- This unusual name is a variant form of the more commonly found surname "Russell", itself from a popular Anglo - Norman - French nickname, "Rousel", for someone with red hair. It is a diminutive form of the Olde French "rous", meaning "red (haired)", from the Latin "russ(e)us", with the diminutive suffix "el(l)". The fox was nicknamed "Russel" for his colouring, as in Chaucer's "Dan Russel The Fox", from the Canterbury Tales. As a personal name it is first recorded as "Russel" (circa 1095, Suffolk), and the surname development has included "John Roussel" (1297, Cornwall). There are a number of variations in the modern idiom, including "Roussel(l), Russill, and Rowsel". One "Elizabeth Rowsell" was christened on the 22nd June 1683 at St. Botolph without Aldgate in London. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Robert Rousel. which was dated 1115, in the "Winton rolls of Hampshire". during the reign of King Henry 1, known as "The Lion of Justice", 1100 - 1135. Surnames became necessary when governments introduced personal taxation. In England this was known as Poll Tax. Throughout the centuries, surnames in every country have continued to "develop" often leading to astonishing variants of the original spelling.
Surnames reference. 2013.