Savage Surname Meaning, History & Origin

Select Savage Meaning
surname Savage comes from the French sauvage,
a nickname for someone with a wild disposition and fierce temper.
Another interpretation of the name was as follows:

“When first born as a surname, Le
Sauvage signified, probably not the ferocious but the forester, as
distinguished from the inhabitants of fortified towns.”

Le Sauvage was the
name of a Norman family.
The name is believed to have
crossed the Channel at or after the time of the
Norman Conquest.

Resources on

Savage Ancestry

first le Sauvage in England appears to
have been Robert le Sauvage, recorded at
Broadwater in Sussex
in the
Domesday Book of 1086. This family later
migrated to Stainsby in Derbyshire and subsequently to Clifton in
Cheshire. Another early Savage line was to
be found at Stockbury and Bobbing in Kent.
Sir Arnold le Sauvage of this family, who died in 1410, was
elected as Speaker of the House of Commons.

Cheshire By the
late 14th century the main Savage line was to be found at
Clifton in Cheshire. John Savage fought for Henry VII at Bosworth
Field in 1485; Thomas Savage was Archbishop of York in 1501; and
another Savage branch began at Elmley castle in Gloucestershire at this
time. Sir John Savage had Rocksavage, a great showpiece
Elizabethan mansion, built at Clifton in 1568.

In the 17th
the Savages were ennobled as Earl Rivers.
John Savage, the second Earl and a Catholic, played a prominent part in
raising troops for the King during the Civil War. Richard Savage
the poet was the illegitimate son of Richard, the fourth Earl.
Meanwhile, two 19th century English poets, Walter Savage Landor and
Alfred Lord Tennyson, have Savage descent.

Yorkshire There
has been a notable Savage presence in Yorkshire, dating back to
the 1360’s when Will Savage was the rector at St. Helens, Treeton near

Sir Edward Savage of the Cheshire Savages became
bailiff of Hatfield near Doncaster in 1495 and his arms are to be found
in the local church there. Savages in and around Sheffield date
from the 1600’s. George Savage was a razor grinder in the town in
the early 19th century.

Ireland. The county Down
family of Savage – Savage of the Ards – was planted there by William le
Sauvage from Kent who had served under de Courcey in his Ulster
invasion in
1177. He built his castle on the summit of the hill at Ardkeen in
the region of county Down known as the Ards. Over time, the
Savages became fully part of the Irish landscape (the Gaelic version of
their name was Mac an tSabhasaigh)
and were constantly at war with other Irish clans in the area, in
particular with their arch-rivals, the Clandeboye O’Niells.

The Savages at Portaferry established themselves as the Lord Savages of
by converting to Protestantism in the 16th
century. They changed their name to Nugent in 1812. This
prompted one disgruntled member of the family to retort that he would
“rather be an old savage than a new gent!” Lady Dorcas Savage, who died in
1835, was the last of these old Savages.

The story of the family
has been told in GF Savage-Armstrong’s 1888 book The Ancient and Noble Family of the
Savages of the Ards

Savage was an early name in Virginia history:

  • Ensign
    Thomas Savage
    was just thirteen when in 1608, soon after his
    arrival in Jamestown, he
    was given to Powhatan as a hostage by Captain Newport so that he could
    maintain Powhatan’s friendship. Later Thomas made his family home
    at Savage’s Neck on Virginia’s Eastern Shore. He died around 1627
    but left a son, Captain John Savage. Some of his Savage
    descendants have
    remained on the Eastern Shore.
  • and “Carpenter” Thomas Savage, who arrived possibly in the early
    1630’s, was a
    prominent figure in early Northampton and Accomack county
    histories. He was known as a builder of watercraft, a
    manufacturer of casks and barrels, and a large plantation

New England. Another
Thomas Savage came to
Massachusetts on the Planter
in 1635. The line from his son Habijah led to Thomas Savage and
his son Thomas, noted silversmiths of Boston and Bermuda. From
this family came:

  • Edward Savage, a famous portrait painter best known for his
    painting of George Washington in 1790. His son John became a
    wealthy ship-owner and merchant in Philadelphia trading with the
    Caribbean. A later John Savage resigned his commission during the
    Civil War and ended up living on a reduced inheritance.
  • and the Bostonian James
    Savage who was to start the first American savings bank in 1816.

Savage was in Middletown, Connecticut by the 1650’s. His
descendants included Empire Loyalists, David Savage who joined the
Mormon church, and George and
Georgetta Savage
, early settlers in Washington state on the
West Coast.

