Derivation of the Surname RAMSDALE

Part 1 Index: Etymological & Teutonic Sources

  1. Derivation of the Surname Ramsdale [THIS PAGE]
  2. Etymology
  3. Teutonic Sources
  4. Viking Influence
  5. Danish or Norwegian Origin ?
  6. Topographical and Toponymic (habitation) Surnames
  7. Heraldry
  8. Notes
  9. Møre og Romsdal, Norway
  10. Romsdal to Ramsdale

Part 2 Index: Locative Sources

  1. Ramsdale Hamlet, Fylingdale's Parish, North Yorkshire
  2. Ramsdale Megalithic Standing Stones, North Yorkshire
  3. Ramsdale Valley, Scarborough, North Yorkshire
  4. Ramsdale & Ramsdell Chapelries, Hampshire
  5. Lilla Howe Bronze Age Barrow, North Yorkshire
  6. Cuerdale Hoard, Preston, Lancashire
  7. Wade's Causeway, North Yorkshire

Part 3 Index: Danish or Norwegian Origin

  1. Danish or Norwegian Origin (published sources)
  2. Danish or Norwegian Origin (table of place-names)
  3. Viking Society Web Publications
  4. Molde Wind Roses
  5. "On dalr and holmr in the place-names of Britain", Dr. Gillian Fellows-Jensen
  6. "The Place-Names of the North Riding of Yorkshire" (1979) A. H. Smith, Volume V

Part 4 Index: General

  1. Fylingdales: Geographical and Historical Information (1890), Transcript of the entry for the Post Office, Professions and Trades in Bulmer's Directory of 1890
  2. Fylingdales Parish: Victoria County History (1923) A History of the County of York North Riding Volume 2, Pages 534 to 537
  3. Ramsdale Mill, Robin Hood's Bay, Yorkshire - Postcard Views (circa 1917 to 1958)
  4. Ramsdale Valley, Scarborough, North Yorkshire: Edwardian Postcards (1901 to 1915)
  5. Scarborough, North Yorkshire: Bulmer's History and Directory of North Yorkshire (1890)
  6. Ramsdale Megalithic Standing Stones, Bronze Age Stone Circle, Fylingdales Moor, North Yorkshire
  7. Robin Hood's Bay - published articles regarding its origin
  8. Ramsdale Family Register - Home Page
  9. Whitby Jet - published articles

Surname Derivations

There are four types of surname:

  1. patronymic - refer to the mother or father (John's son = Johnson)
  2. locative - connect a person to a particular place where you live, work, or were born, or by the land you own (de Rachedale = from Rochdale in Lancashire). There are two broad categories of locative surname - toponymic and topographical. A toponymic surname refers to a named place, i.e., it incorporates a proper noun. Up to about 1400 AD the usual English form is de or del X, where X is the name of a town, although in speech de or del was probably replaced by of e.g. Henry de Rachedale 1351 and Hugh de Rastrik 1274. After circa 1400 AD the preposition de or del was simply dropped, and indeed it wasn't always used even in earlier records (e.g., Richard Wangeford 1296). A topographical surname refers to a feature of the local landscape, either natural or man-made (del Dene, modernly spelled dean or -den, a very common place name element in the West Riding of Yorkshire, from Old English denu, meaning "valley" e.g. William del Dene 1350)
  3. epithets (nicknames) - refer to a person's notable characteristic (a brown-haired man = Brown)
  4. occupation – identify by an occupation or rank (black smith = Smith).

The place name and English surname Ramsdale is locative (both toponymic and topographical) in origin (1) belonging to that group of surnames derived from the place where the original bearer once dwelt or where he once held land, and (2) likely also derived from 'ramsons', being a widespread colloquial name for wild garlic (Allium ursinum) the derivation of which is:

combining as OE hramsa dæl to give 'wild garlic valley'.

Dictionary of Archaic Words" (1855) Volume 2 of 2, J-Z, James Orchard Halliwell at page 666

RAMS. Wild garlic, various dialects.

RAMSONS. A species of garlic.

"Ramsons taste like garlick; they grow much in Cranbourne-chase;" a proverb. "Eate leekes in Lide, and Ramsins in May, and all the yeare after physicians may play." Aubrey's Wiltshire, MS Royal Society page 124.

