Skinner Surname Meaning, History & Origin

Select Skinner Meaning
Skinner in England and Scotland is an occupational name,
for someone who stripped the hide from animals that was to be used for
into leather. The root is the Old Norse skinn meaning a hide or pelt. In
medieval records this occupation can be
found in the form of “le skynner” or “le schimner,” written
after the Christian name for the individual being identified.

Skinner Resources on

Skinner Ancestry

The Worshipful Company of

was one of the great
medieval trade guilds, first recognized in 1327. Its
early use as a surname, such as Ralph Le
Skinnere in Hertfordshire in 1269 and Henry le Skyniar in Oxfordshire
in 1273,
was in a form to denote their occupation.

and the Southeast
. The Skinner
name and occupation was most common in large towns such as London. Thomas Skinner, for instance, was a London
and its Lord Mayor in 1596. His
forebears may have been skinners; but he himself was a prosperous
master of the
cloth-workers’ guild. His tombstone read
as follows:

lies the corps of Thomas Skinner late citizen
and alderman of London, born at Saffron Walden in Essex who in the 65th
year of
his age and on the 30th day of December 1596 being then Lord Mayor of
this city
departed this life, leaving behind him three sons and three daughters.”

were recorded in the small town of Reigate in Surrey in 1445. In 1542 John Skinner Jr and James Skinner,
“members of a long dynasty of Skinners,” represented this borough in
Parliament. Their father, John Sr, had
held the position of Clerk of the Peace there since 1488.

The 19th century
distribution of the Skinner name showed that it was mainly concentrated
in the
southeast around London. But there was
an outpost in the west country, with the largest numbers being in Devon.

Southwest. One
family began with the marriage of William and Anne Skinner in Newton
Abbot in
Devon around the year 1665. Another
began with the birth of Alexander Skinner at Chittlehampton in 1688. John Skinner was recorded at Ermington in
1692. William and Catherine Skinner were
married at St. Minver in Cornwall in 1726.

Skynners of Thorpe in Lincolnshire were said to have originated in
(although this has been disputed):

required of John Skynner in the
county of Lincolnshire, receiver of the honor of Bollingbroke, son and
heir to
Robert Skynner of Exeter in the county of Devon. The
gentleman to make search in the register
and records for the ancient arms and crest belonging to that name and
whereof he is descended and found the same.”

The line from John Skynner, mercer in Lincoln, led to Sir Vincent
Skynner, the Elizabethan politician, and to William Skynner, the mayor
of Hull
in 1665. His son Thomas was a merchant
in the Caribbean who died at a young age; his grandson William became
responsible for Britain’s fortifications and was appointed its Chief
in 1757.

The line from there moved to the Americas. William’s
son, Captain William Skinner,
drowned during a military engagement in
the Caribbean in 1761. One of his sons
William Campbell Skinner became a successful engineer in America. Another son Thomas came to Newfoundland in
1790 where he served as chief engineer.
His son Robert fought in the War of 1812.

Scotland. Skinner, a
surname found in the
NE Highlands of Scotland, appears to have the same occupational origins
as in
England. The name here would have closer
links with Viking-origin words. Alternatively,
it has been suggested that the name Skinner
derived from the word skene
meaning in Gaelic
a dirk or

Skinner has been a well-known
name among the fishing communities at Avoch and Easter Ross in
Ross-shire. The name has also extended
Aberdeenshire. Scott Skinner, the famous
19th century Scottish fiddler, came from the village of Arbeadie in

Skinning was an
occupation of the cattle trading clan Gregor of the Perthshire and
Highlands. When the persecution of the
MacGregor name began to be enforced in Perth in 1603, some MacGregors
thought to have adopted the Skinner surname.

This MacGregor-Skinner switching can be seen in the case of William
MacGregor who renamed himself William Skinner after the Jacobite defeat
in 1715
and left for Perth Amboy, New Jersey where he became the rector of St.

His son General Cortlandt Skinner
and grandson John MacGregor Skinner were both loyal to Britain during
Revolutionary War, the former departing for London in 1783 and the
serving with the Royal Navy in the Caribbean where he lost first his
arm and
then his eye. John moved to Holyhead in
Wales in 1793 and was a master on packet ships crossing the Irish Sea. He lost his life, aged 70, when he was washed
overboard from his ship Escape in

America. Early Skinners came
to New England and to Virginia.

England. John Skinner from Braintree
in Essex was a member of Thomas Hooker’s company which came to America
in 1635
and settled at Hartford, Connecticut a year later.
Among later descendants were:

  • Justin
    a seafarer who settled in Maine in the early 1800’s.
    His eldest son Austin also went to sea.
    After the Civil War Austin took command of a
    merchantman sailing between America and Europe/
  • Eugene
    Skinner who came to
    Oregon territory in 1846 and was one of its early settlers. He was the founder of the city of Eugene
    which was named after him.
  • and
    David E. (Ned) Skinner who co-founded the
    Skinner and Eddy shipyard in Seattle, Washington in 1916.
    This shipyard had a short life. But
    subsequent Skinners were to play a
    prominent role in Seattle’s civic life.