Canada. Jans Sauvage from
Brittany in France came to Canada around the year 1780 and made his
home in Nouvelle Longueuil, Quebec. Some eighty or so years
later the family name became Savage.

Australia and New Zealand.
Richard Savage emigrated to Melbourne from county Down in the late
1850’s. He and his wife Johanna raised eight children, the
youngest being a son Michael. Finding work hard to get in
Victoria, Michael emigrated to New Zealand in 1907. He involved
himself with the Labour party there and was one of its first MP’s
following the 1919 election. He became New Zealand’s first Labour
Prime Minister in 1935.


Savage Miscellany

Sauvage in France.  The Norman home of the Sauvage family is believed to have been in the
neighborhood of Avranches.  There was an ancient de Sauvage
family, lords of Montbaron, who might have been related.  They
held lands extending into Burgundy.  However, their family records
were destroyed in a fire at the chateau de Montbaron in 1615.

Sauvage is a French surname today (some 15,000 bear the name).  It is most common around Calais.

Reader Feedback – Early Savage History.  I am from the Savage family and have been researching it for over 15 years, which
has resulted in document of over 5,000 pages on all the main Savage families
around the world.

Firstly there was no
Sieur Thomas le Sauvage in 1066 in England.
No document in England has been found with such a name.  Secondly, the early history/descent of the le
Sauvages in Walt’s work, I am afraid, is wrong or incorrect.

The first known le Sauvage recorded in England,
from the Domesday Book in 1086, was Robert le Sauvage of
Broadwater in
Worthing in Sussex.  The
research for the Sussex line from 1066
was done by W.E. Done in 1964.  I
have checked all the documents he listed and come to
exactly the
same conclusion.

Best regards, Hugh Savage (
Worthing, Sussex 

Lord Savage and the Rhymer O’Daly.  Patrick Savage, Seneschal (Lord) of Arde, lived in county Down during
Elzabethan times.  He was empowered by the English Crown to punish
“malefactors, rebels, vagabonds, rhymers, Irish harpers, and idle men
and women.”  He had the whip applied to the rhymer O’Daly and
drove him out of the Ards.

O’Daly composed a bitter retort in Irish.
Translated it read:

“The Ards of Uladth, scarce and starving,

A country without happiness, without religion,

Where Savage, the foreign hangman,

Scrapes off the limpets with his knife.”

Lady Dorcas Savage.  Lady Dorcas Savage, “the last of the Savages,” had a ship
named after her.  She was also known for her acts of
charity.  Her name appeared in a poem written by Alexander
McGrattan of
Kansas who was from the area and remembered his hometown fondly.
The excerpt from his poem went as follows:

“In eighteen hundred twenty five,   A schoolhouse there was placed  By a Lady Dorcas Savage,  Being the last of her race.

As she did not limit cost   It is plain to be seen,  The best schoolhouse in all the North  Was then built at Ardkeen.”

Savages in the 17th Century.  Sir John Savage of Rocksavage died in 1615 and he was succeeded by his son Thomas who was created a Viscount.  When Thomas died in 1635 and was buried in Macclesfield, his eldest son Lord
Viscount John Savage became the owner of Rocksavage.  He was made
Earl Rivers in 1639.  After the Civil War, because of his support
for the King, he was stripped of his title and estates.  He died
at Frodsham castle in 1654.  A few hours after his death the
castle was
completely destroyed by fire.

The Rocksavage estates were restored to his son Thomas by
Charles II after the Restoration.  Richard Savage, the fourth
Earl, was one of the most conspicuous rakes of his time.  The
Savage line became extinct in 1742.

Richard Savage’s Unfortunate Life.  Richard Savage was born in 1698, having been the son of Anne, Countess
of Macclesfield, by Captain Richard Savage, afterwards the Earl of
Rivers.  He might have been considered the lawful issue of Lord
Macclesfield; but his mother, in order to procure a separation from her
husband, made a public confession of adultery in this instance.

As soon as her spurious offspring was brought to light, the countess
treated him with every kind of unnatural cruelty.  She committed
him to the care of a poor woman to educate as her own and prevented the
Earl of Rivers from making him a bequest of £6,000 by declaring that he
was already dead.  She endeavored to send him secretly to the
American plantations; and at last, to bury him in obscurity and
indigence for ever, she placed him as an apprentice to a shoemaker in

About this period his nurse died.  In searching her effects,
Savage found some letters which unravelled the mystery of his
origin.  He therefore left his low occupation and tried every
method, but without avail, to awaken the tenderness and attract the
regard of his mother.  Being thus thrown upon the world without
the aid of any fostering hand, he availed himself of the portion of
learning he had acquired at the grammar school of St. Albans, and
commenced a life as an author.

