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Surname Percival - Meaning and Origin

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Percival: What does the surname Percival mean?

The surname Percival is of Norman origin, deriving from the Old French personal name "Perceval", meaning "pierce the valley". It was popularized in the Middle Ages through the character of Sir Percival, one of King Arthur’s Knights of the Round Table in Arthurian Legend, who was known for his quest for the Holy Grail. The name spread across England and eventually became a surname. It represents bravery and chivalry, reflecting characteristics of the legendary Sir Percival. Variations of this surname exist in different cultures and languages, retaining a similar meaning. It is worth noting that surnames evolved as a way to sort people into groups, by occupation, place of origin, clan affiliation, patronage, or physical traits. Hence, the surname Percival could also be linked to a location, family, or occupation of ancient bearers. However, the prevalent interpretation relates it to the Arthurian legend.

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Percival: Where does the name Percival come from?

The last name Percival is most commonly found in the United Kingdom (UK). It has its origin in Arthurian legend and appears to have originated primarily in Wales. However, it can be found throughout the UK nations, with small concentrations in Ireland and across Europe.

In the UK, the name is most heavily concentrated in the south-west of England, particularly Cornwall and Devon where it is found at a significantly higher rate than the national average. It also has higher than average representation in the West Midlands, East Anglia, the East of Scotland, and even in Yorkshire.

In the United States, Percival is more widely spread but is most populous in the North-East, including New York and New Jersey. It is also present - albeit at reduced levels - in Florida, California and the Midwest.

In terms of population density, Canada has the third-largest concentration of Percival, primarily in Ontario and Quebec. It is also present in Latin America - particularly Brazil, Mexico, Argentina and Chile - as well as in Australia and New Zealand.

Outside of the English-speaking world, Percival is quite common in Germanic countries and the Balkans. It also has a scattering of families in Indonesia, Philippines, India and various other places around the globe.

Variations of the surname Percival

The surname Percival is an old Anglo-French name derived from the Latin word percivalis, which means “pierce the vale”. This was an appellation referring to a knight’s quest for the Holy Grail. As such, the surname has been around for centuries and there are many variants and spellings.

Variants of the name Percival may include Percyvelle, Pervisall, Pervese, Pervessen, Perviss, Peteryvelle, and Petryvelle. Spellings may include Percavall, Percyval, Percywale, Perceval, Pervieval, Pervival, and Prescott.

Surnames of similar origin include Paris, Perseval, Percy, and Pershall.

Throughout Britain, Percival has been a popular surname, particularly in the counties of Devon, Buckinghamshire and Cheshire. In America, the surname is not as prevalent, though it is still fairly common among some states.

The international reach of Percival will depend on the individual family’s heritage. The surname is most commonly found in Australia, New Zealand and South Africa due to British emigration to these countries from the 19th century onwards. In France, the name is overwhelmingly found in Normandy and Île-de-France regions.

In terms of global population, Percival is considered a relatively uncommon name. However, the historical legacy of the name is still evident today, making it a meaningful choice for those wanting to carry on its legacy.

Famous people with the name Percival

  • Stephen Percival: British professional golfer
  • Ruby Percival: adult actress and entrepreneur
  • Adam Percival: Australian cricketer
  • Matt Percival: British racing driver
  • Travis Percival: Canadian boxer
  • Edgar Percival: Australian aircraft designer
  • Don Percival: American television director
  • William Percival: English poet
  • Thomas Percival: English physician
  • Barbara Percival: British ballerina

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