Cottle - The Name

Edited by Wm. Andrew Cottle from The Penguin Dictionary of Surnames by Basil Cottle

The most obvious and perhaps, therefore, the strongest association for the name Cottle is one of locale ... that association would suggest that Cottle means "wood (by the) estuary." In this form the name is of Cornish origin, and refers to the "family seat" at Cotehele in Cornwall. Cotehele is "embowered in trees in a horseshoe bend of the River Temar." There were Cottles at Cotehele as early as the 1200s.

However, as early as 1120, Sir Robert de Cotel held the manor of Camerton, Somerset. Some of the Somerset, Dorset, and County Wilts bearers of the Cottle surname may have gained it through the occupation of their ancestors. In this set of circumstances, the name Cottle might indicate an outgrowth of the fact that the forebears of the Cottles in the South of England descended, very possibly, from Norman supporters of, and warriors with, William the Conqueror. In this case the origin of the Cottle surname would be through transfer of meaning from "mailcoat" or "dagger," both from the old French. (County Wilts is the portion of England from which we think the Massachusetts Cottles of the mid-17th century emigrated.)

Finally, the name Cottle might be derived from the occupation of merchant, as the word cotel in the old French refers to some sort of a trader.

Basil Cottle, The Penguin Dictionary of Surnames, Second Edition, pp. 101 and 109; expanded and edited, November 2, 1996.

Basil Cottle is a noted scholar in this area. The discussion about "cottages" is therefore, I think, less likely to be true.


Darryl O(nly) Cottle, aka Doc, adds the following to the discussion:

> From: Larry Hoefling
>  Cottle is an English Occupational name which described the tenent
> farmer or serf who planted only five to ten acres and lived in a
> cottage on the farm.  There are several variations for the name of
> this modest farmer.

That definition is the _first_ one I came across in my early research and
is at least partially accurate.  Will attempt to lay out a bit more of it
(since Allen has referred to me as "Keeper of the Cottle Keys to the Kingdom
of Knowledge" -- what can I say?  I accumulate stuff!) so we can put it into
perspective.  (Please note much of this was material developed early on and
I don't have the slightest notion which books some of it came out of.)

First, from (probably) American Surnames pg 115, in a chapter titled
"Surnames from occupation or office."

Many serfs on the manor owed their names to the amount of land they
tilled or the social position they occupied, such as the COTE, COTTER,
COTTLE, COATES (also shortened to COATS), COTTRELL, OR BURMAN -- men
who planted only five or ten acres in England and occupied small

That is the _first_ definition I ever came across and I accepted it.
Later research reveals it's a bit more complicated than that though.
>From page 282 of the same book, in a chapter titled "Surnames not
properly included elsewhere."

  Names ending -le preceded by a consonant doubled have a slightly
comic even plebian tinge, if one may credit the observations of those
who have noted such names in the cartoons and comic strips.  It was
Lord Byron in his satire, "English Bards and Scotch Reviewers," who
exclaimed, "Oh, Amos Cottle! - Phoebus! what a name!"  (Basil Cottle,
recent compiler of a Dictionary of Surnames, in retaliation carefully
pointed out that Byron's name meant "at the Cowsheds").  These names
are subject to various interpretations.  COTTLE, for example, is a
cottager who tilled only five or ten acres and occupied a small cottage;
or one who came from Cotleigh "Cotta's grove"; or from Cotehele "wood
by the estuary" in Cornwall; or a nickname for the little cottager; or
from Old French cotel "coat of mail," possibly a metonym for a maker or
dealer in armor and daggers.

Regarding Cotehele I submit the following from a fellow researcher:

> From: (David Short)
> Subject: Re: UK Listserv (fwd)
> Great response Doc and I had a good chuckle. So your COTTLE line came from
> Somerset, eh?  It's "West Country OK, but the name is old Cornish and
> comes from the words "cos-hayl" meaning wood by an estuary.
> But way back when the Celtic people of the southwest lived in a larger
> area than just Cornwall so there's bound to be names all over.

But to continue.  From British Surnames, pg 121.

COTTLE. N.-Fr. Cotel; Fr. Coutelle; a p.n.

>From pgs 94 & 95 of another surname dictionary (name?  Dunno).

