Recorded in several forms including Meal, Meel, Meale, Meals, Meales, Meels, and probably others, this is an English surname. Curiously it would seem to have little or nothing to do with eating, or the production of food, except possibly fishing. According to the famous Victorian etymologist Can Charles Bardsley writing in 1880, the name is locational or topographical and describes a person who was resident 'at a meol'. This was a sandbank or perhaps what we now call a 'mole', a solid jetty running out into the water. There are several places called 'moel' such as Eskmeols and Northmeols in Cumberland and Lancashire. In our opinion it is also possible that the modern surname is a short form of the medieval occupational name Meleman a short form of Mealmonger, a supplier of what we would now call 'fast-food, and proof that there is nothing new under the sun. The earliest recording of this surname is probably that of Margery de Meoles of Somerset in the Hundred Rolls list of land owners of 1273, Elizabeth Meale at the church of St Peter-le-Poer, in the city of London on February 11th 1595, Anne Meal at St Mary Abbots, Kensington, on April 6th 1676, and Edward Meals at St Sepulchre also in the city of London, on September 13th 1720.
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