This unusual surname is English, but ultimately from the Old Scandinavian-Viking word "vel". Recorded as While, Wile, Wyle it has a number of possible meanings depending on the particular usage of the word. Firstly it may be topographical from residence by a fish-trap or weir, as in Adam de la Wile (Worcestershire, 1221), and Walter atte Wyle (Sussex, 1296). Topographical surnames were widespread in the Middle Ages, as natural and man-made features in the landscape provided obvious and convenient means of identification in the small communities at that time. The name may also be locational from any of the various places named with the Olde English "wil"; for example Wild in Berkshire, recorded as La Wile in the Pipe Rolls of that county in 1183, and Wyld in Dorset, recorded as La Wylae in 1186. Osbert de Wila was noted in the Pipe Rolls of Shropshire, in 1204. Finally it may be occupational for a hunter, or a nickname for a "man of many wiles". Recordings include: Robert le Wile of Norfolk in 1195, and John Whiles of Lincolnshire, in 1202. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of William de la Wile. This was dated 1185, in the Pipe Rolls of Dorset, during the reign of King Henry 11nd, known as "The Builder of Churches", 1154 - 1189. 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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