(Page 94)
COTT (Eng.) 1 Dweller at the COTTAGE [O.E. cot]
            2 the A.-Sax. pers. name Cot(t)a

COTTAM | (Eng.) Bel. to Cottam, or
COTTOM | 1 Dweller AT THE COTTAGES [O.E. cotum, dat. pl. of cot]
         2 Dweller at the HAM or ENCLOSURE of the COTTAGE [O.E.
         cot + ham(m)]

COTTELL (A.-Fr.) the French Cotel, either the Frankish cognate of the
        A.-Sax. pers. name Cot(t)a, or the Lat. Cotta + the Fr.-Lat.
        dim. suff. -el.
                        Roger Cotel.--Hund. Rolls.
**----> (Eng.) Bel. to Cottell or Cottle (Wilts)
      = the COTTAGE-HILL [O.E. cot + hyll (M.E. hull(e)]
            ^^^^^^^^^^^^             ^^^^       ^^^^^^
     John de Cothulle, A.D. 1277. - Kirby's Quest.
        Cp. Cuttell.

COTTER | (Eng.) COTTAGER [O.E. cot + the
COTTAR |              agent. suff. -ere]

COTTERELL | = Cotter (q.v.) + the Fr.-Lat
COTTERILL |   dim. suff. -el
COTTERALL |           Henry Coterel,--Hund. Rolls.

(Page 95)
COTTLE = Cottell, q.v.

COTTON (Eng.) Bel. to Cot(t)on, or DWELLER AT THE COTTAGES.

COTTRELL = Cotterell, q.v.
COTTRILL =  - ditto -

** The form of that name is as given, Cothulle, however there are quite
a number of COTHILLs in Angus, Scotland whom I suspect are also cousins.

To continue.  Page 125 of I know not what.

COT 1. French: aphetic form of a dim. of any of several given names
 containing the sound /k/ at the beginning of the second syllable, e.
 g. Jacquot (see JACK) or Nicot (see NICHOLAS).
    2. Catalan: topographic name for someone who lived by a boundary
stone, Cat. Cot (L cote stone), or habitation name from one of the
numerous places named with this word.

COTTE French: metonymic occupational name for a maker of chain mail,
 from OF cot(t)e coat of mail (of Gmc origin).  It is unlikely to
 have been a nickname for a wearer of a coat of mail, since only the
 richest classes, who already had distinguished family names of their
 own, could afford to be so well protected in a garment which required
 many hours of skilled labour to construct.  It may perhaps have been
 used as a nickname for a hard and unfeeling person.

COTTER 1. English: from ME cotter, a technical term of status in the
 feudal system for a serf or bond tenant who held a cottage by service
 rather than rent, from OE cot cottage, hut (see COATES) + -er agent
   2. Irish: Anglicized form of Gael Mac Oitir `son of Oitir', a
personal name borrowed from ON Ottarr, composed of the elements otti
fear, dread + herr army.
Dims. (of 1): Eng.: Cotterel(l), Cottrell, Cott(e)rill, Cotherill
(all chiefly Midlands).  Fr.: Cott(e)rel(l), Cott(e)reau, Cottarel.
An Irish family by the name of Cotter has been established in Cork
for generations.  They are said to be of Danish origin, although the
surname clearly is not.  William Cottyr (b. c.1498) was recorded at
Innesmore, Co. Cork in the early 16th cent.

COTTLE English: 1. metonymic occupational name for a maker of chain-
 mail, from an ANF dim. of COTTE.
   2. metonymic occupational name for a cutler, from OF co(u)tel,
co(u)teau knife (LL cultellus, a dim of culter ploughshare.
Vars.: Cottel(l), Cuttell, Cuttill, Cuttles; CUTLER.

COTTON 1. English: habitation name from any of numerous places
 throughout England so called from the dat. pl. of OE cot cottage,
 dwelling (see COATES).
   2. French: dim. of COTTE.

And from page 79 of I know not what we find.

DALLICOTT, DELICATE: William de Cotes 1190 P (L);  Walter de la
Cote 1210 Cur (O); Godfrey Cote 1214 Cur (K)(; Roger atte Kote
1296 SRSx.  From Coat (Som), Cote (Oxon), Coates (Lincs), Cotes
(Leic), or one of the numerous similarly named places, all from
OE cot, cote `cottage', also `shelter', sometimes `a woodman's
hut'.  In ME, when the term was common, the surname may denote
a dweller at the cottage(s) or, as it was used especially of a
sheep-cote, one employed in the care of animals, a shepherd.


