Origin of the Best Name

The name Best probably derives from the Middle English beste (animal, beast) or the Latin Bestia. This was applied as a surname in two ways: as a metronymic occupational name for someone who looked after beasts - i.e. a herdsman - and as a nickname for someone thought to resemble an animal - i.e. a violent, uncouth, or stupid man. It is unlikely that the name is derived from best (O.E. betst), superlative of good.

- Patrick Hanks & Flavia Hodges,

"A Dictionary of Surnames", OUP 1988,89.

Best was a common name in England from the early 15th century, with an early branch in Worcester. There seem to have been a number of Best families in the 18th century with no evidence of links between them.

Bests appear Dorset parishes in the International Genealogical Index from XXXX. The 1851 Census of Dorset lists 268 people with the surname, distributed through 46 of Dorset's 274 parishes. Bests therefore represented about 0.15% of the 182,000 population. Of the 268 Bests, 30 (living in Durweston, Blandford, and Blandford St Mary) can be recognised as descended from William Best of Durweston. Other concentrations of Bests appear in the parishes of Wareham (45 names), Corfe Mullen (37), Lytchett Minster (26), Kimmeridge (15), Milton Abbas (11), and Poole (10).

There were many other Best groups in the South West of England, including ones in Surrey, Wiltshire, Somerset, Devon and Cornwall. It seems unlikely that most of these, and any Bests from other parts of Britain, are related to the Bests of Durweston