This interesting surname is a variant of Neat, which is of Anglo-Saxon origin, and is from a metonymic occupational name for a herdsman in charge of cattle, or a nickname for someone thought to resemble an ox (this may have referred to a strong man). The name is derived from the Middle English (1200 - 1500) "neat", ox, cow, from the Olde English pre 7th Century "neat". The modern English adjective "neat", from the Latin "nitidus", clean, shining, does not occur before the 16th Century, after the main period of surname formation. A large number of European surnames have been gradually created from the habitual use of nicknames. The nicknames were given in the first instance with reference to a variety of characteristics, such as physical attributes or peculiarities, mental and moral characteristics, supposed resemblance to an animal's or bird's appearance or disposition, habits of dress, and occupation. An interesting namebearer, recorded in the "Dictionary of National Biography", was Charles Neate (1784 - 1877), a pianist and composer who was an original member of the Philharmonic Society (1813); he became a close associate of Beethoven in Vienna in 1815 and is best known for composing pianoforte pieces. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Elyzabeth Neat, which was dated May 31st 1562, marriage to Roger Moone, at Polstead, Suffolk, during the reign of Queen Elizabeth 1, known as "Good Queen Bess", 1558 - 1603. Surnames became necessary when governments introduced personal taxation. In England this was known as Poll Tax. Throughout the centuries, surnames in every country have continued to "develop" often leading to astonishing variants of the original spelling.