WHAT'S THE USE OF A NAME?"What's the use of their having names" the Gnat said, "if they don't answer to them?"
The origins of family names are sometimes quite easy to trace. Those which denote occupations, such as Butcher, Baker, Miller, Carpenter or Smith are obvious examples. So are those modern names which indicate geographical features (Hill, Field, Wood, Ford, Banks etc.)
Others can be less easy, especially those whose origin extends back a thousand years or more.
The name HALE falls into this last category, as it comes from the Old English, or Anglo-Saxon halh, or healh, meaning nook or hollow.
The precise meaning (and spelling) seems to depend on which part of England the individual came from, but they all have a fairly common origin.
We sometimes get asked "who were the original HALEs ?" The answer must be that there was no single family which first took the name; it emerged independently across many parts of the kingdom - they took their name from where they lived. People who lived in a halh, - which was a specialised term for for the slightest hollow which could afford shelter to a settlement, as opposed to the larger cumb or valley - could be found all over the country.
Because of it's similarity with the more modern, and totally unconnected HALL, and because the names were
frequently confused with each other, some people have suggested that the derivation of the two names are the same.
They aren't. (HALL ="inhabitant of, or worker at, the HALL, or large house.") See Footnote
As far as we can assertain the origins suggested by the following sources are the correct ones:
|THE NAME HALE|
In some cases the surname may be a habitation name from any of the several places in England named with this fossilized inflected form, which would originally have been preceeded by a preposition such as at or atte
(2) from a ME given name derived from either of two OE bynames Haele 'Hero'
or Haegel, which is probably akin to Gmc Hagano 'Hawthorn'.
Vars.(of 1) HAILE, HAILL, HEAL(E) (chiefly West country ; ATTALE (with fussed ME preposition 'at'); HAUGH, HAUFF (from the OE nom. case); HAILES (from the gen. sing. or nom. pl.)
Dim of (2) HAYLOCK
From the Dictionary of Surnames by Patrick Hanks and Flavia Hodges; OUP 1988
The excellent Dictionary of British Surnames by P H Reaney
(Pub Routledge and Keegan Paul) gives almost the same definitions. They
also note some early examples of the name:
Under HALL,HALLE,HALLS : Warin de Halla 1178 (P) (Ess) : Robert de la HALL 1199 (MemR) (Ha) : Alan atte HALLE 1296 (Sr) (Sx) : Roger de HALL 1327 (Sr) (Db) : Richard in the HALLE 1332 (SR) (Db)
[Abbreviations: SR = Subsidy Rolls; Cur = Curia Regis Rolls; Sa = Shropshire; L = Lincolnshire; K = Kent; Wo = Worcestershire; Sx = Sussex; Ess = Essex ; Ha = Hampshire ; Db = Derbyshire ]
(Note that Gloucestershire is not represented, although it easily could have been, as could Somerset, although it's unlikely that there would have been many entries for the Welsh counties.)
[The less reliable Bardsley's Dictionary of English & Welsh Surnames on the other hand gives the alternative definition; Local, 'at the hale', i.e. Hall (q.v.), from residence there, either as proprietor or servant. Richard de la Hale, co. Oxf., 1273. A; Walter en la Hale, co. Sussex, ibid; Robert in the Hale, Close Roll, Edw. I; John at Hale, co. Soms., Edw. III : Kirby's Quest, p.161; Warin in the Hale, Pardons Roll, 9 Ric. II; Edward Att-hale, co. Norf., 11 Hen. IV : FF. vii.49. 1617; William Hale and Ann Lydat: Marriage Lic. (London), ii, 56. London 60, 2, 0; MDB. (co. Glouc.), 23, 5, 3; New York, 52, 0, 0; Boston (U.S.) (Hail), 1.]
The same OE word gave the towns of HALE, near Altrincham in Cheshire and HALESOWEN, near Birmingham their name.
(Owen was a Welsh Prince who married a sister of Henry II and became Lord of Hales in the early thirteenth century.)
It's also likely that HAILES Abbey in Gloucestershire has the same derivation, but the town of HAYLE in Cornwall comes from a completely different source.
Margaret Gelling : Place Names in the Landscape ( OE = Old English : ME = Middle English )