Russell (surname)

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Family name
Region of origin Calvados area of France
Language(s) of origin Anglo-Norman
Related names Russel
Footnotes: Frequency Comparisons: [1]

Russell also Rossell is a British name some writers claim to be derived from the Anglo-Norman nickname rus[s]el (Modern Norman patronymic Roussel).[2] The nickname was a diminutive of the Anglo-Norman rus (Old French ros[3]), meaning 'red' (only hair and skin colour)[4] The nickname, with the diminutive suffix -el added, is said to have originated to denote "the reddish skinned or haired one"

The name may also refer to Clan Russell, a Scottish armigerous clan. Scottish Russells can trace their ancestry through local parish records, back to a baron Rosel who purchased estates at Aden in Aberdeenshire in 1333.

The documentary evidence shows that the surname Russell originated from a Hugh de Rosel whose estate was named after the village of Rosel in the Calvados area of France, who arrived in England with William the Conqueror in 1066 and was rewarded with estates in the county of Dorset in England, afterwards known as Kingston-Russell and Berwick. He was born on 1023 in Normandy son of Guillaume Bertram de Bastembourg. (

Different spelling was often used in different documents. The name has been spelled Rossel, Russel and others. The first Russell on record was William Russell, son of Ralph de Rosel whose name appears in the Winton Domesday Survey (1107-1128). The Lenton Register named William Russell as Ralph de Rosel's son. (J.H. Wiffen, The Time of the Norman Conquest)

The last recorded use of the de Rosel form of the name in England was in a charter by Alain Russell, who held the fief of the church of Donnington in Lincolnshire from his father Robert Russell. In 1258 Alain Russell made a charter bestowing the church of St. Stephen at Plessis-Grimault in the Calvados area of France to the local parish, in which he named himself Alain de Rosel, showing that he continued to use the older de Rosel form of the name when in France. (J.H. Wiffen, The Time of the Norman Conquest) The 1327 Subsidy Roll named 22 Russells with estates large enough to be taxed, but no one named de Rosel, showing that by 1327 the older de Rosel form of the name was no longer widely used.

While there is solid documentary evidence for the de Rosel origin of the surname Russell, the alternative proposed origin, 'rus' or 'rous' meaning red, is based on theory. Census records of England and Wales show a very uneven nationwide distribution of the name with areas of high density and wide areas of very low density, which points to a single family origin.

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See also


  1. "Russell Surname Meaning and Geographic Distribution".<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles> Retrieved 19 January 2014
  2. The Russell Surname, Dictionary of American Family Names, Oxford University Press, ISBN 0-19-508137-4,
  3. CNTRL Site : etymology of "roux" (French)
  4. Surnames of the United Kingdom: A Concise Etymological Dictionary, Henry Harrison, Clearfield Co., 1996
  5. "About Scientist Henry Norris Russell". What is USA News. 29 March 2014. Retrieved 2013-10-19.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>