See also "A Modern English - Old English Dictionary" (1927) Mary Lynch Johnson, based on "A Concise Anglo-Saxon Dictionary for the use of Students" (1916) John R. Clark Hall:

and "A Compendious Anglo-Saxon and English Dictionary" (1901) Joseph Bosworth:

Hyoscyamus niger, commonly known as henbane, black henbane or stinking nightshade, is a poisonous plant in the family Solanaceae which can be found growing on the North Yorkshire moors and hills.

Henbane was historically used in combination with other plants, such as mandrake, deadly nightshade, and datura as an anaesthetic potion, as well as for its psychoactive properties in "magic brews" These psychoactive properties include visual hallucinations and a sensation of flight. It was originally used in continental Europe, Asia, and the Arab world, though it did spread to England in the Middle Ages.

Henbane ingestion by humans is followed simultaneously by peripheral inhibition and central stimulation. Common effects of henbane ingestion include hallucinations, dilated pupils, restlessness, and flushed skin. Over-dosages result in delirium, coma, respiratory paralysis, and death. Low and average dosages have inebriating and aphrodisiac effects.

Henbane leaves and herbage without roots are chopped and dried and are then used for medicinal purposes or in incense and smoking blends, in making beer and tea, and in seasoning wine. Henbane leaves are boiled in oil to derive henbane oil. Henbane seeds are an ingredient in incense blends. In all preparations, the dosage has to be carefully estimated due to the high toxicity of henbane. For some therapeutic applications, dosages like 0.5 g and 1.5 - 3 g were used. The lethal dosage is not known.

Henbane is toxic to cattle, wild animals, fish, and birds. Not all animals are susceptible; for example, the larvae of some Lepidoptera species, including cabbage moths, eat henbane. Pigs are immune to henbane toxicity and are reported to enjoy the effects of the plant.

In 1917 henbane seeds were found in a Viking grave unearthed near Fyrkat, Denmark. Given that crushing and rubbing henbane petals onto the skin provides a numbing effect along with a mild sensation of flying, this finding has led to the theory that henbane, rather than mushrooms or alcohol, was used to incite the legendary rage in berserkers.


Snorri Sturluson, Edda, Skáldskaparmál

2. Glossary and Index of Names edited by Anthony Faulkes, Viking Society for Northern Research, University College London (1998)

Nǫkkvi m. a king in Raumsdalr (Romsdal, Norway) v345/4 (genitive with mœtir, or with ræsinaðr ?, see note and Glossary under nǫkkvi)

nǫkkvi m. boat (originally a hollowed tree-trunk; Falk 1912, 85) v491/8; cf. v345/4, see note and Index

Raumar m. plural, inhabitants, people of Romerike or Romsdal in Norway v376/1 (Hkr II, III, Fagrskinna)

"An Icelandic-English Dictionary" (1874 & 1957) Richard Cleasby and Gudbrand Vigfusson at page 484, entry 16

Raumar, m. plural, the name of a people in Norway: Rauma-ríki, n. a county in Norway: Raums-dalr, m. the present Romsdalen: Raum-dælir, m. plural, the men from R.: Raum-elfr, f. the river Raum-elfr (Raumelfr 'Raum river') in Norway, Fornmanna Sögur: Raumskr, adj. from Romsdalen, Fornmanna Sögur ii. 252.

"An Icelandic-English Dictionary" (1874 & 1957) Richard Cleasby and Gudbrand Vigfusson at page 484, entry 17

raumr, m. a giant, Titan, Edda (Gl.) 2. a big, huge, clownish person, Fornaldar Sögur ii. 384, 546, Skíða R. 51.

"An Icelandic-English Dictionary" (1874 & 1957) Richard Cleasby and Gudbrand Vigfusson at page 484, entry 18

raumska, , modern rumska, to say hem! in awakening, Fornaldar Sögur iii. 11.

… and at page 503, entry 39:

rumska, , rumsk, n., = raumska (quod vide), of one about to awake.

The Ynglinga saga, when relating the events of the reign of King Gudröd (Guðröðr) the Hunter relates:

"Álfheim, at that time, was the name of the land between the Raumelfr ['Raum river', lower parts of the modern Glomma river] and the Gautelfr ['Gaut river', the modern Göta älv]."

