fletcher

 

The Mutineers turning LIEUᵀ BLIGH and part of the OFFICERS and CREW adrift from His MAJESTY’s Ship the Bounty, by Robert Dodd (1748-1815)

The Mutineers turning LIEUᵀ BLIGH and part of the OFFICERS and CREW adrift from His MAJESTY’s Ship the Bounty, by Robert Dodd (1748-1815)

 

 

 

The noun fletcher denotes a person who makes and sells arrows. It also formerly designated an archer. It is from Old French flechier, flecher, of same meanings, derived from a noun spelt fleche, flesche, etc., (Modern French flèche), primarily meaning arrow, from an unattested Frankish form fliukka.

In Old French, the forms of flèche superseded those from Latin sagitta, arrow, such as saiette and sayette. In Modern French, traces of this Latin word are only found in learned words such as sagette, arrow, a literary word coined in the mid-16th century, and sagittaire, Sagittarius, the constellation also called the Archer.

(English uses flèche in one of its French secondary senses, that of a slender spire, typically over the intersection of the nave and the transept of a church.)

 

The English noun is first recorded in a Scottish Act of Parliament of 1457. From 1424, the first Stuart king, James I (1394-1437), impressed from his English education with the usefulness of archery in warfare, endeavoured by every means in his power to encourage its practice among his subjects. His son, James II (1430-60), was even more precise and exacting in his enactments than his father, and, by the statute of 1457, he gave, among others, the following order:

that ther be a bowar and a fleger in ilk hede towne of the schyre.
     translation:
that there be a bowyer and a fletcher in each head [= chief] town of the shire.

Incidentally, in the same statute, he also ordained

that the fut ball and the golf be vtterly criyt doune and not vsyt.
     translation:
that the football and the golf be utterly cried down [= proclaimed as unlawful] and not used.

The account book of Sir John Howard of Stoke-by-Neyland (in Suffolk) for 1465 contains the following:

the vᵗʰ. ȝer of the Kynge and the xxj. day of June, [...] the flecher that dwellyd in Thurton strete owyth hym ffor tymber, ix.s. vj.d.
     translation:
the fifth year of the King and the 21st day of June, [...] the fletcher that dwells in Thurton Street owes him for timber 9s 6d.

Of occupational origin, the proper name Fletcher is attested as Robert Flechier in Normandy in 1198, as the Latinised Denis Flecharius of Lincoln in 1203, and as Adam le Flecher in England around 1272. The best-known bearer of the forename was Fletcher Christian (circa 1764-circa 1793), the English seaman who, as first mate under Captain Bligh on HMS Bounty, seized the ship in April 1789 and cast Bligh and others adrift. The mutineers settled on Pitcairn Island in 1790.

The foreign Fletcher has absorbed the native Flesher, from the trade of flesher, i.e. butcher. For example, Fletcher Gate at Nottingham was formerly Flesher Gate. (The common noun butcher, of Anglo-Norman origin, has superseded flesher, of Germanic origin.)

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