Thomas Skinner left his home in
Sussex for Malden, Massachusetts in 1650.
was for his times a remarkably long-lived individual (he died in 1702
at the
age of 85) who was the first person licensed to operate an inn which
“victuals and strong waters” in Malden.

Skinners of this line moved to Maine. Daniel
Skinner arrived in 1793 and founded
the Skinner settlement in Corinth. The
farmhouse there has remained with the family until recently. From another line, via Joseph Skinner, came
Maine lighthouse keeper Charles
. Richard Skinner moved to
Vermont and became Governor of that state in 1820.
His son Mark moved to Chicago and served
there as City Attorney.

The whole family
line from Sergeant Thomas Skinner was traced in Ira Skinner’s 2013 book
The Skinner Family History.

William Skinner was a
much later arrival, coming from London in 1843 and starting a silk
manufacturing business which, from 1874, was based in Hadley,
Massachusetts. Sons William and Joseph
carried on the business after his death in 1902. At
nearby Mount Holyoke the family legacies
are Skinner Park, Skinner Hall and the Skinner Museum.


Skinners of Elizabeth city
county, Virginia date from the 1670’s.
Later Skinners here settled in Darlington county, South Carolina.

Richard Skinner, first recorded in
Virginia sometime in the 1670’s, migrated in 1701 to Perquimans county,
Carolina where his descendants became prominent plantation owners and
politicians. John
Skinner’s Perquimans seat, known as Ashland, was located in the
Harvey’s Neck section of the county.
Considered one of the finest homes in northeastern North
Carolina, it
burned down in 1952.

Robert Skinner from Essex was in the 1870’s a factor at the
Bay Company trading post on Quesnel island in the extreme northwest of
Columbia. Sadly the records show that he
was dismissed from the company’s employ in 1887 for falsifying the
accounts. His daughter Constance moved
to California and then to New York where she became a writer of the

Australia and New Zealand. Martha Skinner came to Sydney with her
husband William Cole from Kent in 1838 and many other Skinners of
family were to make the same voyage over the next twenty years. They settled in Braidwood and elsewhere in

William Skinner left the comforts
of Melbourne in 1854 for the hardships of a gold prospector in Victoria. His wife Emily followed him to various
diggings, enduring the primitive huts and tents, isolation and
hardships of
that life. The family was plagued by
sickness and lost their first born when he was five months old. William had little success with his diggings
and he eventually gave up his dream of gold.
Emily’s recollections of those times were published in a 1995
book Emily Skinner, A Woman on the Goldfields.

Thomas Skinner, a butcher from Devon, was
one of the early settlers in New Zealand, arriving there in 1841 and
making his
home in Taranaki. His son William was a
surveyor who over his long life wrote about the history of the region
and was a
staunch supporter of its customs and heritage.
His son Henry became the director of Otago Museum.


Skinner Miscellany

Skinner as an Occupation.  Skynners
or skinners were clearly men in the business of
selling rawhide to others who would turn them into leather.
Though a man could
acquire one of these names by simply developing some skill in taking
the skin
off a carcass, it is far more probable that a man would have to be
associated with that process for some time to acquire the name

animals were usually slaughtered on the farms by a butcher and skinned
by a skinner;
then the hides were sold to the tanners or barkers. Over the years, all
occupations became surnames.  Sometimes
would try to set themselves up here, but they never really succeeded.

The Worshipful Company of Skinners.  The
Worshipful Company of Skinners was one of the great
medieval trade guilds.  It
was originally an
association for those engaged in the trade of skins and furs.   Their guild was first recognized by
III in 1327 and was confirmed by Henry VI in 1438.  That the
Skinners rose from
people who worked with hides was reflected in their motto, sanguis
et vulnera
, which is Latin for
“blood and wounds.”

an order issued by the Lord Mayor of London
in 1484, the company ranked either in sixth or seventh place in the
order of the
“Twelve Great City Livery Companies.”  The Skinners were normally
sixth in the
order of precedence in even numbered years and at seven in odd numbered
years.  Some think that the expression “at
sixes and
sevens” came from this situation.

company evolved into an educational and
charitable institution, supporting schools such as the Tonbridge School
in Kent
and the Skinners’ Academy in Hackney, London.
William Herbert wrote a history of the company in 1837 and the
Company, as it is now called, is still around today.

Skinner from Skene in Scotland.  In Clifford Sims’ 1962 book The Origin and Signification of Scottish Surnames, the following reference was made to the Skinner name.

derive their names as well as their
arms from some considerable action, and thus a son of Struan Robertson,
killing a wolf in Stocket forest in Athole, in the king’s presence,
with a
dirk, received the name of Skene, which signifies a dirk.

Grimble wrote in Scottish Clans and Tartans that
this event took place in the 11th
century and that “the Skenes were an exceptionally early sept of Clan
Donnchaidh, long before it adopted the name of Robertson.”

references I’ve come across, the knife is referred to as a sgain
which means “black dirk.”  This is
a small, bone-handled knife
traditionally carried in the top of the Scotsman’s sock. It was
sometimes the
weapon of choice for a quick slit of an Englishman’s throat after the
of swords and other weapons were banned in Scotland.

to other reports
of the story above, the Scottish king was hunting with several others
when a
wolf attacked the party.  The Scotsman in
question drew his skaen dhu,
grappled with the wild creature at the risk of his
own neck, and dispatched the beast.  The
king honored the hero by naming him “Robertson of the Sgain Dhu.” The
family carried the appellation forward into succeeding generations and
eventually became the Skinner name we know today.”

