Argall family Worldwide

The Argall Family Name

The ARGALL surname is the subject of the One–name Study which is discussed on this Site.

T.F.G. Dexter, in his book Cornish Names recognised ARGALL as a ‘Cornish name of antiquity’, but stated it is formed from ’AR’ (meaning "above") and "WAR" (meaning ’the ridge’); however there is another meaning of ARGALL in the Cornish language. It has also been more authoritatively defined by G. Pawley–White, in his Handbook of Cornish Surnames (first published in 1972; ISBN 0 950643 19 X), as Cornish/Celtic, and meaning ‘a secluded place, shelter or retreat’. (In the Welsh Celtic language, the word for this meaning is ARGEL, and in Breton, a Celtic language spoken by people in the North–west of France known as Brittany, the word is ARGIL). I am advised that in the Basque launguage, another Celtic language in Spain, the word 'argal' means 'thin'. Moreover, in that language, 'argaldu' means 'to make thin' or 'to become thin'. Clearly there is a common celtic stem here for the name.

The Normans, following their conquest in the 11th century, introduced surnames into the British Isles; one such source was the place name from where the individual came. However, in this case, the origin of the name ARGALL most likely to have been used to describes the characteristics of the original settlement, which became the early medieval Cornish farm village of ARGOLL, which had probably existed from Saxon times. So, in common with many other Cornish surnames, the name is a locative–based one (i.e. taken from the area). This is now the preferred origin.

The earliest references of place names are: ARGELWEN (AD 1284), ARGEL (AD 1327 & 1345), and ARGALDU (AD 1401); the earliest reference to a person bearing the surname is in AD 1327. Various alternative spellings of the name have occurred over the Centuries, including ARGOLL, ARGILL, ORGALL, all also with one “L” as well as two, but the most common spelling has always been: ARGALL. There is another similar-sounding surname of ARGLES the study of which has identified a very similar (almost the same) Coat-of-Arms, and link into the same ARGALL families discussed on thiis site. If this is proved, then the ARGLES seem to derive from those ARGALL families which existed in London and the east of England. There is a separate website for this (possible) variation.

The surname ARGYLL is Scottish in origin and is nothing to do with the family. On the other hand, the surname ARGYLE is from the English Midlands and it may have come from ARGALL, because the name was often spelled as ’ARGALL or ARGILL’ in early documents. However, no work on linking the ARGALL/ARGYLE surnames has ever taken place and currently I have no evidence to support any connection of these two names. From the evidence I have gathered, it is increasingly likely that ARGALL is purely Celtic and from the West Country.

By the mid 19th century, the spelling of the family name of those closest to its core had standardised to ARGALL, which by the end of the 20th century had appeared in widespread use throughout the World. This form has been in continuous use both in Cornwall and in London since at least AD 1480. Other spellings had occurred over the years mainly due to the use of phonetic spelling by semi–illiterate clerks, but the name always reverted back to its original. The spelling ARGALL is now taken to be the authentic spelling of the name.

The UK Office of National Statistics (ONS) has determined that the Surname ARGALL ranked as No. 47935 in the list of UK Surnames in the year 2002, with just 55 instances (slightly more than the 49 I had counted in 1992). An analysis of forenames recorded in the whole of this study shows that the most common are William for men and Elizabeth for women. This finding, of course, may be the same in any other family name study.

Back to Home Page





Web Design Cornwall - Website Design Cornwall