The Letter R


The Rhoten Family

Welcome to the Rhoten family website. This website strives to provide as much information to the public about the Rhoten family and its name. For the less phonetically inclined, the name is pronounced as "row'·ten".

This name was believed to be Irish in origin, but some recent research has suggested that it may be German. Since there are several German towns with words Rhoden, Rotten and Rothen in the name, the Rhoten name is more likely to be German than Irish.

There has been a lot of mystery surrounding this family name. There is no known official family coat of arms, nor has anyone come up with concrete evidence to the origin of the name. Rhoten is not a common family name. The US census says that approximately 0.0004% of the US population has the family name of Rhoten, and it is the 18,971st most common name in the country in 1990.

Even though there is very little literature on this family name, the meaning of the family name has recently been derived. It is currently believed that Rhoten means one of the following:

A person with red hair or red complexion.
A person that lived to something that was red or a town that started with that name.
A person that lived in a clearing.

This name is highly related in meaning to the Rotenburg family name. The "Roten" in Rotenberg is a conjugated form of "red", and the "berg" part means "mountain". Several Rhoten family members have been known to have red hair. So this is probably a good definition.

The "rho" in Rhoten is not a common spelling in the German language, but Germans do pronounce "ro" as "rho" in "roten". German has also gone through several spelling reforms, just like several other languages. It is entirely possible that an English or non-German writer wrote down the family name a long time ago according to common spelling practices of the time and added an h into the name. This was probably in order to make sure that no one pronounced the name as "rotten". I do not make any claims that this is an accurate analysis of the name, but a couple native German speakers that I know find this explanation very plausible. It is also worth noting that the English and German languages have a lot of common heredity in spelling conventions.

One of the earlier known people to have the Rhoten family name lived in the Baden state of Germany. One Agatha Rhoten, daughter of Erhard and Agathae Rhoten, was christened on Septermber 23, 1593 in Hffenhardt, Mosbach, Baden, Germany (Source "The Historical Research Center"). Mosbach is close to Heidelberg Germany. The date is probably under the Julian calendar, since Germany didn't start using the modern Gregorian calendar until 1700.

If "h" in Rhoten is believed to be a part of the original spelling, it could mean a person that lived in a clearing. This would mean that the spelling is closer in origin to Rhodes. This is less likely though. Formal spelling and literacy are concepts that became more important during the industrial revolution. Except for the first phoneme, Rhodes is phonetically different from Rhoten. Rhodes is one syllable, and Rhoten is two syllables.

Could the Rhoten name be Dutch, Danish or Norwegian instead of German? This is possible, but it is slightly less likely because the Rhoten spelling is closer to the German spelling of red. The Dutch word for red is "rode" or "roden". The Danish and Norwegian word for red is "rød" or "røden". Sometimes people will mishear the "d" sound, and use the letter "t" instead. Using a "d" instead of a "t" can also happen. This is one of the reasons why these Germanic languages have similar spellings for the word red.

This Rhoten definition was derived from the New Dictionary of American Family Names by Elsdon C. Smith, which has the following interesting names defined:

Rhodes, Rhode
(English) Dweller at a clearing in the woods; one who lived at the roadside.
(German) One with red hair or red beard; dweller in, or near a clearing.
Rotenberg, Rottenberg, Rottenberk
(German) One who came from Rotenberg or Rottenberg or Rotenburg (all meaning "red mountain"), the names of several places in Germany.
Roth, Rothe
(German, English) The red-haired or ruddy-complexioned man; one who came from Roth (red), the name of several places in Germany; descendant of Ruodo, a pet form of names beginning with Hrod (fame), as Hrodric, Hrodulf, and Hrodowin; dweller at the clearing.
Rothaus, Rothhauser
(German) One who came from Rothaus (red house), the name of two places in Germany.
(German) The man with the red beard.
(German) Dweller on the red hill.
(German) Red leaf.
(German) Red flower.
(German) One who came from Rothenbach (red stream), the name of several places in Germany.
Rothenberg, Rothenberger
(German) One who came from Rothenberg (red fortress), the name of several places in Germany.
(German) One who came from Rothenbuhl (red hill) in Germany.

The following are some German phrases with their English translations. This gives some background as to why it is believed that Rhoten, which is phonetically the same as roten, can be translated as a conjugated form of red. It should also be noted that the spelling of German words can vary depending on the country origin of the speaker, but the basic word for red rarely changes spelling.

die roten
The red ones
von den roten
Of the red ones
die roten rosen
The red roses
mit roten Augen
Red-eyed (with red eyes)
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