PASE: Prosopography of Anglo-Saxon England


[Image: Excerpt from the Domesday Book]
[Image: Durham Liber Vitae, folio 38r (extract)]


Author: CPL
Editorial Status: unknown

Discussion of the name

The suggestion that the spelling Perlo probably represents a Continental Germanic name (Forssner 1916: 204; von Feilitzen 1937: 344) is not especially persuasive, in part because there is no obvious CG name which it might represent, and in part because its only bearer in DB was a small landowner in Somerset who is unlikely to have had a name of Continental origin and in any case was very probably called Perle, not Perlo (Perle 2).

A more satisfactory working hypothesis is that Perle originated as an Old English nickname. The surname Perle occurs from the thirteenth century onwards in other parts of the country, perhaps providing independent evidence for the OE forename. Reaney’s suggestion (1997: 343) that the surname was coined from the noun perle (‘pearl’) in reference to a seller of pearls is not at all convincing.

Latin perla for a pearl appears to have been borrowed into Old English by the later tenth century, when Ælfric of Eynsham glossed Latin enula and gemmula (‘small gem’) as pærl (Zupitza 1880: 304), though the recorded history of the word remains tantalizingly uncertain (OED: pearl, n.1 and adj.).


Forssner 1916: Thorvald Forssner, Continental-Germanic Personal Names in England in Old and Middle English Times (Uppsala: K. W. Appelbergs, 1916)

Reaney 1997: P. H. Reaney, A Dictionary of English Surnames, 3rd edn with corrections and additions by R. M. Wilson (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997)

von Feilitzen 1937: Olof von Feilitzen, The Pre-Conquest Personal Names of Domesday Book, Nomina Germanica 3 (Uppsala: Almqvist and Wiksells, 1937)

Zupitza 1880: Ælfrics Grammatik und Glossar, ed. J. Zupitza (Berlin, 1880)

Forms of the name

Spellings in Domesday Book: Perlo

Forms in modern scholarship:

  von Feilitzen head forms: Perlo

  Phillimore edition: Perlo

  Alecto edition: Perlo

Distribution map of property and lordships associated with this name in DB

List of property and lordships associated with this name in DB

Holder 1066

Shire Phil. ref. Vill Holder 1066 DB Spelling Holder 1066 Lord 1066 Tenant-in-Chief 1086 1086 subtenant Fiscal value 1066 value 1086 value Holder 1066 ID conf. Show on map
Somerset 21,47 Pardlestone Perlo Perle 'of Pardlestone' - Roger de Courseulles Norman 'of Littleton' 0.50 0.50 0.50 A Map
Total               0.50 0.50 0.50  

People of this name

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