In 1723 he produced a tragedy, in which he himself performed the
principal character, entitled Sir
Thomas Overbury
.  The profits of this play appear to have
amounted to £200.  The world was beginning to regard this victim
of maternal heartlessness with a more favorable eye when the accident
occurred which put not only his reputation but his life itself into
jeopardy.  He – together with James Gregory and William Merchant –
was indicted at the Old Bailey for the murder of James Sinclair during
a tavern brawl, Savage for having given him a mortal wound with a drawn
sword in the lower part of the belly and Gregory and Merchant for
having aided and abetted him.

After a trial of eight hours, the jury found Savage and Gregory guilty
of murder and Merchant guilty of manslaughter.  Savage faced the
prospect of the death sentence.  It will scarcely be believed
that, at this critical juncture, the inhuman countess exerted all her
influence to prejudice the Queen against her unhappy child and to
render unavailing every intercession that might be made to procure for
him the royal mercy.

At length, however, the Countess of Hertford having laid an account of
the extraordinary story and sufferings of poor Savage before her
majesty, a pardon was obtained for him and his companion and they were
accordingly set at liberty.

However, he was destitute of all means of subsistence and his latter
days appear to have been spent, for the most part, in abject
poverty.  He died at Bristol, where he had been imprisoned for
debt, in August 1743, in his 46th year, and was buried in the
churchyard of St. Peter at the expense of the jailer.

Ensign Thomas Savage and the Indians.  After the hostage giving, ensign Thomas Savage lived with the Powhatans
– from the age of thirteen to around seventeen; and, when he returned
to live in the colony, he continued to have close ties with the

He was the first white man to settle on the Eastern Shore.  He had
developed good relations with the Accomacks there so that, even as a
very young man, he was accepted into their councils.  When Captain
Martin visited the Eastern Shore in April 1610, he found Thomas Savage
already a power among them.

He made his home at Savage’s Neck on the Eastern Shore where
today there is the following marker:

“Here in Savage’s Neck was the
home of Ensign Thomas Savage who came to Virginia in 1608.
Granted a tract of land by Debedeavon, the “Laughing  King”
of  the Indians in 1619,  Savage became the first English
permanent resident of the Eastern Shore.”

Thomas Savage was a trader later.  In the 1624-25
muster he was
as having a storehouse in which he stored his goods of trade.

George and Georgetta Savage, West Coast Pioneers.  George and Georgetta Savage and their four children crossed the plains from Iowa in 1873 on the first train to carry passengers to San Francisco.  The family then went north by
sailing ship to New Westminster and settled in British Columbia.
But the “King George” Indians did not like the “Boston Men,” so they
left again on a sailboat which Mr. Savage had built.

The next winter they spent at Marchs Point, but later went on to
Utsalady on Camano Island where a sawmill was located.  Eventually
Mr. Savage left the mill to look for a homestead.  After staying
one winter at Day Slough on the North Fork of the Skagit river, he went
up the river toward Concrete and settled on a timbered tract fronting
on the stream. Timber which was cut from the tract was dragged out by
oxen and rafted down to the mill at Utsalady.

George Savage was the first county engineer of Skagit county and
located most of the pioneer roads there. He was interested in early
politics and once made a steamboat journey from Mount Vernon to Whatcom
(now Bellingham) to protest in behalf of the would-be Skagit county
residents.   He passed away in 1920.

His original home was destroyed by fire.  But Bert Savage today
has a home on the same site; and part of the old log outbuildings, as
well as part of the original orchard, are still in use.


Select Savage Names

  • William le Sauvage was in 1170 the first of the Savages of the Ards in county Down.
  • John Savage, the 2nd Earl Rivers,
    was Catholic gentry from Cheshire. He was a key supporter of Charles I during the Civil War.
  • Jim Savage was the California
    pioneer who discovered the Yosemite valley.
  • Michael Savage, of Irish parentage, was the first Labour Prime Minister of New Zealand, taking office in 1935.

Select Savage Numbers Today

  • 24,000 in the UK (most numerous
    in Hertfordshire)
  • 18,000 in America (most numerous
    in New York)
  • 9,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Australia).


Select Savage 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.





Click here for return to front page

Leave a Reply