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Surname Smale - Meaning and Origin

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Smale: What does the surname Smale mean?

The surname Smale is of English origin and is mostly found in the south-west region of England since the medieval period. It is a variant spelling of the word "small," and was often used to designate someone of smaller or lesser stature or of diminished importance or ranking in society. The name could have also been used as a nickname for someone who was thin or slender. This surname comes from a broad and miscellaneous class of surnames that were based around an individual's physical characteristics or personal attributes. It's noteworthy that the surname Smale isn't necessarily indicative of the modern-day family's stature or importance, as societal standards and norms have shifted over centuries.

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Smale: Where does the name Smale come from?

The last name Smale is predominantly a British surname, originating from the Old English word ‘smael’, meaning ‘small’.

The name Smale is still quite common today in the UK. It has been recorded in Shropshire and Devon counties and the majority of the occurrences of the surname today are still in the Southwest of England. The majority of the population bearing the name Smale today live in the UK, though there is an increasingly large community living in the United States. Smales are present in California, Massachusetts, New York, and other states across the Union and are likely descended from British settlers who made the transatlantic journey in the 19th and 20th centuries.

In England Smales are particularly present in Cornwall and Devon and here counts of the name can reach into double digits in certain areas. In 2011, Somerset and Devon ranked third and fourth in the list of counties having the highest frequency of the Smale surname. The largest concentration of Smale families in the UK can be found in the Avon town of Thornbury, located 19 miles from Bristol.

Beyond the UK, there is a high concentration of Smale families scattered on other continents, including in Australia, Canada, and France. In Europe, Ellis Island records point to a number of southern European countries as having a significant number of immigrants with the surname Smale during the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Although the name Smale is still quite common, the total population bearing the name is much smaller today than it once was.

Variations of the surname Smale

The surname Smale is an English surname that is rooted in a Norman Conquest name, which can also be spelled Small, Smal, Smail, Mayall, Mally, and sometimes even Mahal. It likely derived from the Old French and Middle English words “smal” or “petit” which roughly translates to “small” in modern English.

The most common variant of the Smale surname is the spelling Small. Small is a derivative of Smal, the more archaic spelling of the name. Small sometimes was used when the ancestor was particularly small in stature or the name was associated with a small estate or averager sized family.

Mally is another variation of Smale. It usually represents the shortened version of the name or is derived from the given name Malleville in France from the Latin malus ville meaning “evil village”.

The last common variant of Smale is the spelling Smail. This spelling of the name is interesting in that it could have originated from Scotland in the 15th and 16th centuries. Smail is sometimes found in modern Scottish records and can be traced back to early French, English, and Scottish roots.

Other surnames that are related to Smale include Mayall and Mahal. Mayall, like Small, is the less traditional spelling of Smal and is also derived from the Old French and Middle English word. Mahal is an Arabic variation of the name and is still in use in parts of the Muslim world. All of these surnames, regardless of spelling, help to trace the ancestry of the Smale family.

Famous people with the name Smale

  • Bob Smale: Former English cricketer.
  • Gordon Smale: Canadian soccer player.
  • Walter E. Smale: British army soldier and recipient of the Distinguished Conduct Medal.
  • Wilfred Smale: Canadian Hockey Player.
  • Gerald Smale: Canadian author.
  • Jordan Smale: Actor and musician, known for the 1990s film "Love at Large".
  • Bill Smale: English footballer.
  • Stephen Smale: American mathematician who won the Fields Medal and the National Medal of Science.
  • Paul Smale: English cricketer.
  • Lynne Smale: British television presenter.
  • Bill Smale: English football goalkeeper.
  • Joyce Smale: British cross-country skier.
  • John Smale: Chairman and CEO of Procter & Gamble from 1981 to 1995.
  • Norman Smale: British artist known for impressionistic landscapes.
  • Elizabeth Smale: British film director, producer, and writer.
  • Frank Smale: Professional Galician-Norman skater and snowboarder.
  • Karen Smale: Canadian Paralympic cyclist who won a bronze medal at the 2000 Summer Paralympic Games.

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