Bell (surname)

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Bell is a surname with several word-origins.

In some cases, the surname is derived from the Middle English bell. This surname likely originated as an occupational name for a bell ringer or bell maker; or else from a topographic name for someone who lived by an actual bell, or by a house sign or inn sign. In other cases, the surname Bell is derived from the mediaeval personal name Bel. The masculine form of this personal name is derived from the Old French beu, bel ("handsome"); the feminine form of the name represents a short form of Isobel. In some cases, the surname originates from a nickname, or descriptive name, derived from the Old French bel ("beautiful", "fair").[1][2] In other cases, the surname Bell represents an English form of the Gaelic surname Mac Giolla Mhaoil ("son of the servant of the devotee").[3][note 1] The surname Bell is also sometimes an Americanized form of like-sounding Jewish surnames. In some cases, the surname is derived from a placenames in Norway (Bell) and Germany (Bell in Rhineland; and possibly Belle, in Westphalia). The surname Bell is also sometimes an Anglicized form of the German Böhl or Böll.[3]

Early attested forms of the surname when of a patronymic origin include: Ailuuardus "filius Belli", in 1086; Ricardus "filius Bell", in 1279; and Osbertus "filius Belle", in 1297. Early attested forms of the surname, when originating from an occupational name include: Seaman "Belle", in 1181–1187; and Serlo "Belle", in 1190. An early attested form of the surname when originating from someone who lived near a sign of a bell is: John "atte Belle", in 1332. Early attested forms of the surname when originating from nickname include: Hugo "bel" in 1148; and Robertus "bellus", and Robert "le bel", both in 1186–1200.[1] Today the surname Bell can be found in many parts of the world. It is the 67th most popular surname in the United States and the 36th most common surname in Scotland.[4]
















  • O'Neil Bell (1974–2015), Jamaican professional boxer



  • Quentin Bell (1910–1996), English art historian and author







  • Yeremiah Bell (born 1978), American football safety for the Miami Dolphins of the National Football League

See also[edit]


  1. ^ The surname Bell, when found in Kintyre and Islay, is said to represent this Gaelic surname because a man bearing the Gaelic name married a woman of the English name. The explanation runs: since the woman held property, the man changed his surname to Bell, but was still known in Gaelic by his original name.[2]


  1. ^ a b Reaney, Percy Hilde (1995), Wilson, Richard Middlewood, ed., A Dictionary of English Surnames (3rd ed.), Oxford University Press, p. 37, ISBN 0-19-863146-4 .
  2. ^ a b Black, George Fraser (1946), The surnames of Scotland: their origin, meaning, and history, New York Public Library, p. 67 .
  3. ^ a b Oxford Dictionary of Family Names: Bell,, retrieved 8 January 2013 . This webpage is a partial transcription of Dictionary of American Family Names, Oxford University Press, 2006 .
  4. ^ "BELL - Surname Meaning – Origin for the Surname Bell Genealogy". Retrieved 5 July 2012.