Recorded as Bisly, Bisley and Bizley, this is an English surname. It is locational from either the village of Bisley in Surrey, famous for being the world centre of rifle shooting for the past two centuries, or the lesser known Bisley in Gloucestershire. Both villages were recorded in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicles of the 10th century as Busseleghe and Bislege respectively. The name probably means in both cases the 'farm' (leah) on the water (biss), the latter being a pre Roman British word which can mean stream, river, lake, or in fact anything to do with water! The Oxford Dictionary of English Place Names states that the village in Gloucestershire is not on a stream and therefore the name cannot mean water, but sadly they are wrong, as they often are. They appear to have failed to take into account that many streams have been lost through land drainage schemes or diversions in the past five centuries. Locational surnames are usually 'from' names. That is to say names given to people after they left their original villages to move somewhere else. In so doing they took or were given, as their surname the name of their former home. Spelling being at best indifferent and local dialects very thick, soon lead to the development of 'sounds like' spellings as with this name. The first known recording of the surname is probably that of John de Bislege in the Hundred Rolls of Oxfordshire in the year 1273.
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