Captain William Skinner of the 94th Regiment.  Captain
William Skinner took part in the capture in 1761 of Dominica in the West Indies under
Lord Rollo.  But he drowned on August
27th of the same year at Coulehault off the coast of Dominica.

had married in
1753 at a very young age to Hester, the daughter of Colin Lawder of
Berwick-upon-Tweed.  Tradition relates
that the combined age of the bride and bridegroom did not exceed thirty.

contemporary Percival Stockdale wrote of them:

“Miss Hester
Lawder was afterwards married to Mr. Skinner who, at the time of their
marriage, was an ensign.  He was one of
the most hospitable of men.  He was
polite to me when I was a lieutenant in the Welsh fusiliers and in the
1756 at Gibraltar.  And I can never
forget the universal admiration which did homage to Miss Lawder’s
charms in the
Governor’s garden at the convent.”

children were the result of this
marriage – William Campbell Skinner, Captain of the Royal Engineers;
Skinner, Colonel of the Royal Engineers; and Margaret, who married the
Honorable Sir Evan Nepean, Baronet.

Charles Clement Skinner, Lighthouse Keeper.  The
Marshall Point Lighthouse was situated on a rocky
ledge at the tip of the St. George Peninsula in Maine.
Charles Clement Skinner, a Civil War veteran,
was its keeper from 1874 to 1919. He lived at the station with his wife
and six
children.  He died in 1932.

his logs, Skinner noted many strandings of both
man and beast in the area of the station.  On October 28, 1884 he

fin-back whale stranded on Mosquito Point last night.  Sixty-seven
feet in

on February 10, 1886:

Cambridge was wrecked on Old
Man Ledge at 4:45 AM.  Passengers and crew were all saved and
landed on
Island where they were taken off by Steamer Dallas this
forenoon and
taken to Rockland.”

made the
following journal entry in June 1895:

thunder showers passed over here at
one o’clock this morning. The dwelling house at this station was struck
lightning and one chimney, the roof, one window, and three rooms badly
shattered, lightning entered from rooms besides the cellar.  No one was seriously injured.”

daughter, Eula Kelley,
was born in the first keeper’s house in 1891 and lived until 1993,
spending her
last years in a cottage nearby the light station. Her sister, Marion
was born in the new keeper’s house in 1895 and lived until 1992. Both
attended the opening of the restored keeper’s house in 1990.

of Americans have seen Marshall Point
Lighthouse, even though they might not know it. The lighthouse’s wooden
served as the terminating point in Forrest Gump’s cross-country run
Forrest, Run.” 

Kayla Skinner in Seattle.  Kayla Skinner who died in 2004 at the age of 84 was the matriarch of an old Seattle family and a pillar of local philanthropy.  In 1942 she had married Ned
Skinner, a third generation Seattle patriarch who twenty years later was to bring the World’s Fair to Seattle.

played a central role in the flowering of Seattle’s arts
scene since that time, serving on numerous boards, lobbying
politicians, giving
generously herself and asking others to do likewise.

was a seminal
person in the development of the Seattle arts community,” said Peter
Donnelly, president of the arts-support group ArtsFund and a longtime
“This is one of the architects of our cultural life as we know it

name won’t be quickly forgotten. There’s a Kayla Skinner
Stairway at McCaw Hall, a Kayla Skinner Board Room at the Tacoma Art
and a Ned and Kayla Skinner Theater at Cornish College of the Arts.  She was a founding member of Seattle Opera
and Pacific Northwest Ballet. She served on the boards of the Seattle
Seattle Repertory Theatre, Seattle Art Museum and The Empty Space
among others.

was a small woman, not much more than five feet tall.
But she attracted attention wherever she went. It
was said by an old friend that when she
went shopping downtown in the 1950’s she used to stop traffic on Fifth
because people would stop to look at her.
She was a somebody.



Skinner Names

  • The Rev. John Skinner from
    Aberdeenshire was an 18th century Scottish
    historian and writer of popular songs. 
  • B. F. Skinner is a renowned American
    behavioral psychologist of the 20th century. 
  • Dennis Skinner is a British Labor Party
    politician, known for his left-wing views and acid tongue.
    He has been called “the Beast of Bolsover,”
    the constituency which he represents

Select Skinner Numbers Today

  • 25,000 in the UK (most numerous
    in London)
  • 20,000 in America (most numerous in Texas)
  • 22,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Canada)


Select Skinner and Like Surnames   

The various medieval trades and occupations were a source of surnames as John the baker would over time would become known as John Baker.  Some skilled craftsmen – such as chandlers, fletchers and turners – were able to form guilds, protective organizations, and style themselves Worshipful Companies.  These are some of the occupational surnames that you can check out.




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