In most cases, this surname is a locational surname that most likely took its name from the village of Beaufay
, which is nowadays located in the Sarthe department of France. The village was called Bello Faeto
during the Early Middle Ages, ultimately deriving its name from Latin bellus fagus
(or bellum fagetum
) meaning "beautiful beech tree(s)" or "beautiful beech woodland". This appears to indicate that the village was founded in an area that was originally full of beech trees (or at least, near one beech tree that was of an impressive size).
However, it is also quite possible that the surname derives its name from the village of Beaufai
, which is located in the Orne department of France and only about 78 kilometers (or 48 miles) away from the aforementioned Beaufay. The information available about the history of this village is scarce and information about the etymology of its name unfortunately even more so. One anglophone source claims that the name means "fair faith" in French, but this is quite unlikely, as both the Middle French and modern French word for "faith" is foy
. Instead, it is probably more likely that the name's etymology is virtually identical to that of the village of Beaufay.
There is also a possibility that (at least in some cases) the surname is derived from the name of the village of Beaufays
, which is located in Wallonia, the French-speaking part of Belgium. The beginnings of this village were in the early 12th century AD, when the bishop of Verdun founded a monastery and a hospice in the area. Later, in 1215 AD, another bishop of Verdun gifted some land to the monastery, which consisted of a forest called Bellum Fagetum
, a name which the monastery later adopted. Over time, a village developed around the monastery, which was subsequently named after the monastery itself. The name of both the monastery and the village were then eventually gallicized to Beaufays. As you can see, the etymological origin of this Belgian village's name is identical to that of the French village of Beaufay, but yet their names today are slightly different from each other.
With that said, you might also want to compare the name of the French village of Belfays
(located in the Doubts department of France), which most likely has a very similar (if not identical) etymological origin to all of the aforementioned villages.
Lastly, it should be noted that there is one source that claims that the Beaufay surname is a matronymic surname that is derived from Belegardis
, a latinized form of the Germanic feminine given name Biligard
, which essentially means "gentle garden", derived from the Germanic elements bili
"gentleness" and gard
"enclosure, garden". This theory seems reasonable enough that it could actually apply to the ancestors of *some* modern bearers of the surname, but the instances where the surname is a locational surname (as had been explained earlier in this entry) are probably more numerous and common in comparison.