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Surname Marsalis - Meaning and Origin

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Marsalis: What does the surname Marsalis mean?

The last name Marsalis is thought to have originated from the Latin word ‘marsalus’ which means ‘of Mars’, referring to the Roman God of War. As such, the name was seen as a nod to a proud and courageous fighting spirit.

The surname has been adopted by several families, most notably, the renowned jazz-playing family from New Orleans. The Marsalis name is strongly associated with the city, as the family has been here since before the blues and jazz era of the 1920s. During the years of jazz music’s popularity it became even more widely known due to the family’s influence and presence in the city. They were the first jazz musicians to win a Pulitzer Prize for their work, and they remain the only jazz musicians that have become members of the National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Masters.

The Marsalis clan is considered to have been the driving force behind the preservation of the jazz sound of the 20th century. They are credited for popularizing a style of jazz that was a mix of bebop, swing, and other genres. The Marsalis legacy also includes helping to create and foster the distinctively New Orleans jazz style known as "Second Line Jazz".

In addition to the musical influence they had on the city, the Marsalis family has also made a difference in other aspects, such as providing mentoring and guidance to young aspiring jazz musicians, and creating initiatives to promote education in music.

The name Marsalis is truly a symbol of courage and inspiration, but also a reminder of the importance of preserving a valued cultural sound and lifestyle.

Marsalis: Where does the name Marsalis come from?

The last name Marsalis is most commonly found today in the United States. The earliest known recording of the Marsalis surname was in the year 1635 in France, although its origin likely dates back much earlier.

The Marsalis surname has been found in every state in the US today. In the South, and particularly in the states of Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama, the name is most common. It is believed that the Marsalis surname originally came to the US by way of French colonizers who settled in the area now known as Louisiana before it was acquired by the US as a part of the Louisiana Purchase of 1803.

In the area of New Orleans and the surrounding parishes, the surname Marsalis is most prominently associated with the family of jazz musician Ellis Marsalis. The prominence of the Marsalis name in this area was greatly increased through the careers of Ellis and his sons Branford, Wynton, Delfeayo, and Jason, and the influence of their work in the jazz genre has spread across the US and beyond.

Today, the last name Marsalis is still most frequently found in the United States, although it can be found in other countries including Canada, Australia, England, and France. While the presence of the name is strongest in the South and around New Orleans, it can be found in other parts of the country and around the world, offering a reminder of the family’s enduring legacy.

Variations of the surname Marsalis

Marsalis is an uncommon family name with French roots. It is an occupational name taken from the French word "marsale," meaning shopkeeper or publican. Variants of the surname Marsalis include: Marsal, Marsale, Marsall, Marsalo, Marsaloy, Marsaloys, Marsaly, Marsay, Marsayl, Marsayle, and Marsayll.

The surnames of origin reflect multiple spellings such as Marselis, Marselo, Marselois, Marcellis, Marceau, Marsello, Marselois, Marsalis, Marsillo, Marsos, Marsou, Marsoulette, and Marsouye.

Naturally, the sound of surnames can change from one province to another and even from one family to another, leading to an even greater variety of ways to spell the same name. In some cases, families with this surname in France have adopted the spelling Marsello, while elsewhere, the spelling Marsalis has remained unchanged.

Additionally, the variant Marsalla has been seen in Italy, as well as Marsalle in Spain. Moreover, the surname Marsalis is also known as Marceaux and is related to the French variant


Regardless of its varied spellings and origins, Marsalis remains an uncommon family name.

Famous people with the name Marsalis

  • Ellis Marsalis Jr: Ellis Marsalis Jr. is a pianist, educator and NEA Jazz Master. He is the father of the well-known Marsalis family, which includes jazz greats Branford, Wynton, Delfeayo, and Jason Marsalis.
  • Branford Marsalis: Branford Marsalis is an American saxophonist, composer, and bandleader. He was a member of the Tonight Show Band with Jay Leno for several years and has released three solo albums and another album in a group with Jeff “Tain” Watts.
  • Wynton Marsalis: Wynton Marsalis is a trumpeter, composer, bandleader, and educator. He has won nine Grammy Awards and received the Pulitzer Prize in music for his epic work, Blood on the Fields. His acclaim has expanded globally, as evidenced by his extensive list of international honors.
  • Delfeayo Marsalis: Delfeayo Marsalis is a trombonist, producer, and arranger. He has produced albums for many artists, including Wynton Marsalis, Terence Blanchard, and Doc Cheatham. He is a two-time Grammy-nominated artist and a Julliard graduate.
  • Jason Marsalis: Jason Marsalis is a jazz drummer and composer. Primarily working with his own quartet, he has released several albums and performed at the renowned Newport Jazz Festival. Additionally, he has released a variety of books on the subject of music, including Life Cycle of the Rhythm Section.

Other surnames


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