This is an unusual and interesting English surname, but one of medieval French origins. It is a diminutive implying 'son of' or 'little' of the Olde French word "borel", which described a type of coarse reddish-brown wollen cloth with long hairs. Thus, the name is a metonymic occupational name for a worker in the wollen trade, possibly a wool carder, or alternatively one who habitually dressed in clothes of this colour. " Borel" was also used as a personal name, and as such described a comely man or a countryman. In the modern idiom, the spellings include Birrell, Birel, Burrell, Borrell, Burrill, Borrel and others. An early example of the surname recording was that of Ann Elizabeth Borrill who was christened on 5th February 1748, at St Mary Whitechapel, Stepney. A coat of arms most associated with the family has the blazon of a gold shield charged with a red saltire between four green leaves, on a blue chief, a lion's head erased between two battle axes proper. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Roger Burel. That was dated 1194, in the Pipe Rolls, Wiltshire, during the reign of King Richard 1st, known as "The Lionheart 1189 - 1199". 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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