I recently ran across the unusual surname Phethean and having no idea of its etymology or even how to pronounce it, I had to do some research. It turns out it’s /ˈfiːðiən/ (FEE-thee-uhn, as in “[I’ll] fee thee an [apple]), and it’s apparently a (very weird) variant of Vivian; Rybakin, my go-to reference for English surnames, gives the other variants Fiddian, Fidgen, Fidgeon, Fithian, Phythian, Videan, and Vivien, and there is actually a dedicated website, Phethean One-Name study, which has a bunch more:

The Phethean One-Name study was established in 2012. I have been researching the PHETHEAN surname for about 20 years. More recently I have been concentrating on tracing the early origins of the surname, including all variants that I am aware of, rather than establishing a definitive family-tree of my own particular spelling of the surname

The registered variants of the name are Fithyan, Phitheon, Phithian, Phythian. Only Phethean, Phythian and Fithyan appear to be represented in England at the present day.

All the variants that I am researching are: Fethion, Fethyan, Fethyon, Fhithyan, Fithan, Fithean, Fitheion, Fitheon, Fithian, Fithion, Fithyan, Fithyon, Fitton, Fytheone, Fythian, Pheathean, Pheathian, Phethean, Phethein, Phetheon, Phethian, Phethion, Phithean, Phitheon, Phithian, Phithion, Phithyan, Phythean, Phytheon, Phythian, Phythion, Phythyan. […]

There are sparse records dating from 1250 – 1450 in various parts of the UK. The definitive spelling Phethean first appears in Tunstall, Staffordshire in 1459 where it was used as a first-name (Phethean of Tunstall) and then is found as a surname (and many derivative spellings) mainly in two locations in Cheshire – Brereton-cum-Smethwick and Warmingham from about 1500-1750. These sites are only about 15 miles from Tunstall but at present I have been unable to link the two locations.

Read more about the history of the name (“The Industrial Revolution lead to migrations of families who were yeoman farmers from the country to the cities. The Phethean line became established in Bolton, Lancashire from the late 1700s”) and frequency (“The surname is rare!”) at the link; I admire the dedication of Mr Stuart Phethean, who created and updates it.


  1. I knew of Floyd Fithian when he was Senator Paul Simon’s (D-IL) Chief of Staff, but apparently he had previously served as a Congressman from Indiana.

    I’ve never seen any other spellings.

  2. Thanks for reviewing my One-Name Study!

  3. You’re welcome, and thank you for creating it!

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