Backhouseone name study
variants: Bachous, Bakhous, Bakhouse, Backhowse, Bakehouse, Bakehous, Backus, Bachus, Bacchus, Baccas, Bakhus

Backhouse Coat of Arms


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The name Backhouse is a long established Anglo-Saxon name believed to be associated with 'one employed at a bakery' or the occupation of bakery assistant, and derived from the old English pre 7th Century word "baechus", or bakehouse. The name bearer is presumed to have been the bakery assistant rather than the actual baker, and believed to have resided at the bakery in order to ready the ovens for the baker.

The designation Joe of the baechus would distinguish our Joe from all other Joes in the area. As the population increased it became increasingly more important to identify particular individuals by linking them to a kin group, a phenomenon known as hereditary. Surnames became necessary when the English Government introduced the personal taxation in 1381 known as Poll Tax. Occupations were often used for this purpose.


Over the centuries there have been many variants in the spelling of the name Backhouse, although only three main derivatives have endured. By far the most popular spelling is that of Backhouse. A second derivative is bakehouse which is the modern pronunciation of the place of work from which the name is derived. The third derivative is Backus which although not popular in Britain where the name originates, it is more popular in North America. All spellings found whilst researching this study are listed to the right under these three main variants.

Backhouse or Backus?

So why are the Backus derivatives more popular in North America? After all, most of these family lines emigrated with the more dominant Backhouse spelling. Well the answer could be down to plumbing. Let me explain.

In the times before indoor plumbing a structure was often built to the rear of a property to house these less than hygienic facilities. In Britain this structure was known as an 'outhouse', however in North America it was known as a 'backhouse'. Although both names describe the building's location, the North American name had the obvious and undesirable connotations for individuals with the same name. The solution would have been to adopt a pronunciation more akin to the original old English baechus and therefore avoiding comparisons with an outhouse. I will leave it up to you to decide whether this is true.

Historical References

The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Walter de Bakhous in 1306, in the "Calendar of Letter Books for London". This and other early records are:

What next?

Other topics in this section
  • Origin (this page) of the name including meaning, early references and variants.
  • Coat of Arms described and explained.
  • Myths and other untrue stories associated with the name.
  • Notable individuals that warrant a more detailed explanation.
Backhouse Coat of Arms
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