This is a surname of French and Italian origins. Recorded in many spelling forms including Aumerle, Lemerle, Merle (France) and Merlo, Merli, Merali, Merlino, and others (Italy), and found in its different forms throughout Southern Europe, it derives from the medieval French word "merle", but ultimately the Roman (Latin) merula, meaning the blackbird. As such it is or rather was, a nickname for somebody whose activities or dress were thought to bear some resemblance to the bird. Curiously the blackbird which is surely amongst the most likeable of our featherd friends, seems to have meant different things to the population in different parts of the continent.In France it was thought to be rather cunning or even ruthless like a magpie or jackdaw, and in most of Italy as rather shrewd, although in Milan it is said, it was thought to be bit simple, whilst in Sicily it was considered rather timid! It is also possible that the name was occupational and referred to a catcher or breeder of small birds, the Italians in particular having had for centuries a liking for such apparent delicacies. Continental records of surnames are generally at best erratic and several centuries behind in particular British and German practices, whilst the majority of early French registers were destroyed during the revolution of 1792. In this case examples from the post medieval period showing the surname development include: Jeanne Merle, the daughter of Pierre Merle, christened at Boune in the department of Ardeche, France, on July 1st 1669, Ambrogio Merlo who married Maria Costadone at Pasturo, Como, Italy, on November 30th 1698, and Petrus Merlino at Ormea, Cuneo, also in Italy, on February 23rd 1781.
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