Recorded as Cavill, Cavill, Cavell, Kivell and Kivelle, this rare surname has three possible origins. Firstly it may be Old Cornish, from a personal name spelt in several ways including Gyfel, Cyfel, or Cuvel, and thought to derive from the Welsh word "ceffyl," meaning a horse. Secondly and again Cornish, it may be locational, and a short form of the placenames Nanskeval or Nanskivell, in the parish of St. Mawgan in Pyder, or St. Michael Penkevil. The former is recorded as "Nanscuvel" in 1277, and means "valley of Cyfel", while the latter is recorded as Penkevel circa 1210, and from "penn", meaning head and "kevyll", and referring to the resemblance of the being a promontory between two tidal rivers, to a horse's head. Recordings of the surname from early church registers include: John Kivell who married Elizabeth Paule on September 13th 1568, at Wolborough, and Robert Kivelle or Keville, a christening witness at Ashwater, on October 1st 1758. Both recordings being in the county of Devon. The third possible origin is Anglo-Saxon, and a variant form of the locational surname Cavell, Cavil or Cavill, from the place called Cavil in the county of East Yorkshire. This place is recorded as "Cafeld" in the year 959 a.d., and from the Olde English pre 7th century word "ca", meaning jackdaw, and "feld", pasture or open country. The first recording of the surname, below, is from this source, and examples from church registers include the christening of Anne Kivell, the daughter of Francis Kivell, at Belton in Axholme, Lincolnshire, on March 1st 1662. The first recorded spelling of the family name is that of Tomas de Kavill. This was dated 1190, in the Pipe Rolls of Yorkshire, during the reign of King Richard 1st, known as "The Lionheart", 1189 - 1199. Throughout the centuries, surnames in every country have continued to "develop" often leading to astonishing variants of the original spelling.
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