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Recorded as O' Griffin, McGriffin, McGriffen, McGraffin, Griffen, Griffin, and probably others, this is a surname of at least three distinct origins. Without a prefix it may be English, Irish or Welsh, and which in their earliest ancient origins, are almost certainly linked. With the prefix it is always either Irish or Scottish. Firstly the current spelling may derive from the Old Welsh personal name "Gruffydd", composed of the elements "griff" of uncertain etymology but belived to mean a dragon, and "udd", a chief or lord. Secondly, it may have been of Anglo-Saxon or Germanic origins, and used as a baptismal name for a child, one whose the parents hoped would grow up to be a fierce person! Here the derivation is from the pre 7th century Old High German "grifan", meaning to snatch, grasp, and used in a transferred form to mean a dragon, a mythical animal which was believed to seize passing people. Thirdly, it may be of Irish origin, from the Gaelic O'Griobhtha, the prefix O', denoting male descendant of, plus the personal name "Grioghtha", from "griobh", also meaning gryphon. Early examples of recordings taken from surviving rolls and charters of medieval times include such examples as Robert Griffin in the Pipe Rolls of the county of Warwickshire, in 1130, and John Grifen in the Chartulary of the Priory of St. Thomas, the Martyr, near Stafford in 1230.

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