Recorded in several spelling forms including Whall, Whale, Whales and Whal, this picturesque surname is of early medieval English origin. It is or rather was, a nickname for a person of large girth who "rolled" as he or she walked. In the Middle Ages the word whal, meaning whale, was used to describe any large fish, including the walrus, grampus or the porpoise, and these were supposed to roll through the water rather than swim. 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 supposed resemblance to an animal's or bird's appearance or disposition, or to habits of dress. Early examples of the surname recordings taken from surviving charters and registers include: John Whal in the Genealogical lists of London in the year 1305, and later the marriage of Anne Whale and Edwarde Watt on November 18th 1554, at St. Stephan's church, Coleman Street. The first recorded spelling of the family name is believed to be that of Hugh le Whal, which was dated 1249, in the tax assessments known as the "Feet of Fines" for the county of Essex, during the reign of King Henry 111, 1216 - 1272. 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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