The HOUSE name and associated names such as HOWS, HOWES and HOWSE mainly derive from Southern England, where the distribution in the nineteenth century shows it/them to have formed along the chalk uplands, seeming to confirm the explanation in several surname directories that it was given to people who lived on a hill. Please see my website (www.howesfamilies.com) for more information about the name and the biggest online database of individuals with our name, coming from my One-Name Study.
Although today these four surnames are separate, up to the nineteenth century, spelling varied greatly reflecting the more verbal culture with many individuals being referred to with multiple spellings during the course of their lives.
In English, the word house sounds different according to whether we use it as a noun or a verb. Most people seeing the word would pronounce it with a hard s, but I have strong evidence that the surname used to be pronounced with a soft s.
It is possible that others named Howes derive from the German name HAUS (meaning house) and the Dutch name HUIZEN (meaning houses).
Interestingly, the word Howe also exists in Scotland, meaning a hollow, the opposite of what it seems to mean farther South! HOWEver, very few HOWES/HOWS/HOWSE/HOUSE families hail from that area.