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This most unusual and interesting name is of Old French origin, introduced into England by the Normans after the Conquest of 1066. The surname has a number of possible interpretations; firstly, it may have developed from a nickname for a particularly strong person, from the Old French adjective, "fort", strong, brave, from the Latin "fortis". In some cases it may be from a rare Latin personal name of the same origin borne by an obscure saint whose cult was popular in the south and south west of France during the Middle Ages.

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