Many of the earliest English surnames referred to places: places of birth, places of residence, workplaces, and so forth. These location-based surnames ranged from very broad descriptions (e.g., a cardinal point) to very narrow ones (e.g., a tree, a field).
Tash is one of the latter. It was derived from the Middle English phrase atten asche, meaning “at the ash (tree).”
The Middle English word asche comes from the Old English word æsc, which mainly referred to the tree, but in certain contexts also meant “spear.” Ash wood was a particularly popular wood for spear-shafts, as it’s both strong and flexible.
(This strong-but-flexible quality also made ash an in-demand construction material during the early days of automobiles and airplanes. The very first airplane, the 1903 Wright Flyer, was made of ash and spruce.)
Here’s an early example of “atten Asche” being used as a surname: in 1326, a man named William atten Asche received one-and-a-half acres land in Walton (now part of Aylesbury) from a man named John atte Grene.
Surnames became hereditary in England during the centuries following the Norman Conquest. As the phrase “atten Asche” was passed down to successive generations, it evolved into diverse forms.
Modern surnames that can ultimately be traced back to “atten Asche” include not only Tash but also Ash, Ashe, Nash, Nashe, Nayshe, Naish, Tashe, Tasch, Tasche, Tesh, Tesche and Tosh.
Of these, Nash is the one that occurs most frequently in the United States. It’s followed by Ash and Ashe. Tash, in comparison, is much less common.
So has the surname Tash ever been used as a first name?
Yes, but rarely. The baby name Tash has only appeared on the national list a handful of times: exactly 3 times as a girl name and 3 times as a boy name. And only one of those appearances has happened since the turn of the century:
- 2014: unlisted
- 2013: unlisted
- 2012: 5 baby boys named Tash
- 2011: unlisted
- 2010: unlisted
- 2009: unlisted
- 2008: unlisted
- 2007: unlisted
- 2006: unlisted
- 2005: unlisted
- 2004: unlisted
- 2003: unlisted
- 2002: unlisted
- 2001: unlisted
- 2000: unlisted
This means that the name Tash is usually given to fewer than 5 baby boys and fewer than 5 baby girls per year in the U.S.
The rarity of Tash as a standalone first name (as opposed to a nickname for Natasha, Latasha, etc.) possibly reflects its rarity as a surname. In other words, parents may be opting for Tash less often than Nash, Ash and Ashe simply because they aren’t aware that it exists.
This makes me think there’s some untapped potential here, as -ash names in general have become trendy within the last few years. Right now there are four -ash names in the boys’ top 1,000:
Other -ash names on the SSA’s list right now include Crash and Flash. As fringe as these may sound, they’re still more popular than Tash!
The name Tash is snappy, stylish, and totally unexpected. And it’s associated with nature — a big plus for many people.
What are your thoughts on the baby name Tash?
- Frequently Occurring Surnames from the 1990 Census
- Nash and Tosh @ The Internet Surname Database
- Seary, E. R. and William Kirwin. Family Names of the Island of Newfoundland. Montreal & Kingston: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 1998.
Image: Adapted from Magnificent Ash tree Higher Wraxall by Nigel Mykura under CC BY 2.0.