Last name: Parsley

This interesting and unusual surname, of Norman origin, with variant spellings Parsly, Parcely, Parsloe, Parslow, Paslow, Pashley, etc., derives from the Olde French phrase "passelewe", a compound of the elements "passe(r)", to pass or cross, (Latin "passare"), plus "l'ewe", the water, (Latin "aqua"), and was originally given as a nickname to a merchant who was in the habit of travelling overseas, or else someone who had been on a pilgrimage or crusade. The surname was first recorded in its Latinized form in the latter part of the 11th Century, (see below). The manor of the village of Drayton Parslow in Buckinghamshire is recorded in the Domesday Book as being held by the said Radulfus Passaqua. One Ralph Passelewa was noted in Records of Bury St. Edmunds, Suffolk, dated 1104. The forms Parsley, Parcely, etc., containing an intrusive "r", first emerge in the early 16th Century. Osbert Parsley, (1511 - 1585), musical composer, was for fifty years Singing-Master at Norwich Cathedral. On September 6th 1555, Edward, son of John Parcely, was christened in Wilne, Derbyshire, and on May 22nd 1579, George Parsley, an infant, was christened at St. Giles, Cripplegate, London. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Radulfus Passaqua, which was dated 1086, in the Domesday Book for Buckinghamshire, during the reign of King William 1, known as "The Conqueror", 1066 - 1087. 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.

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Mike Parsley
I've often read the above interpretation, which implies that all English surnames ending in 'ley' - and there are many - owe their suffixes to the Norman French l'ewe (water). Another explanation of the origins of the name Parsley is that it comes from 'Per's lea (grassland)’, or some such form. Parsley is a very common name in East Anglia. Visiting friends in the hamlet of Cavendish, near Sudbury, I was surprised to find 9 Parsleys living there. I think that the origin of the name is very likely to be Scandinavian, as distinct from Norman. From what is written on your website, it could be that there are two derivations merging into one. There are, in addition, a few indications to support the former derivation (i.e. from the Danish vikings who settled in East Anglia): ‘r’ followed by ‘s’ is still pronounced as ‘rsh’ in Swedish, hence the variations ‘Pashlow’, ‘Pashley’, etc. The viking word ‘ló’, equivalent to ‘lea’, would have given rise to the variant ‘Pashlow’.

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