  COTMAN, COATMAN; Ulkillus cotmannus 1183 Boldon (Du); William
Cotman, Coteman, Mercator 1206-8 P (Sx); William Coteman 1275 RH
(Nf).  OE cot `cottage' and mann `a cottager', `cotset', `coterell',
in Scotland `a cottar' (cotmannus DB, cotman 1559 NED), corresponding
to Med-Lat bordarius. cf. COTTER, COTTEREL.  The equation with
Mercator points to an alternative origin.  OFr, ME cote `outer-garment,
coat' (c1300 NED), `seller of coats'.  cf.  Capman `maker or seller of
caps' MESO 116.

  COTON, COTTAM, COTTOM, COTTEN, COTTON: Randulf de Cotton' 1185 P (Wo);
Ralph de Cottum 1212 Cur (Y); Stephen de Coten' 1297 MinAcctCo (L);
John de Cotome 1310 LLB B; John de Cotun 1325 ib. D; Brian Cotham, Cotam
1569, 1596 FrY. OE aet cotum (dweller) `at the cottages', as at Coton
(Cambs), Cotton (Ches), Coatham (Durham, NRYorks), Cotham (Notts),
Cottam (Notts, ERYorks).  The -um is preserved only in Durham, Lancs,
Notts and Yorks; Cot(t)on is found in the midlands, in Cambs, Ches,
Derby, Leic, Lincs, Northants, Salop, Staffs, Oxon, Warwicks. cf. COTE.

1084 GeldR (W); Adam Cotella 1167 P (Do); Eilwinus Kutel, Cutel 1185
Templars (Ess); Walter Cotel 1206 Cur (o).  The first form is probably,
as suggested by Tengvik, OFr cotel `coat of mail'.  The later examples
may also derive from OFr cotel, coutel `a short knife or dagger' and
are probably metonymic for a cutler.

  COTTER, COTTIER: Robert le Cotier 1198 P (Sx); William le Coter(e)
1270 HPD (Ess), 1297 MinAcctCo.  OFr cotier `cottager' (1386 NED), DB
cotarius `a villein who held a cot by labour-service'. v. COTMAN, COTTEREL.
Both names are found in the Isle of Man, pronounced Cotchier (MacCotter,
MacCottier 1504, Cottier 1616, Cotter 1625 Moore), from Mac Ottar, `son
of Ottar' (ON Ottarr).

Gerard Coterel 1130, 1170 P (Lo, Berks); Honde Cotrell 1288 AssCh.  OFr
coterel, a diminutive of OFr cotier `cottager' (1393 NED), DB coterellus.


And from page 58 of something else I don't remember (although I could go
back to the shelf and find it in less than a minute!) we have the following.

(Mac) Cotter  Mac Coitir formerly Mac Oitir.  This is an old Gaelic-Irish
family though their name is formed from a Norse personal name.  Bibl; IF 96;
Map Cork.

(O) Cottle  O Coitil (from a Norse personal name).  A small sept of the Ui
Fiachra in Co. Sligo, perpetuated in the place-name Cottlestown.  It is
distinct from Kettle.

I'm starting to get tired but let's keep going for a bit.  From page 208
of something or other we find the following.

  Cottle.--Local, `of Cottle,' an extra-parochial liberty in the hundred
of Bradford, co. Wilts, originally Cothull.; v. Hull.  (Enough of that.)

From Websters (a three volume set - not in my one volume copy).

cottle [origin unknown] 1: a band or wall typically of clay that
 encircles an object to be molded and determines the outer extremity
 of the completed mold  2: a cylinder usu. of waterproof paper used
 for retaining plaster-of-paris slurry around a mold or form

I looked it up once before and the definition given was essentially #1
but amplified.  It said a cottle was an earthen or clay dam utilized
by a pot mender to puddle the molten material used to mend a hole.
(Need to look it up in The Oxford English Dictionary and see what it

Ok, let's review what some earlier researchers have had to say about
our common surname.

