Recorded in the spellings of Coule, Coull, Cowill, Cowl, and Cowle, this is a surname of Scottish origins. It originates from a place in the county of Aberdeenshire called 'Coull', although paradoxically this place name may be of pre 7th century Olde English derivation. This derivation is probably from the word 'col' meaning (char)coal, and may have described a place where charcoal was produced, or sometimes it was given as a nickname for a person of dark or swarthy appearance, and synonymous with the Old Norse given name "Koli". North East Scotland has had a long trading association with England, but perhaps more importantly in medieval times shared nobles who held lands and estates in both countries. The name is well recorded in Scotland from the very earliest times, indeed from the beginings of hereditary surnames, the first known example being that of William de Cull, a witness to a charter by the Earl of Huntington in the year 1220, when he passed the lands of Lessyn in Aberdeen to Malcolm Norman, or possibly Malcolm, the Norman. Other recordings taken at random and showing the spread and development of the surname include those of John Cowl, a property owner in Glasgow in 1458, Patrick Couill, given as being a burgess of Aberdeen in 1479, David Cowle, who was 'a native of Scotland, but given naturalisation papers for England' in 1481, and Sir Fohn Cowill, who was a cleric and probably town clerk of Aberdeen in 1567. The Coull's it is said, were formerly very numerous in the locality of Cullen, with the males being traditionally called 'John'. This lead to such confusion that secondary nicknames were adopted, such as Hooker John, Souter John, Jock-o-boy and Jock, the Jailer!
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