1 English: habitational name from any of several places called Bowden or Bowdon. Bowden in Devon and Derbyshire and Bowdon in Cheshire are named with Old English boga ‘bow’ + dūn ‘hill’, i.e. ‘hill shaped like a bow’; one in Leicestershire (Bugedone in Domesday Book) comes, according to Ekwall, from the Old English personal name Būga (masculine) or Bucge (feminine) + dūn. There are also Scottish places of this name, but there are comparatively few bearers of the surname Bowden north of the border. In England the surname is found most frequently in Lancashire and in the West Country. In Devon and Cornwall there has been some confusion with the Norman personal name Baldwin .2 English: habitational name from Bovingdon, Hertfordshire, so named with the Old English phrase būfan dūne ‘on, upon the hill’. The surname may also have arisen as a topographic name from the same phrase used independently, for someone who lived at the top of a hill.3 Irish: Anglicized form of Gaelic Ó Buadáin ‘descendant of Buadán’, an Old Irish personal name.
Dictionary of American Family Names © Patrick Hanks 2003, 2006.