The words "at that time" indicates the name for the region was archaic or obsolete by the 13th century. The element elfr is a common word for 'river' and appears in other river names. It is cognate with Middle Low German elve 'river' and the name of the river Elbe. The Raum Elf marked the border of the region of Raumaríki and the Gaut Elf marked the border of Gautland (modern Götaland). It corresponds closely to the former Norwegian province of Bohuslän, now in Sweden.

The name Álfheim here may have nothing to do with Álfar 'Elves', but may derive from a word meaning 'gravel layer'.

However, the Saga of Thorstein, Viking's Son claims that the two rivers and the country was named from King Álf the Old (Álfr hinn gamli) who once ruled there, and that his descendants were all related to the Elves and were more handsome than any other people except for the giants, a unique and possibly corrupt reference to giants being especially good looking. The Sögubrot af nokkrum fornkonungum also mentions the special good looks of the kindred of King Álf the Old.

Álfr hinn gamli: in proper names, hinn Gamli is added as a soubriquet, like 'major' in Latin, to distinguish an older man from a younger man of the same name; hinn gamli and hinn ungi also often answer to the English 'father and son'; thus, Álfr Gamli and Álfr Ungi, old and young.

Hversu Noregr byggðist ('How Norway was Settled') later brings in another son of Nór named Raum (Raumr). Presumably either Raum had another mother than Hödd or Raum's name has accidentally dropped out from the earlier listing of Hödd's sons … Raum the Old inherited south-eastern Norway and also the northwestern valley of the Rauma river to the western sea which waters the region called Raums Dale (modern Romsdal). Raum in this account also ruled the land of Álfheim to the south.

Raum the Old (Old Norse: Raumr inn gamli) is a legendary king in Norway in the Hversu Noregr byggðist and in Thorsteins saga Víkingssonar. He was said to have been ugly, as was his daughter, Bryngerd, who was married to King Álf. Indeed, in Old Norse, raumr means a big and ugly person - see Raum the Old.

"A Concise Dictionary of Old Icelandic" (1910) G. T. Zoëga at page 329

raumr, m. big and ugly person.

"North Men - The Viking Saga 793-1241" (2015) John Haywood at page 27

Chapter 1: Thule, Nydam and Gamla Uppsala - The Origin of the Vikings

… Around eight tribes lived in Norway; their homelands can be identified with some certainty because they are etymologically related to the names of regions of modern Norway. The Raumarici most likely lived in Romerike, the Alogi in Hålogaland north of the Arctic Circle, the Rugi in Rogaland, and so on. Rodulf's Rani probably lived in Romsdal, the valley of the river Rauma, in the west of the country. Thanks to its rugged geography, Norway remained a land of local tribes even at the beginning of the Viking Age. Elsewhere, most of the tribes named by Jordanes had vanished by this time …

The surname Ramsdale is related etymologically to the surnames Ramsden, Ramsdell, Ramsgill and Ramsbottom, all of which

The most probable source of the surname is Ramsdale Hamlet in Fylingdale's Parish, North Yorkshire [NZ 927037]. This parochial chapelry lies south of Whitby parish and contains the villages of Robin Hood's Bay and Thorpe, or Fyling Thorpe (Presterthorpe, 13th century), and the hamlets of Normanby, Parkgate, Ramsdale, Raw (Fyling Rawe, 16th century), and Stoupe Brow.

Place-names on the North Yorkshire coast ending in -dale, -by and -thorpe (eg Whitby, Ramsdale, Fyling Thorpe) are indicative of settlement by Norwegian adventurers in the ninth century AD who had joined Danish Vikings in subjugating the whole of northern England (the Danelaw) before settling there as farmers and traders and developing great mercantile cities such as York.

The actual derivation of the surname will likely only be discovered through improved Y-DNA testing of males of the Ramsdale surname to more accurately determine their paternal line.

The surname may also indicate an individual from one of the following Hampshire parishes:

Toponymic Surnames

Toponymic surnames are by far the most common type of surname in Britain. In many cases the location is as specific as an individual farmstead or a place no longer found on any map, in others a more generalised location such as a village or town. Some of these surnames have been identified because hundreds of years later the surname holders remain concentrated close to their point of origin and their family history has been traced back through early medieval documents

Some of these surnames could conceivably have arisen because an ancestor travelled away from his home region during the period of surname formation, so the principal modern-day heartland of the family could therefore be in that new settlement area rather than the area of origin. Studies have shown, however, that overall more than half the surnames in Britain still have a statistically significant association with a particular locality.

