in 1959, the
family complied with her wishes.  She was cremated instead and her
ashes were scattered over the ranch.

The Cottonwood Ranch is so called because of the grove of cottonwood
trees that had been planted near the house.  The ranch is such a
well preserved treasure because John
Pratt’s family was the only family to live there.   Hilda who
never married lived on the ranch until 1978.  In 1982 the state
bought the house, outbuildings, and 23 of the surrounding acres.

Robert Pratt in British Columbia.  Robert
Pratt came out from England to Canada around 1890.  He had
apparently jumped off a military ship in eastern Canada that was bound
for the Far East.  After that desertion Robert settled well away
from the eastern shore of Canada at Upper Campbell Creek in British
Columbia.  He contacted his brother Henry who joined him in 1894.

Robert married a local widow and he and his family ran a successful
farm at Barnhartvale.  His log cabin and the apple trees in his
orchard can still be seen today.  His apples were to win a gold
medal at an international fair in England in 1911.  He delivered
his prize apples there personally and, while there, visited his family
in England for the first time in twenty years.

Robert’s eldest son was James.  In 1911 James took part in the
last long cattle drive in British Columbia – from Ashcroft to Prince
George – at the time the railway lines were being built in that area.


Pratt Names

  • Charles Pratt, who became the 1st Earl Camden, was Lord Chancellor under Pitt and a proponent of civil liberties.
  • Rev. Josiah Pratt was the first
    secretary and part-founder of the Church Missionary Society in the early 1800’s.
  • Francis Pratt founded with Amos
    Whitney in 1860 the company Pratt & Whitney to manufacture machine tools and precision instruments (and later jet engines).
  • Charles Pratt was one of the pioneers of the US petroleum industry. His Brooklyn oil refinery later became part of Rockefeller’s Standard Oil empire.
  • E.J. Pratt from Newfoundland
    was one of the foremost poets of Canada in the first half of the 20th century.
  • William Pratt from London changed his name
    to Boris Karloff on emigration to Canada. He became well-known for his acting in horror films, in particular in Frankenstein.
  • Hugo Pratt was an acclaimed comic book creator. His grandfather was English (and related to the actor Boris Karloff), but he was Italian in nationality.

Select Pratt Numbers Today

  • 14,000 in the UK (most numerous
    in West Midlands)
  • 23,000 in America (most numerous in New York)
  • 17,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Canada)


Select Pratt 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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