This interesting name, mainly found recorded in Northern England and Scotland, is of Anglo-Saxon origin, and is a nickname surname for a man thought to have been strong enough to turn back a charging bull. The name is derived from the Middle English (1200 - 1500) "turn(en)", to turn, from the Olde English pre 7th Century "turnain", which is similar to the Old French "torner", both of which are from the Latin "tornare", and the Middle English "bul(l)e", a bull. A sizeable group of early European surnames were gradually created from the habitual use of nicknames.These were given in the first instance with reference to occupation, or to a variety of characteristics, such as physical attributes of peculiarities. Scottish tradition tells of a man called Rule, who saved the life of King Robert the Bruce, by "turning" a ferocious bull which had threatened to gore the King. For this service he was given a new name and obtained a grant of the lands of Bedrule; however this story was probably made to fit the name. Among the five Turnbull's mentioned in the "Dictionary of National Biography" is one William Turnbull (died 1454), who was bishop of Glasgow in 1447, and who founded Glasgow University in 1451. A Coat of Arms granted to the family is on a silver shield a green ear of rye between three black bulls' heads erased, armed green, the Crest being a black bull's head cabossed, armed green. The Motto being "Courage". The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of William Turbolle, which was dated 127, in the "Subsidy Rolls of Suffolk", during the reign of King Edward 11, known as "Edward of Caernafon", 1307 - 1327. Surnames became necessary when governments introduced personal taxation. In England this was known as Poll Tax. Throughout the centuries, surnames in every country have continued to "develop" often leading to astonishing variants of the original spelling.
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