Velma Cottle Musick - This family surname, Cottle, has persisted for
centuries appearing first in the time of the Roman Empire in the Latin
form, COTTA.  There are traces of the same root word prior to the
Roman period.  It is possible that the name was in existence in
Egypt during the time of that great civilization, since it has been
found in Egyptian carving.

(Anyone able to confirm/refute those speculations?)

She continues - Accuracy in tracing the name begins with the French
Norman period of European history.  In the French form the name is
COUTELLE.  A branch of the family migrating to Germany during the time
of Charlemagne set up the name variation Cottschalk, which is simply
the Germanic form of the present name COTTLE.  With the Norman conquest
of England, the French knights of this name went to England.  They were
a virile and adventurous people, eager for wealth and power gained by
the invasion under William the Conqueror.  Soon after 1100 the name is
recorded in England in the Anglo-French form COTTELL.  John di Cothulle,
born 1277, is an example of the middle English language period which
used the suffix _hulle_ in place of the suffix _le_.

  (See definitions above -- _hulle_ stood for hill, not _le_!)

At this same time in England we find the name of Roger Cotel listed on
the Hundred Rolls or tax books. The modern English language with its
fixed forms of spelling is far removed from the very old forms where no
one authority for spelling was established.  The variations of this name
as they appear in England of that time are all vouched for as the field
of proper names.  The Modern Doomsday Book of England carries reference
to Cottle as being of the old middle English language period using Cothulle
or Cotel.

Later on she says - The Cottles were an old family in England and Wiltshire.
They came apparently from Normandy in France.  The surname Cottle (Cotel,
Cotele, Cottell) is a contraction of de Cotel and comes from a small
settlement or estate in Western France.  A famille de Cotel furnished
a man to go with William the Conqueror when he invaded England in 1066
or to follow him shortly after (The Genealogist, an English publication
of 1877).

That pretty much sums her account of variant spellings and origins.
W. H. Cottell also did a history of the Cotel, Cottell, or Cottle
family in the 19th century.  Let's poke around in it briefly and
then send this on its way.

The original name of this family was Cotel, subsequently changed to
Cottell, Cottel, and Cottle.  There is little doubt that the first
Cotel came to England from France, where many Cotels are still to
be found, with the army of the Conqueror, and probably settled in
Wiltshire, giving name to the chapelry of Cotels in that county.

   - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Since Musick and Cottell both agree that the name is of French origin,
and he puts nobility in the line much earlier than she does the case
for Cottle meaning `one who lives in a cottage working 5 or 10 acres
of land' is weakened considerably, especially since Cotter and its
variants would seem to be more apropo of that usage.  In its two
syllable form an `R' appearing in the second syllable would seem to
distinguish the `cottagers' from the `cutlers.'  Not saying that
it _wasn't_ applied to _some_ dwellers in cottages but most definitely
not proper to apply it blanket fashion.  Workers with chain mail or
with knives or daggers (and by extension swords) is much more likely.

Of course various lines of Cottles might have gotten the surname different
ways and from different locations.  (One central european family got their
name anglicized to Cottle.)  Suffice to say once -le or -el gets added to
the root cot- without an `r' you get away from the cottages and into the

Some other day I'll put together a comprehensive list of Cottle placenames
and post it.  Too tired to attempt that one today.

Good hunting cousins!
ps. We have a late addition to the (variant spelling) definitions list.

COTTRELL (_Fr_) From OFr _cotte_, short tunic worn over a coat of mail
   or armor to conceal it from view.  By extension it became an OFr
   meaning of "pillager, looter."

Darryl O(nly) Cottle, aka Doc   (1946-now)  Johnson-Fayette Co., KY
 Daniel Green Cottle            (1925-now)  Menifee-Fayette Co., KY
  William Jennings Bryan Cottle (1896-1960) Morgan-Menifee Co., KY
   Daniel A. Cottle           (1846-1914) Morgan-Menifee Co., KY
    James F. Cottle         (1822-1888) Morgan Co., KY
     Joseph Cottle      (1772-1850) Botetourt Co., (W)VA/Morgan Co., KY
      Uriah Cottle (17??-1779) Somerset Co., England/Greenbriar Co., (W)VA
      (Last connection not yet proven but likely.)

This page can also be found on Cottle Country along with information on other branches of the family.
Use your backup key to return to my Cottle page.