Recorded as Sailor, Sailer, Saller, Saylor (English), Seel, Seeler, Seiler, Seyler, Seiller, (Austrian, German & Swiss) and possibly other spellings, this is a surname of truly ancient origins. It is generally accepted as being from the pre 5th century Germanic word 'seil' meaning a rope, and was occupational for a rope maker. Later by transference it became associated with the sea and sailing, although the English spelling as Sailor is very rare indeed. However there are other claims which suggest that some of the nameholders originate from a French word 'salleor' meaning a professional male dancer, one who was a member of a travelling theatre or dance group that went from town to town. Occupational surnames were amongst the earliest to be created from about the 12th century onwards, but they did not usually become hereditary until a son or sometimes a grandson, followed the father into the same line of business. In this case the earliest recordings that we have are those of Hugh le Saylleur of Suffolk, England, in the Tax Subsidy Rolls of 1275, and in Germany that of Jakob der Seiler in the rolls of the city of Freiburg in 1291.
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