Recorded in a number of spelling forms including Dale, Dales and Daile (English), Dahlen, Dahlin and Dalman (Swedish),Thal, Thalman, Dahler and Dallmann (German), Daal, Van Daal, Van Dalen and Daleman (Dutch), Dahl and Dall (Danish) and many others, this ancient surname is of residential origins.
It derives from the Scandanavian word 'dalr' meaning a valley, and describes somebody who dwelt in such a place.
In England where the surname is first recorded, there was an ancient British tribe called the 'Dallingas', who may also be a source of the surname. 'Dalr' forms the first element in many English place names such as Deal, Dalwood, Dalham, and Dawley, although the more usual name style is as Lonsdale or Wensleydale, with 'dale' as the second element.
What is interesting is that the very first recording of the surname anywhere is in the county of Suffolk, in the region known as East Anglia, and here the land is renowned for being almost flat and without valleys, so there may have been an alternative meaning one thousand years ago!
The name is also a very early recording in Germany, Lutz up dem Tal being registered in the town of Fussen in the year 1370.
Scandanavian recordings are much later, hereditary surnames were the exception rather than the rule until the 18th century. The name was one of the very first in the new American Colonies, and certainly the first with status. Sir Thomas Dale (1560-1619) being Marshall of Virginia in 1609, and Governor from 1611 to 1618. Sir Thomas was responsible for the original land grants to the new settlers from the English Crown.
The first known recording of the family name in any form is believed to be that of Ralph de la Dale, which was dated 1275, in the 'Hundred Rolls' of the County of Suffolk. This was during the reign of King Edward 1st, known as 'The Hammer of the Scots', 1272 - 1307. Throughout the centuries, surnames in every country have continued to "develop", often leading to astonishing variants of the original spelling.
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