Toponymic surnames are relatively more common in the parts of Britain that are sparsely populated with scattered farmhouses rather than larger settlements, for example in the far north and the south-west of England.

Like all surnames, toponymic surnames can "mutate" when name bearers change their locality, their name then being pronounced differently and leading over time to a change of spelling. Some modern surnames are unrecognisable abbreviations of familiar places e.g. "Deadman" being a contraction of "Debenham", a village in Suffolk.

Given that toponymic surnames are so specific in their origin, logic suggests that many of these surnames will probably have a single common ancestor at their head. Accordingly, DNA tests on modern-day name-bearers should reveal that they have identical or very similar DNA signatures.

"On Scandinavian Place Names in the East Riding of Yorkshire" (1878) Edward Maule Cole at page 13

… In several cases, perhaps in a majority, if we knew the actual facts, the prefix is a proper name. The Norse invaders originally gave their name to the place where they settled; in more recent times, families took their name from the place where they lived. Thus some Scandinavian warrior gave his name Griner to Grims-ttina, and subsequently the owner of the soil, possibly a descendant, called himself "de Grimston", which passed into a surname, and is one of the most ancient in the East Riding. Griner was a name of Odin, and the word occurs in many compounds, e.g. Thor-grimy, Hergrintr, Hallgrimr, Grin/ken, Grimhildr, &c.

Topographical Surnames

The second common type of surname is that derived from a topographical feature in the landscape. These arose in the same way as toponymic surnames, but because they tend to describe a general feature rather than a specific location e.g. Brook, Green, Hill, Wood, it is generally assumed that they must have arisen in many places across the country independently of each other.

Recent developments in surname studies (Surnames and Genealogy: A New Approach, Dr George Redmonds) demonstrate that some topographical surnames are toponymic i.e. they are linked to a specific location rather than to a general landscape feature e.g. the relatively common surname "Sykes".

Given that topographical surnames are likely to have arisen in many different places across the country, it is to be expected that DNA results of men bearing one of these generic surnames should reveal its multiple ancestor origin.


Although it is highly unlikely that the surname is in any way derived from the word ram meaning a male sheep, the arms of Ramsdale make a pun on this, a practice known in heraldry as canting:

Blazon of Arms Argent, on a chevron between three fleurs-de-lys sable, as many rams' heads couped at the neck of the first
Crest An arm in armour erect couped at the elbow proper, holding in the gauntlet a fleur-de-lys sable
Motto Coelum non animum mutat (a change of skies does not change the mind)

Argent (Ar'-jent): White. The silvery colour on coats of arms. In the arms of princes it is sometimes called lune, and in those of peers pearl. In engravings it is generally represented by the natural color of the paper. It represents purity, innocence, beauty or gentleness.

Chevron (shev'-ron): One of the honourable ordinaries. It is rafter shaped, and its breadth is one-fifth of the field.

Fleur-de-lis (flur'-de-lee): Heraldically this is a flower, and stands at the head of the flowers of heraldry. Its origin is unknown, one "authority" claiming that it was brought down from heaven by an angel for the arms of France. It is also said to mean the flower of Louis (Fleur de Louis), and was certainly used by Louis VII. It is undoubtedly the "flower of the lilly." Originally the royal banner of France was seme of lis (completely covered with fleur-de-lis); but from the time of Charles VI it has consisted of three golden fleur-de-lis on a blue field. The fleur-de-lis did not at first meet with much favour in England, and did not become popular, in fact, until its assumption by Edward III. The French quartering in the English royal arms was abolished by George VI on his accession. When used as a difference the fleur-de-lis represents the sixth son.

Sable: The tincture black. In engraving it is represented by perpendicular and horizontal lines crossed.

Couped (koop'd) Said of an animal having the head or any limb cut clean off from the body.

When a specified number of charges is immediately followed by a similar number of other charges the words "as many" may be used, e.g. Argent, on a chevron between three fleurs-de-lys sable, "as many" rams' heads couped at the neck of the first (Ramsdale), and Argent on a Chevron Gules between three Leopard's Faces Sable "as many" Castles Or (de Sausmarez).

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