According to Francis Russel Stoddard, Jr., in his 1902 book The Stoddard Family, the Stoddard name (along with the various spellings), is one of the oldest names in England.
Nobody knows for sure exactly when and where the name originated but a number of possible derivations have been suggested.
Many researchers believe that the name is derived from “standard-bearer,” a title bestowed on the person who carries a flag or banner displaying the coat-of-arms or other symbol of a person of nobility or military unit. In battle, the standard-bearer is typically stationed in the center of the front line to inspire the troops.
In An Etymological Dictionary of Family and Christian Names, (1857) William Arthur wrote the following:
“Stoddard. Concerning the origin of this name there is a tradition, that the first of the family came over with William the Conqueror, as a standard-bearer to Viscompte de Pulesdon, a noble Norman, and that the name is derived from the office of a standard-bearer, and was anciently written De La Standard, corrupted to Stoddard or Stodart.”
Francis R. Stoddard also cites the 1865 edition of Anthony Stoddard of Boston, Mass., and his descendants: a genealogy by Elijah Woodward Stoddard, which relates the following:
“In the office of Heraldry, England, the following origin of the Stoddard family is found: William Stoddard, a knight, came from Normandy to England, A.D. 1066, with William the Conqueror, who was his cousin.”
In the introduction to the 1873 edition of his book, Elijah W. Stoddard adds:
“Lineage concerning the origin of the name Stodart, there is the following tradition:—The first of the family came over with William the Conqueror as Standard-bearer to the Vicomte de Pulesdon [...]. The name is derived from the office of Standard-bearer, and was anciently written De La Standard. This office conferred a high rank on its occupant, and was generally given to a near relative, in whose family it frequently became hereditary.”
Francis R. Stoddard goes on to say that many writers do not accept this derivation and cites several sources that suggest that the name is derived from the title of a person charged with caring for cattle or oxen.
Mark Antony Lower in his Patrynomica Britannica (1860) refers the names Stodart, Stoddard, Stoddart, Stodhard, Stodhart, and Stothard to the listing for Stotherd, which says:
“Stot is a northernism for ox; and hence Stotherd is evidently oxherd.’
In Charles Wareing Bardsley's Surname Origins, (1875) the following reference is found.
“In our ‘Stotherds’ and ‘Stothards,’ our ‘Stoddarts’ and ‘Stoddards,’ still clings the remembrance of the old stot or bullock-herd [...].”
A third possible derivation is found in Charles A. Hanna's The Scotch-Irish, which states:
“The Scottish name of Stoddart is supposed to have been derived from the word Standard. It has also been conjectured to have been originally ‘Stout heart’ to which the Anglified form of the name, Stothert, gives some countenance.”
Another possible derivation suggests that the name comes from the Old/Middle English word stod meaning ‘establishment for breeding horses.’ The Internet Surname Database (www.surnamedb.com) says the following:
“This very [old] and interesting surname is of Northern Olde English pre 9th century origins. It was originally an occupational descriptive word for a breeder or keeper of warhorses, and perhaps not surprisingly the surname is recorded in a number of alternative spellings. The derivation is from 'stod', meaning a studfarm, plus as a suffix a shortened form of 'hierde', the herdsman. ... Certainly the later 12th century surname development has produced a wide range of spellings, proof in itself of the status of the occupation. These alternative spellings include Stodart, Stoddard, Stoddart, Stodhart, Studart, Studdard, Studdeard, Stiddard, and Studeart. The early recordings have such examples as Geoffrey Stodhurd of Northumberland in 1219, Richard le Stodehard in Yorkshire in 1332, Thomas Stoderd also of Yorkshire in 1481. ... The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Vlfus Stodhyrda, which was dated 1195, The Pipe Rolls of Cumberland, during the reign of King Richard 1, known as 'The Lionheart', 1189 – 1199”
Although we will most likely never know for sure the true origin the Stoddard name, Francis. R. Stoddard concluded that the Standard-bearer derivation is the most likely.
“From investigation there is good reason to believe that the name Stoddard is derived from the office of Standard-bearer as stated by the authorities first cited. ...”
“If the name is derived from the Saxon derivation [Ox-herder] and not from the Norman [Standard-bearer], it would seem that there would have been members of the family in every district of England, yet up to comparatively recent times such was not the case. If the name comes from the Saxon, one would expect to find the family numerous and strongly entrenched in the grazing districts, but on the contrary the earlier records show that the family in England was strongest in and around the City of London. It is in a city that a name derived from a hereditary office would most likely be preserved;...”